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Nara Dreamland's Train Crossing

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Nara Dreamland is an abandoned theme park in Nara, Japan (east of Osaka). It was built in 1961 and was essentially a copy of Disneyland in California. The opening of Universal Studios was a crushing blow to Nara Dreamland's dwindling attendance and, on August 31, 2006, the park closed permanently.

Exploring the theme park, during an extremely foggy and damp April morning was hauntingly surreal.

Hashima Island's Playground Slide

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This was the Hashima Island school's slide. The island was so overpopulated and lacking space that a school was built on one of the tallest buildings.

Hashima Island

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Last month, I was fortunate to be able to return to Hashima Island, the abandoned island on the southern coast of Japan.

I was able to photograph and explore sections of the island that I missed on the first trip, including several approach and exit shots of the island from the ocean.

Hashima Island has been abandoned since the Spring of 1974. Since that time, the island has been beaten by typhoons, a tsunami and general decay.

The island (also know by its nickname "Gunkanjima") was featured in Skyfall, the most recent James Bond film. Shots of the island from the ocean were digitally enhanced to make the island appear larger. No filming was done on the island - everything was recreated on a sound stage.

From Wikipedia: The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. The island's most notable features are the abandoned and undisturbed concrete apartment buildings and the surrounding sea wall. The island has been administered as part of Nagasaki city since the merger of the former town of Takashima in 2005.

It is known for its coal mines and their operation during the industrialization of Japan. Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 and began the project, the aim of which was extracting coal from undersea mines. They built Japan's first large concrete building (9 stories high), a block of apartments in 1916 to accommodate their burgeoning ranks of workers. Concrete was specifically used to protect against typhoon destruction. In 1959, the 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island's population reached its peak of 5,259, with a population density of 835 people per hectare (83,500 people/km2, 216,264 people per square mile) for the whole island, or 1,391 per hectare (139,100 people/km2) for the residential district.

As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima's mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine in 1974, and today it is empty and bare, which is why it is called Ghost Island.

Nara Dreamland

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nara Dreamland was opened in 1961 as Japan's response to Disneyland in California. Many features and rides in the park were nearly identical to their American counterparts. After the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, attendance at Nara Dreamland declined dramatically. Nara Dreamland eventually closed in 2006 leaving the park to be frozen in time, silently decaying as an echo of its former buoyant past.

I explored the theme park in extremely foggy and damp conditions during an early April morning with two Japanese explorers. One of them was Ikumi Nakamura, my guide from Hashima Island.

Abandoned Japanese World War 2 Underground Bunker

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Deep underground in the Kanagawa region of Japan is a series of tunnels spanning 27km (according to conservative estimates). They were built during World War 2 as protection from United States air raids. The tunnel system was intricate; it was home to a 500 bed hospital, power plant, numerous warehouses and even a submarine factory!

During my recent six week trip to Japan, our crew of urban explorers crawled down through a dark and claustrophobic tunnel to make our entrance into a section of the tunnel system. Naturally, we posed for a group photo.

Our team of urban explorers in the Mutsuura Underground Bunker.

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