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…
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!
The ceilings in the hallways were really low, which made it feel more than a little surreal…
Quite close to the hotel was a huge theme park
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….
So eight years later following Florians advice I find myself back at the same location for an entirely different reason!
Holy phallic symbol!
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”
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…
I didn’t venture far upstairs but much of the interior was covered in graffiti
And outside there were some completely random debris – whos bag was that? What was on those cassettes? The ultimate found sound source material?
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…
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)
If you’re interested, here are some other excellent Japanese Haikyo sites:
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:
Please feel free to add a comment with links to other Japanese Haikyo sites?