October is not only a month of the autumn season, cultural festivals or celebrations, it’s also a month of Halloween. In this Halloween month, we would like to reveal to you a few places that have been deserted for so many years in Japan. Some of the locals and travelers explore these abandoned places to know the history of the place before it was shut down and left to be forgotten. For your information, haikyo means ruins in Japanese. Those who explore abandoned haikyos called themselves haikyoists. Do you dare to enter some of Japan’s notorious abandoned haikyo? Read this at your own risk.
Disclaimer: Please do not enter any of these places without permission.
1. Gunkanjima, Nagasaki
A coal mining facility owned by Mitsubishi Corporation in 1890, the island that is shaped similar to a ship is also known as Battleship Island or Hashima Island. In 1974, Gunkanjima was permanently closed down because coals had been replaced with petroleum in the 1960s. The workers that used to work and live on the island were asked to leave the place shortly after they announced the closing. The island is now completely uninhabited.
Image source: BlogDiCultura.
On 5th July 2015, Gunkanjima, Nagasaki was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage and is now open for the public. To visit, please do not enter the island by yourself. Tour companies like Gunkanjima Concierge, Gunkanjima Cruise, and Yamasa Shipping Co. Ltd are able to bring and show you around the deserted island. Due to safety concerns, not all areas on the island are permitted to enter.
Image source: Ray Bartlett.
If you think Gunkanjima looks somewhat familiar, this island was an inspiration for James Bond: Skyfall (2012) and was featured in Netflix series Dark Tourist (2018) and a live-action film of Attack on Titan (2015).
Image source: Geo Cities.
Address: Takashimamachi, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture 851-1315, Japan
Gunkanjima Concierge: https://www.gunkanjima-concierge.com/en/
Gunkanjima Cruise: http://www.gunkanjima-cruise.jp/?lang=en
Yamasa Shipping Co. Ltd: http://www.gunkan-jima.net/en/
2. Nara Dreamland, Nara
Before this amusement park was abandoned, it was an enjoyable place for families and children. The theme park was first opened in 1961 and was inspired by California’s Disneyland. This theme park was Nara city’s major attraction at that time with over 1 million visitors annually. After Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Osaka were opened in 1983 and 2001, the number of visitors in Nara Dreamland had decreased year by year. In 2006, Nara Dreamland was no longer operating.
Image source: Time Travel Turtle.
When the theme park shuts down their business, the owner didn’t intend to sell or demolish it right away, instead, they left the place as it is. Nara Dreamland consists of several play areas such as Land of the Future, Land of Illusion, Land of Adventure, Land of the Past and Main Street.
Image source: Time Travel Turtle.
Although Nara Dreamland is now deserted, this theme park is strictly prohibited for visitors to roam around as it’s quite a dangerous place to be and is guarded with security.
Image source: Kimberlydyan on Pinterest.
Address: 1-1-2 Horensahoyama, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
3. Maya Hotel, Kobe
Image source: Tails of Wonders.
Located in a mountainous area in Mount Maya, Kobe, Maya Hotel was built in 1929. The hotel went through multiple reconstructions before finally closing down in 1994. Reason why Maya Hotel was built on this area is because there used to be a cable railway to bring people up to Tentoji Temple. Then, the visitors can stay the night at Maya Hotel. The hotel used to have hot springs, huge entertainment area and a grand ballroom which is considered to be very captivating.
Image source: Japan Property Central.
Maya Hotel had its ups and downs throughout their time. In 1944, the railway operation was affected during World War II and resulted in the decreasing number of guests. After that, in 1961, they resumed their business and changed their hotel name from Maya Onsen Hotel to the Maya Hotel. A few years later, the hotel was closed temporarily after being destroyed by the typhoon. In the 1970s, the hotel operated as a student centre and had finally closed down permanently in 1993.
Image source: Atlas Obscura.
Now, you can visit the haikyo by booking a tour on the website below. They will guide a group 20 people twice a month to tour around Mount Maya area. Over the years, the people of Kobe have been raising donations to preserve Maya Hotel and to list it as an important national heritage.
Address: Near Mount Mara, Kobe
Tour Website: http://www.mayasan.jp/mayaruins/
4. Western Village
Westworld was an inspiration to the famous theme park called Western Village in Nikko, Tochigi. You might have heard about Westworld, an HBO television series. It was a remake of a 1973 movie goes by the same name. Constructed in 1975, Western Village or Western Mura used to be known as Kinugawa Family Ranch. Similar like Nara Dreamland, the number of visitors in Western Village had dropped drastically when Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Osaka were opened. Now, the place is only attractive to haikyo hunters.
Image source: Tokyo Times.
During the first few years, Western Village only had a hotel, a bank, an office and small buildings. Then, they upgraded the theme park with more attractions like Mount Rushmore, ghost house, western-themed saloon, restaurants and Mexico Land. During its glorious days, the staffs will dressed up as cowboys to perform and entertain the visitors with gun battles. Visitors will also see statues like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and other mechanical cowboy robots sitting in some areas.
Image source: Tokyo Times.
Sadly, Western Village had a huge debt after constructing the Mount Rushmore in 1990s. Finally, the theme park was closed down in 2006. Ever feel like you’re being watched? It’s probably one of the cowboy statues.
Image source: The PBS NewsHour.
Address: 315 Kuribara, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-2421
Some of these haikyo used to be the happiest place on Earth. It’s quite devastating when they had to shut down their businesses due to unavoidable issues. Have you ever visited one of these haikyos before? If you haven’t, would you go and visit?