by

Michael from Gakuranman.com is an adventurer. He’s currently living in Japan, and one of his favorite things to do is to explore and discover haikyo (abandoned sites / ruins) in Japan. For Tofugu’s current series of “scary” Japanese things, Michael has kindly offered to share with us the things that scare him most about his adventures into the crumbling, decaying, unknown. Let’s let him get started, shall we?

“Haikyo”

You’ve seen creepy Japanese ghost girls. You’ve read about doom-bringing Japanese Giant Asian hornets. You’ve heard tales from the master of Japanese horror. But what if you could experience all of that for real? Would you take up the challenge?

Littered throughout the country are ruins known in Japanese as ‘haikyo’. They come in all shapes and sizes; from a tiny wooden medical shack to the charred remains of a love hotel, from a long-abandoned tomb to a sprawling, concrete ghost island that once had the world’s highest population density. Some haikyo have fascinating histories attached, while others, gruesome stories of murder and deceit. Certainly not places you’d like to be on your own…

But as an urban explorer, these places grab me and don’t let go. Though often thoroughly bone-chilling, they offer a sense of excitement quite unlike that found anywhere else. So grab your flashlight and come with me as we explore the abandoned buildings of Japan. I’ve selected some of the creepiest and most powerful images gathered on my explorations to date. These are the things that make haikyo exploration both exciting and scary.

Tombs

Crypts are always creepy places, but this one was especially scary. Hidden deep with a cliff face in a secret cave was a small shrine with various pots and vases and a couple of marble busts. Behind that was a tiny hole leading to a further chamber. Crawling through on my hands and knees, I discovered what looked to be a storage area for special vessels and other tools used in ceremonies. I’m not sure anyone was buried there, but it looked at though it was used as a place for remembering the dead.

Skeletons

I found this rotten pig skeleton at an abandoned hotel near a river. It appeared to have gotten stuck on a second floor balcony and I can only assume died of starvation. It’s often easy to find small bird skeletons, or even a cat from time to time, but an animal as large as a pig was quite a shocking sight to behold.

Decay

Some areas found when doing urbex are just scary in and of themselves. This hallway in the Maya Hotel had an almost ghostly presence about it, with the rotting wallpaper and light pouring in from an open door. Simultaneously beautiful and creepy. I kept expecting somebody – or something – to walk out in front of me…

Decay can also present other problems as well. It’s never good to breathe mold, not to mention the asbestos that can come from decaying walls and ceilings.

Heights

This one might not be scary at all for some of you, but for others, it can be a nightmare. Heights are a very real threat when exploring haikyo, and especially in ones with crumbling, degraded concrete like Block 65 on Gunkanjima. I was consumed with awe of the place when there that I didn’t quite realize the risk. I don’t think I’ll be sitting here again in a hurry.

Fire

A huge fire has scorched the first floor of this love hotel haikyo in Kyushu, and one particular room on the second floor. It’s a curious sight – while most of the rooms remain in fairly good condition, the fire only seems to have raged in the one room upstairs, leaving a horrible dark mess. Rumour has it that the room was a murder site. Something oddly heavy in the air held me back from entering the blackened bathroom…

Spiders

Eugh. I hate spiders, and I hate spider webs even more. The number of times I’ve run into the things when wandering around old buildings… This particular one was quite interesting in the way the sticky white strands reached outwards. At the centre is only what I can assume is an egg sack. I wonder where the hatchlings are now…

Children’s Toys

Hidden inside one of the rooms of Block 65 on Hashima island is an old chldren’s toy named Poron-chan. You know the kind that rights itself when pushed over? It has an eerie bell inside that gives a rusty tinkling sounds when pushed. Once a cute, colourful plaything, now the face is warped and decaying. It gives me the shivers.

Creatures in Jars

Down in the dark basement of one abandoned museum in central Japan lurks all manner of ghoulish creatures, preserved perfectly in jars of strange liquids. In the photo above, you can see one of Japan’s squid, the hotaru-ika (firefly squid), staring long into the darkness. It gave me quite a fright when I caught its gleaming white eye staring back at me!

Murder

These hand prints have been in this old Chiba love hotel for years, even before the incident. A tacky attempt at scaring those brave enough to enter inside. It’s a spot plagued with tales of suicide and death, and well known amongst local people as a ‘ghost-spot’. But one incident in particular is confirmed as true. A young teenage girl was kidnapped by a group of youths, strangled, and her body left on the premises of this haikyo late 2004. If there’s anything more shocking than the creeping around a hotel littered with blood-red handprints, it’s knowing that a real murder case took place there. Truly chilling, and indeed extremely saddening.

Dolls

I don’t know about you, but dolls are one of the creepiest things on my list. This particular specimen I found inside the Doctor’s Shack – an old medical clinic out in the Japanese countryside. The doll’s head was decapitated, but I reunited it with the body for a few photographs, and paid a blood sacrifice. Mosquitoes swarmed around me as if moved by some angry spirit…

Koichi

A little omake from way back when Koichi visited Japan. We teamed up to explore the Maya Hotel, one of the holy grails of the haikyo world. And at night, no less! Here’s yours truly with the cool frood himself, enjoying a spooky candlelit dinner while overlooking the city of Kobe. Think yourself lucky I didn’t publish Koichi’s ‘scary face’…

So there we have it. 10 Haikyo Horrors to curdle your dreams. What freaks you out the most?

P.S. Wanna be creeped out even more? Check out Gakuranman’s haikyo explorations.
P.P.S If you love Halloween, follow Gakuranman on Google + and Twitter.
P.P.P.S If you are inspired to visit an abandoned site, be sure to know the risks before you go. In many cases it may be illegal, and you must be able to take responsibility for your own safety: Haikyo & Urbex Safety.


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  • キツネじゃない

    I’m surprised security guards didn’t make the list. And cliffs, for that matter.

  • キツネじゃない

    I’m surprised security guards didn’t make the list. And cliffs, for that matter.

  • http://twitter.com/DochiMichi1 Anastasia

    Love the post! The pictures selected are excellent.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    I think there’s something wrong with that first picture, you’re not wearing a Gakuran. (Imposter?)

  • Ben Reddersen

    Koichi definitely gets my vote as scariest thing in Japan. :P

  • http://twitter.com/MomokoLolita あひす、れすり 

    omg Koichi’s the scariest :P lol

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Cheers :)

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Security guards (and police), as well as junkies and other nasty characters lurking in buildings are very much a threat. But if they aren’t zombies, they aren’t making the Halloween list :p.

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    I had just waded through water that went up to my chin Hashi! You would have me get the beloved gakuran wet now..??

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Oh yea. Koichi’s ‘morning face’ was even more of a delight o.O;

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    I think I was too cold to make a scary face up there in the haikyo hotel. It was freezing!

  • that one

    Beautiful pictures! I personally am terrified of dolls, so I couldn’t really look at either toy/doll pics, however the doll picture was just amazing. Finally a kick to my halloween O_O

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Creepy, aren’t they? The blood doll was one spectacular find though. It does make me wonder why anyone would create such horrors for children to play with!

  • Alicja Kopeć

    Oh, so I’m not the only one who thinks abandoned places like this are beautiful. Creepy? Yes. Terrifying? Sometimes. But some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Beautiful in their ugliness one could say. Though I doubt I’d have the guts to explore them by myself.

    Still, Koichi takes the cake :p

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Koichi ate the cake! All of it!

  • dude

    How do you find these places? I’ve got an abandoned beach hotel I know here in Fukuoka, but aside from that- is there an online haikyo list or something?

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Mostly online or through fellow urban explorers. Although there is a very famous book in Japan that lists a lot of locations! It’s known as ‘Nippon no Haikyo’, but many of the places inside has since been demolished or vandalised. For that reason, people prefer to keep the locations closely guarded secrets.

  • Marie

    Oh, these are lovely!
    I love dolls myself, and if I didn’t feel weird by taking something from an abandoned place then I would totally take a doll home. XD

  • Susanto

    Man, what I’d give to go on one adventure with you at one of these Haikyo places…