Japanese Urban Ruins PhotoGalleries
December 5, 2006 11:04 PM   Subscribe

Amazing collection of several galleries full of Japanese "urban ruins" photos, including abandoned amusement parks, refineries, apartment blocks, hospitals, schools, bowling alleys, & much more, including Battleship Island, the (previously posted) abandoned coal mining island off the coast of Nagasaki. Via.
posted by jonson (34 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Just a note to those browsing the galleries - many of the pages at the bottom have a "next" button for further shots - it's a japanese script symbol, on the right at the very bottom of most gallery pages.
posted by jonson at 11:05 PM on December 5, 2006

I really don't know what's so beautiful about urban decay.

Although I do find all that industrial photography equally compelling.


I'm no photographer, but it seems to me to have to do with transferring the aesthetics of natural photography to an urban setting. From that we get a sense of the urban environment.

Or maybe I'm just masturbating.

Anyway, cool stuff.
posted by Alex404 at 11:09 PM on December 5, 2006

I love this stuff. I recently put up a an old amusement park "Then and Now" set with pictures of all the present-day sites of old park brochure photos.
posted by Poagao at 11:21 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm astonished at the relative lack of vandalism and graffiti. Beautiful stuff. William Wray might have a field day.
posted by maxwelton at 11:59 PM on December 5, 2006

I really don't know what's so beautiful about urban decay.

Abandoned buildings are archaeological sites -- before the bulldozers come, you can step in and see how things were -- and they are reminders that our most permanent things are impermanent, and that the great social structures within the great physical structures all fade away. They are monuments to the monumental, memorials to the immemorial.

They're also great stinking fucking crack houses if you aren't careful.
posted by pracowity at 1:33 AM on December 6, 2006

I'm astonished at the relative lack of vandalism and graffiti

Vandalism is virtually unknown in Japan. Graffiti can be seen here and there, but certainly nowhere near the amount you see in major urban areas of Europe, the US, parts of South America and Australia, etc.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:37 AM on December 6, 2006

Vandalism is virtually unknown in Japan.

posted by sluglicker at 2:27 AM on December 6, 2006


Keep in mind I did say "virtually"...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:52 AM on December 6, 2006

Every time I look at one of these urban decay/urban exploration sites I get the feelings that houses come alive once abandoned. Left to their own devices they start to breathe, blood begins to flow amidst the rust and the cracks. Sure, they're slowly dying, but then again, aren't we all? The buildings also display a certain defiance, it's like "these are who we really are, and your bulldozers may soon come, but for a glorious moment we showed our true colours".

Um, yeah. A most excellent post. I wish I could read the captions.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:11 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Some great pictures there.

I really don't know what's so beautiful about urban decay.

I don't know what it is or quite why the pictures are so evocative but for some reason they are. I suppose because it reminds us of death and the futility of human endeavour. Doesn't matter what you build, it will all rot away in the end.

Anyway, immensely enjoyable post. Thanks.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 4:28 AM on December 6, 2006

If there are particulars captions one would like to read, post the link and I'll try to translate them.
posted by armage at 5:02 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

armage: Wonderful! I have a question! On the first hospital page, 8th picture from the top, they're holding up a piece of paper. Is that some kind of medical record?
posted by soundofsuburbia at 5:10 AM on December 6, 2006

Looks like it -- the image is pretty small. I think it shows lists of treatments and services administered to the patient. The caption reads, "A lot of personal information sheets like this were scattered around."
posted by armage at 5:16 AM on December 6, 2006

armage: Thank you, thank you.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 5:47 AM on December 6, 2006

Here's a head-scratcher

Thanks for the post, I love love LOVE this stuff.
posted by sidereal at 5:47 AM on December 6, 2006

Battleship Island looks familiar, like it was used in a film perhaps. It looks a bit like a location used in The Life Aquatic but the IMDB says no.
posted by toddie at 5:50 AM on December 6, 2006

Battleship Island on Google Maps
posted by smoothvirus at 6:00 AM on December 6, 2006

More info, Battleship Island appears to be called Hashima or Gunkanjima which was once the most densely populated place on the planet.
posted by toddie at 6:01 AM on December 6, 2006

Japanese ruins are so much more kawaii than American ruins. :D

Seriously, though, nothing beats Central Terminal.
posted by elmwood at 6:11 AM on December 6, 2006

This was posted in May, 2005 to BoingBoing, and I did some poking around then. I believe the guy calls himself "Shibakouen Hamutaro Photography."
posted by hyperizer at 6:16 AM on December 6, 2006

About 8 months or so a mate of mine tried to get onto Battleship Island. They've had a change of Mayor down that way and apparently these days it is next to impossible to actually get on the island. He speaks fluent Japanese and was travelling with his wife, who is Japanese. In the past they've had excellent success at getting into the really tough-to-get-into places around Japan. So i'm inclined to think that if he can't do it, it's going to be very, very difficult these days. Anyway, here's his travel journal: Part 1 and Part 2.
posted by Mil at 6:17 AM on December 6, 2006

Great post. It's amazing how quickly the earth starts to reclaim these abandoned sites.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:32 AM on December 6, 2006

There is something depressing about an abandoned amusement park. I can't help but wonder about the last kid who visited it before it was closed. Maybe he or she had a wonderful time and couldn't wait to return, but it will be this childhood dream that remains forever unresolved, the last piece of childhood that won't fade.

Or maybe the last child in the park somehow knew it was the end. Maybe he or she was riding the merry go round, and noticed there were no other kids around, and their parent was trying to hurry them out before it closed. Maybe that kid feels like they are forever out of step with the world, that it moves on just as they are catching up.

I wonder if there are adults who return to that empty park, and sit in one of the rides, alone, remembering.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:35 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Poagao - that's a great flickr set, really cool! Thanks much for the link (and for taking the photos & setting up the comparisons, obviously).
posted by jonson at 7:19 AM on December 6, 2006

At some point, I expect the Japanese will turn Battleship Island into a space ship in order to battle the Gamilons.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:41 AM on December 6, 2006


We have an abandoned amusement park, ice skating rink and bowling alley, hereabouts, but nothing nearly as disturbing/interesting as this.

And while the vandalism may be pretty minimalist in Japan, this post makes it abundantly clear that the governmental and corporate abandonment of buildings and parks (which were either bad ideas, and probably corrupt from the get-go...or are simply no longer financially viable) is as rampant here in the rural "heartland" of the country as it is across the archipelago.

Thanks for this, jonson. Makes me wanna take a road trip.
posted by squasha at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2006

Urban Decay is aesthetically interesting to me mostly because of the post-apocalyptic vibe it emits. These photos don't just show physical disintegration, but leave the imagination open to dream up who was there, what they did, and what happened to cause such a drastic change.

In layman's terms, they're rad.
posted by gcbv at 8:02 AM on December 6, 2006

I think that this is a dupe. I have seen this same site around here before.

Anyway, the Emperor's Grandstand (No 2) is still there and is facing the Negishi Heights facility. Surrounding it is a US Navy housing area. It's a really nice quiet place and a great place to be stationed if you're in the US Navy. For 6 years I lived a 2 minute walk from the South Gate of the facility and rode my bike by the grandstand every day.
I think they had a post WWII printing press there.

The old horse race track is now a really big park. You can see it on Google Earth easy enough. Here is a great Google Earth bookmark. The bookmark actually points to the Navy Exchange but the Grandstand is right above it (North)
posted by drstein at 10:09 AM on December 6, 2006

Did it strike anyone else how much useable stuff was left behind in these places? Bowling balls, pink chairs in the hotel, etc. Is it that Japan has a more throw-away culture?
posted by alizarin at 11:58 AM on December 6, 2006

I've definitely seen this site before, but this is still a great post. There is something eerily beautiful/engaging/sad about urban decay.

I'd saved most of these pics on my hard hard drive and set them on a slide show to some music at one of my last parties, and they really captivated a lot of people. I think this fascination with urban decay must be something pretty universal.

Is there a good photo book with pics like these? I'd love to see more photos like this in a higher resolution.

I wish I could buy prints of those Battleship Island and amusement park pics.
posted by Telf at 12:30 PM on December 6, 2006

alizarin writes "Is it that Japan has a more throw-away culture?"

Same thing happens in Canada from what I've seen exploring abandoned buildings. I once had a job cleaning out a shuttered variety store. The owner died or something and the place was just boarded up with all the stock inside. It sat that way for 30 years until the new owner decided to split it into residences.
posted by Mitheral at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2006

Thanks, Jonson. I'd like to do more of the same thing around Taipei. The city's changed a lot over the decades.
posted by Poagao at 8:35 PM on December 6, 2006

I thought Japan was really short of land so I'm surprised that all this stuff is left to rot and not refurbished or mowed over and new stuff built on the land. Although, I guess, if most of it is remote areas, that it makes sense it's just abandoned.

Well done as usual, jonson. Thanks.
posted by deborah at 8:44 PM on December 6, 2006

"Is it that Japan has a more throw-away culture?"

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Japan has a huge throw-away construction budget. They build ridiculous things constantly, i.e. anti-erosion bulkheads along all oceanfronts which later we find actually exacerbate erosion... concrete gullies for ALL rivers to flow through, and things like mountain reinforcements in the middle of nowhere to ensure that no collapses will occur even though there is no civilization anywhere around.

Ultimately these things and others like temporary housing, schools, random buildings, and other failed construction endeavors are just abandoned when they don't work out in order to move on to the next funded project. That's my take on it anyway.

Though I often find extremely useful and expensive things left in ruins here in the USA. Like industrial mixers and ovens from the 1970s worth thousands of dollars, and surveillance equipment, tvs, random electronics, etc. The people that abandon them don't have actual ownership of them, they are government funded or otherwise 3rd party property so they fall through the cracks. Why spend money refurbishing bowling balls when you can just buy new ones and forget about the old place entirely. Sure it's ultimately wasteful, but that's nothing new.

I made another post of collected jp ruins links last week. There are some beautifully taken shots in there.
posted by Redruin at 1:24 AM on December 7, 2006

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