Eerie Photos of Post-Bubble Abandonments of Japan
I hope this post makes up for my past and pending long absences, as it has several links to sites with LOADS of interesting things to look at and read.
Like one of my favorite blogs of all time, Web Urbanist, I have a poignant interest in photographs of abandoned buildings. I especially love abandoned entertainment centers like malls and theme parks. There happen to be quite a few of these in Japan, remnants of the “bubble” economy of the 1980s.
Anyone who’s seen Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is familiar with this situation – In the beginning of the film, Chihiro’s father mistakes the “abandoned” resort they come across for one of these post-bubble abandoments. It’s a haunting, beautiful, fascinating sequence, accompanied by Joe Hisaishi’s ethereal, soft piano score. Seeing the scene in the theater gave me chills. You can watch it for yourself here (the scene I am referring to starts about halfway through the clip).
A similar feeling comes over me when I look through photos of other post-bubble abandoned entertainment spaces in Japan, which I found on this website. The site is all in Japanese, but that’s what Recca is here for, yes? Not really….but I am going to discuss some of the most haunting and profound of these locations.
And one last note: Most of these places are not listed by their “true” names on the Japanese website. I have designated these “code names” with quotes. Also, the geographic locations the website gives for them are very general. This is to prevent vandalism and/or legal issues (many abandonments are legally “no tresspassing” areas that, despite their derelict status, are not supposed to be visited).
“M Land” (Gifu Prefecture)
The caption for this photo read “boldly kicking up dirt.”
These poor decaying unicorns seem to be smiling eerily at us.
“Theme Park T” (Northern Honshu)
The collection of photos from T Park shows rusted-over ferris wheels and roller coasters rising out of the mist. The mood reminds me of a horror video game, or my old high school campus, which was on a mostly-abandoned naval base. It had a rather “post-industrial wasteland” feel to it.
“G Kingdom” (Yamanashi Prefecture, near Mt. Fuji)
Perhaps the most startling due to the prevalence of near-mint fairy tale-like locales and figures from various cultures. It reminds me a lot of Spirited Away, even though the resort in that film is based on the famous open-air architecture museum. Anyway, there’s definitely something almost magical about many of the photos from G Kingdom.
“Lake X Tower” (Shiga Prefecture, near Lake Biwa)
Another abandoned theme park, with a much less magical feel.
Much more terrifying, and the cloudy sky doesn’t help.
The above photograph blows my mind every time I see it. What an amazingly poignant artwork. What a photo.
This one isn’t post-bubble (it was built in 1930), but it’s fascinating nonetheless. Yes, even a Julia Morgan building can fall victim to abandonment. Being a huge fan of Morgan’s work (she designed Hearst Castle), I was surprised to learn that she designed a building in Japan. It’s located in Yokohama, and was once a military building and a horse racetrack building.
What makes these locations so haunting and terrifying? It’s not just the decaying state of things. It has more to do with the absence of what these places were designed to create – happiness and fun. Absent of people, falling into disrepair, the photos remind us of our own mortality, perhaps. I like to think of them as more of an uncanny commentary on throwaway (so-called “trash”) culture made “for the moment”…trash that only reveals itself as such it begins to decay. For me the “forgotten” nature of places “frozen in time” makes these photographs so fascinating.
There may be more posts about this same website some time in the future; it has a large amount of excellent material to cover/translate for your reading pleasure. So do let me know what you thought of this topic, and I may write more 😀