Japan Field Trip – Okayama Haikyo

Its odd how cyclical life can be – when researching locations for my record trip I latched on to the idea of recording some Haikyo sites (Haikyo = “ruins” in Japanese and is now associated with urbex/abandoned buildings) in the hope of capturing elements to help recreate the desolation of Tokyo at the end of WWII. Until working on this film I was pretty much ignorant of just how much destruction occurred in the firebombing of Tokyo in WWII (more people died in the Tokyo firebombing than in either of the atomic bomb blasts) and reading eye witness accounts as part of my research made me deeply sad and also appreciate anew the unfathomable human cost of war…

Tokyo 1945

cc photo via wikipedia

I checked out a lot of the Japanese Haikyo sites and made contact with Florian at Abandoned Kansai asking him: “what is the sound of haikyo?” He kindly wrote me an incredibly inspiring reply and then shared a google map with me of some of his favourite sounding haikyo locations… and one immediately seemed familar: La Rainbow Hotel & Tower

Back in 2005, myself and a couple of friends had a lost weekend very near that very location! It was one of my arbitrarily auspicious birthdays and on the way to my favourite place in Japan Naoshima we went & stayed in an old beach front resort hotel in Okayama for a couple of nights. I loved it: when we walked in the front door the staff were wearing hawaiian shirts, and best of all, being mid week, the place was almost deserted – so we had this epic old hotel (that felt like it was straight out of a David Lynch film) all to ourselves!

Okayama

The ceilings in the hallways were really low, which made it feel more than a little surreal…

Okayama

Quite close to the hotel was a huge theme park

Okayama

And there it is! That huge vertical tower in the middle of the photo below is the Haikyo La Rainbow Hotel! Apparently the hotel and tower was closed back in 1997, so even when we visited the theme park in 2005 it had already been abandoned for 7 years….

Okayama

So eight years later following Florians advice I find myself back at the same location for an entirely different reason!

Okayama

Holy phallic symbol!

Okayama

After I’d done some recording I did a quick bit of exploring – quick because the car was parked right out front & I wasn’t too sure how much time we’d have before someone came along & asked what exactly we were doing there! At the base of that tower was this huge cylindrical structure that totally puzzled me as to its purpose, but when I met up with Florian back in Osaka he explained that it used to travel up & down the length of that huge tower, and that when exploring the site someone had found a box of old postcards with some night time long exposure photos showing the cylinder lit up! Florian also explains: “It was attached to a tower 150 meters high (the highest observation platform of its kind in the world when it was built – not only in Japan!) and it was moveable not only vertically, but the platform was also able to spin around the tower. 23 meters in diameter the viewing cabin offered space for 150 guests at a time”

Okayama

While some people might consider wrecked old buildings an eyesore, to actually visit one is quite an experience. The sense of nostalgia and the feeling of the vast number of lost memories, of lives lived in such places, is overwhelming – they have an emotional ambience that is palpable & hard to fully appreciate until you’ve been there… And as nature slowly takes back its land, we start to get a glimpse of what earth will begin to look like, after humans have become extinct…

Okayama

Okayama

I didn’t venture far upstairs but much of the interior was covered in graffiti

Okayama

And outside there were some completely random debris – whos bag was that? What was on those cassettes? The ultimate found sound source material?

Okayama

Despite the barbed wire, the front ‘gate’ was wide open & with ignorance being my primary excuse I just drove in, quickly set up & recorded, packed up & made ready for exit…

Okayama

Here is some of the ambiences I recorded here – unfortunately that same theme park was operating, so there are only moments of useable material. Amongst the birds you might notice the familiar twang of guy wires – the wind seems to rattle the vertical cables still tensioned to the tower… If we had more time I would have returned late at night or at dawn…. but we had other places to visit…. But its kind of interesting, looking at an old abandoned hotel while hearing a operating theme park in the distance, like ghostly ambiences… (note: all the sounds in the video are from this location but theres 2 or 3 overlapping layers)

Haikyo Okayama La Rainbow Hotel from tim prebble on Vimeo.

If you’re interested, here are some other excellent Japanese Haikyo sites:

Abandoned Kansai
(along with all the other amazing locations I have to point out these two kiwi theme parks found by Florian: Yamaguchi NZ village and Hiroshima NZ Farm park – surreal!!)

Michael John Grist

Total Japandemonium

Forbidden Kyushu

Gakuranman

Misuterareta

And an important consideration: The Hazards of Haikyo and Urban Exploration

Of if you’d just to see some quite amazing haikyo eye candy, try this link:

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/tags/haikyo+japan/interesting/

Please feel free to add a comment with links to other Japanese Haikyo sites?

7 Responses to Japan Field Trip – Okayama Haikyo

  1. sirenka says:

    off topic, but something about my country: http://vimeo.com/45388590

  2. Hey Tim,

    How can one not be intrigued when being asked about “desolate sounding locations”?
    Most people hate their jobs and it’s absolutely inspiring to be in touch with a guy like you, who is so dedicated to and enthusiastic about his line of work!
    I’m glad that the La Rainbow Hotel worked out for you despite the amusement park in the background. When I visited the place I had no idea at first where the laser gun sounds came from and it took me a while to figure it out.

  3. Jordy Meow says:

    The theme park was not abandoned at this time, isn’t it? It is just I am a bit surprised by the fact that you are walking on this attraction with those little cars, and it doesn’t feel safe at all… is it really the way this attraction is used?!? But it’s indeed really interesting to visit this huge hotel and to hear all this activity in the background. When I went, they were a few gardeners working around the hotel… and they were not very surprised to see me :) This haikyo is probably ultra super visited because the location is so well known (and nobody is trying to hide it – there is nothing to damage anymore).

    If you want two more haikyo websites which are mine, here they are: http://www.totorotimes.com and http://www.haikyo.org. You didn’t find any of them? Maybe I should take less pictures and work more on my SEO? :p

  4. Martin Kay says:

    Hi Tim. La Rainbow Hotel. I absolutely love it – particularly the distant sound of the lively amusement park fileted through this dead unwanted space.

    Not exactly on the topic, but not so long ago I took some recordings from a desolate Soviet-era resort in Kazbegi Georgia.
    http://mountainblack.net/recordings/abandoned-soviet-era-hotel-kazbegi-georgia/

    Just last week I received a random email telling me the place has been completely transformed.
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=434999089867448&set=a.434998626534161.102567.100000720822546&type=3&theater

    I wonder what the place sounds like now? and what La Rainbow Hotel might sound like in a few years time??

  5. This is really cool article. My friend sent me a link to your site. Very intense experience it must’ve being! I just came back from Japan myself. I really love it there. Though I didn’t knew that there were abandoned cities in Japan! Incredible.

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