Sunday, 16 August 2015

A little haikyo - Russian Village, Niigata

The Japanese word "Haikyo" (廃墟) roughly translates as "ruin", but is used to describe the art of urban exploration in abandoned places. I've always been interested in abandoned stuff (mostly train lines) so yesterday I took a trip up to Russian Village in Niigata prefecture, a place that was abandoned in 2003 after operating for just six months. Some years ago a group of friends went, but for whatever reason I missed the boat, and so this time I took a solo trip. However, there wasn't much left.

It was hard to find because it wouldn't come up on my iPhone map. I eventually found my way to an imposing gate with barbed wire (and someone's jacket) on the top. However, it was pretty easy to squeeze around the side. From videos I've watched you used to be able to drive right up, but that was no longer the case.

The approach road was about half a kilometre up a steep hill angling around to the left so you couldn't see anything until you appeared in the car park at the top. The first signs of decay I saw were the missing manhole covers, which could have been pretty treacherous in the dark.

I had watched a few YouTube videos of what it used to look like (here's a good one), but aside from the church and the hotel there was almost nothing left. The whole courtyard at the bottom (including the mammoth building) had been bulldozed into heaps of rubble, as had the buildings in the top part and the walkway down to the bottom. The church and the hotel were interesting, but pretty much everything that could have been taken had been, to the point where even the ceilings had been ripped open, spewing insulation on to the floor.

While it was interesting and it satisfied my curiosity, there was so little left that it barely justified the three hour drive from Nagano City where I live and I wouldn't be inclined to go again. It was clearly in the middle of a process of at least partial demolition, and there was very little left to identify it. I saw no signs or maps, for example. It was a fascinating trip, but to be honest I had as much fun swimming in the sea on the way home.

 The courtyard from the former carpark

What used to be (presumably) the ticket office and gift shops

The back of the burned out hotel

 Inside the church

The last visitor...?

The gutted lobby

The other side of the hotel

 What used to be the lower courtyard of shops and display rooms etc.
Now reduced to rubble

A child's toy lying on the road in front of the rubble

Rubble from the ceilings in what was once a ballroom

 Looking out from the hotel towards an overgrown golf course

 One of only a couple of bedrooms that weren't gutted by fire

 All that remained of the mammoth

 The entrance gate, complete with jacket

 Enjoyed a nice swim at this patch of nearly deserted beach near Joetsu on the way back

Chris Ward
August 17th 2015

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Goodbye Granny

This post has nothing to do with writing or my life in Nagano, but it is about someone who is very special to me. On March 7th 2014, my grandmother Evelyn Mary Ward passed away, aged 94. This is a letter from me to my granny.


 For Granny

You passed away on Friday 7th March after thirty-five years of devoted service as my grandmother. It’s hard to put into words just how much you meant to me. My childhood is full of wonderful memories of outings and games and walks and days on the beach, all of it set against a background of kindness and love which personified you. For if there was ever anything you taught me it was about how easy it was to show kindness to someone else, not bound by duty or religion or employment or anything; simply giving kindness because it was there to give.

Throughout my childhood your house was a safe haven from the rest of the world. Where Grandad was a font of knowledge and an inspiration for many of the things I have achieved in life, you were the fun and the games. There are so many things I wish I’d asked you while I had the chance, and now never will.

Even after I left England you never forgot about me. I have kept every single letter, card and note that you have sent me over the eleven years that I’ve lived out of the country, and now they mean more than ever. Even though you were halfway across the world, you were never far from my thoughts. Granny, you may be gone, but you will never be gone. You will live on in my memory and my heart for as long as I live.