ABANDONED IN TOKYO

There are a surprising number of abandoned buildings in Tokyo. On a recent tour we were told that this happens when something “bad” happens in a building. People find out and do not want to live there.

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In this case, something bad happened about 10 years ago … and no one has lived there since, except the every expanding vines.

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HAIKYO INSIDE THE SIEKA DORMITORY ROOMS, TOKYO

 

I continued my Haikyo, ready to explore the insides of the building. It was getting dark quickly so I shot a mix of handheld HDRs and RAW depending on light conditions. I was also worried about stepping on a few floors, the hallways were concrete but the rooms?

The first room I looked in. It is like the fire happened and everyone just ran, never to return. So odd.

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OS/2?

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I would have left the Beethoven behind too. But Tchaikovsky? Heresy.

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It must have gotten quite hot to melt whatever that is on the shelf …

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I was fascinated by the piano.

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I would have left it behind too.

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A fully stocked kitchen.

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Proof that the CD is dead. Why else would leave behind such a fantastic boombox?

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And this is where my camera died. When I finally figured out where to go I parked quickly and decided to leave my camera bag and all of the piece parts behind. I was in a hurry. The only problem is that I didn’t look at my battery status.

It went dead. If I hurried I could run back to the car, move it to the closer parking spot, and then hustle back onto the site before all of the light disappeared.

Urban exploration can be a lot of work when you wing it.

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Coming home for dinner.

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Would love to know what is on those tapes. Some Magnum P.I. perhaps?

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Student dormitory kegger …

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I should have grabbed the worlds worst tie.

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Cool afternoon out.

SEIKA DORMITORY HAIKYO (Urban Exploration): OUTSIDE

 

I run from the car to the “potential location” and there it is. Awesome.

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I duck under what must be a “Do not enter” sign on a rope and slip into the lot before anyone sees. It is like the other sites have described, this overgrown building in the middle of Tokyo. Odd .. interesting.

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There is a brand new mini-van parked in a portable canvas garage out front. Odd.

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There is debris everywhere. Garbage seems so out of place in uber-clean Tokyo. Why are there so many abandoned bikes?

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A history of the dormitory via. (great shots also)

Near the campus of Takushoku University (literally the University of Colonial Expansion) in Tokyo is an abandoned student dormitory built in 1927 by the Japanese colonial government in Taiwan. The university was particularly established to train Taiwanese students to serve the empire and to “develop” Taiwan.

Since the end of war, both Taiwan and China have claimed ownership of the building, citing that it was built using Taiwanese taxpayers’ money. Although the legal status of the building remains unresolved even today, Taiwanese and Chinese students were encouraged by their respective governments to occupy and live in the building, creating essentially an “one building, two systems” situation. The dormitory, also known as Seika Dormitory, has been abandoned since 2007 when a fire killed two of its residents.

A pot balances on a balcony over the entrance.

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Who in their right mind would leave behind a purple bike? Purple awesomeness.

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I stepped inside and was greeted with a “konichiwa” as two fellow explorers made their way around the site. They looked nervous. Don’t worry fellows, I am clearly not the Tokyo police.

There are lots of pictures of the building’s central area, broken roof overhead.

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Had to hustle, sun was going down.

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I am surprised there isn’t more graffiti.

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Looking up wasn’t that interesting. Looking down was much more interesting. I wonder how many people have stepped on this record?

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Odd that someone would leave behind a toy gun.

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This umbrella had seen better days.

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The yellow ball behind the umbrella caught my eye. That is a nice 5 wood.

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I decided to start from the top. Up to the roof I went.

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It offers a great view of the floors below.

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Or the doors below.

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Time to go open some doors and peak inside.

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MY FIRST HAIKYO STORY (URBAN EXPLORATION)

 

Odd weekend as the family was in Saipan and I was home alone on Saturday. This is a very rare occurrence as weekends are family time and if the boys are with friends, Narda and I are usually out doing something. Saturday had not even started and I was already bored (it had been a brutal long week at work).

What to do? Read a book. Hit the gym. Watch a few shows. I contemplated heading to the office to shoot the sunset against Mt Fuji (great view) with my new 2X extender and 70-200mm. Then I remembered a few sites I had come across around urban exploring … and Tokyo.

Haikyo.org, Michael John Grist and Tomboy Urbex are a few sites dedicated to haikyo (Japanese for urban exploration). I have never done this before other than at tourist sites such as Normandy and figured this could be a nice Saturday afternoon diversion.

First, select a target. I set my sights on Seika Dormitory, a burned out building in the heart of Tokyo.

Second, the address. The problem is that finding these locations is tough – where is the address? And for some reason no one posts it, perhaps to add to the sense of adventure as you hunt for the place?. Our concierge set my GPS for the approximate location as he could not find the exact address. Makes sense. I will get to 1 Kohinata, Bunkyo-ku Tokyo and have a look around. What could go wrong?

And so my adventure started. I arrived, found a spot to park the car and proceeded to randomly approach people and show them my iPhone with the name of the location (精華寮) prominently displayed.

There was a lot of smiling (I was out of the expat area, English was nowhere to be found). Two police officers pulled over thanks to a super friendly elderly woman who flagged them down to help me while asking me “Kanada?”.

After much debate they sent me off by pointing to the map on my iPhone, giving me a sense of confidence that this was the general area where I would find the site.

Off I went. A few shots along the way. February and lemons on the trees. It was 8C and brisk, I had forgotten .. semi-tropical Tokyo.

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Someone’s door.

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As I searched around I was on this back street and could not believe that I had come across a donut shop. A fancy one, but still, a donut shop with English. Made me wonder about their clientele .. were these donuts so good that gaijin’s made the trip?

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I don’t know why I stopped for this other than the kettle and hose interested me. Why buy a watering can?

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I don’t know what this says, but I hope it is pro-cat. You get a distinct feeling that Japan likes dogs more than cats.

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This door headed to a temple. It was locked.

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Maybe it wasn’t a temple and I almost walked into someone’s backyard. We will never know.

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And here is a map of my wandering around in circles. This is from Lightroom (I love the GPS on my Canon 5D Mark III). Wherever there is a bubble is where I took a photo. I started in the bottom left, made my way over to the Suido area where the elderly woman and policemen sent me NE toward Kasuga convinced that if I headed over to the Meidai Jr school that I would find it.

At the school I happened upon a nice man who promptly walked me over to the Koban (police box) where I engaged with the incredibly friendly and “sorta speak English” woman officer (near the Koishikawa Post Office)

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This turned into a group project as more offers arrived, huddling around trying to figure out how to get this gaijin from “Kanada” to a burned out building.

As everyone spoke I got into a conversation that went like this:

“Kanada?” … “Yes, I am Canadian. Arigato” .. “me go yellowknife one time” .. “Wow. Yellowknife? Very cold up there.” .. (he smiles) “Big lights”

“Yes. Northern Lights. They are very pretty. I had a trip scheduled there once but had to cancel”

“F#c!ing cold”  (I burst out laughing)  “Yes. It is very cold there. Kanada is cold”. My English interpreter smiled, gave me a “Sayonara” and left smiling.

We are now at 7 officers, with maps on the table, several officers looking through different map books, one reading the website on my iPhone and one on the phone with headquarters (seriously). Finally they reach an agreement that it must be in the area directly south of the school over the tracks. OK, I think I am making progress. Using Google maps I head to the area. I circle, go into back yards, read two more website on the frigging place. Nada.

This blog gives me hope and really ticks me off because I think that she has a geocaching reference in her blog post (GXR A16) and I have NO idea how to utilize it. I go to this geocaching website and they have a location reference, but I need to become a member to get the LOC file .. which I would have no idea how to use while sitting on some random side street with a bag full of camera gear, an iPhone and tripod.

I am hungry. I head to the only restaurant that I have seen but they have just closed.

I need to go to the washroom.

Hang in there old chap.

I see a cemetery on top of the hill (where the 3 is on the above map). I walk down the hill to the entrance. I head into the cemetery and to the top to see if I can figure out where I am.

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Maybe I will spot it.

I like cemeteries, what people leave behind interests me and there is always beauty to be found.

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Even plastic beauty.

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OK. Focus. Stop looking at the headstones. The sun is going to go down. You are walking in circle.

New buildings .. one burned out building. Where the heck is it?

Wow. It is February, the Japanese are talking as it if already spring and the cherry blossoms are starting to come out.

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Aaarrrgggghhhh. Where is it? I laugh and start to figure out if I can make it to the office to shoot a Mt. Fuji sunset in time.

Around another corner. Another temple. Beautiful.

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Alright. I am not going to get frustrated.

I started to walk through it in my mind. It could have been torn down. There is lots of construction and a whole bunch of areas where they recently cleared buildings.

It was a good wander .. several hours wandering around. Some fresh air, a good walk.

I resign myself to the fact that this is no longer an urban exploration but just a good walk. I jump in the car, time to go home.

A couple kilometers out I stop at a light and check my email. Jimmy-san, our concierge had followed up shortly after I left with some more information, the exact address of Seika Dormitory:

I found exact address of the building, 1-23-31 Kohinata, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo.

The location is nearby Takushiyoku University.

You are awesome Jimmy-san. I whip the car around.

It was 3:30pm, if I hurried there would still be enough light … because .. of course .. when I packed my camera bag I had grabbed my flash and then put it back – why would I need a flash?

Hurry.