In 2017, during a holiday to Japan, I visited the Hakone area, south-east of Mt Fuji, via day-trip from Tokyo. One of the stops was Mt Hakone – accessed via cable-car from lake Ashi.
Due to timing, we only had a few minutes a the top of Mt Hakone. This was my first encounter with the eerie - Komagatake Ropeway top station.
(Above pic is a screenshot from Google Maps street view)
In 2019 on another visit to Japan I decided to make a point of visiting this mountain again – to get close look...
In 2017, only the ground floor of the station was open to the public, holding only a ticket counter, small gift shop, a photo booth, and some vending machines. The stairwell to the second floor was blocked off, and the sign for the bathrooms was covered up.
(Screenshot from Google Maps street view)
This enormous concrete block, perched on a cliff edge of Mt Hakone serves as anchor point for the cable car, and looks out over lake Ashi.
Its showing the signs of its age. Wikipedia says it opened in 1963.
It feels strange that something this run down is still in operation...
In 2017 – I desperately wanted to have a look upstairs of the creepy building, but didn't want to risk trying to sneak past the stairs from the lobby...
In 2019, the blocked sign was removed from the stairs!, and I guess they opened up the bathrooms on level 2. As soon as we entered the lobby, I decided to dash for it... my wife happily exploring the gift shop downstairs.
The blockade on the stairs was now moved to the second floor – with only the bathrooms accessible.
With no tourists on this floor yet, I figured – this is it - now or never!, and I jumped over the boom and headed upstairs – careful to listen for any noises from upstairs...
My heart was pounding as I snuck further! I had to stop shooting a bit as some tourists just around the corner from me came up the stairs to visit the bathrooms... (noises from camera shutter...)
As I went higher, you could see that the walls of the upper floors were never even painted. I wonder if they have ever been in service since 1963!
I guess when they build this behemoth, they envisaged a restaurant and maybe visitor centre, maybe accommodation in the upper floors?
A wooden trimming on the stair handrail as you approach the top floor.
The top floor-
A chair against the wall,and some colourful stickers against the glass doors. The only colour in this dreary building.
I'm guessing one of the top-station employees comes up here for their lunch break...
The top floor is basically empty, except for some communications gear that was probably installed much later.
After this I snuck back down. I regret not checking if any of the bathrooms were open.
More external shots:
I think these are heat-lamps,keeping the motor-controllers from freezing.
Besides this top station building, the only other structure visible at the top is Hakonejinja Mototsumiya temple.
A blue tile on the ground along the path to Hakone-jinja
The temple shows no signs of life...
On the way back down:
As we were ascending the mountain, from the gondola, you can see some wooden cabins in the forest below... Some of them looked a bit worse off... I decided to go have a look when we came back down...
There was a sign board next to the road leading up the the cabins – The Hakone Prince Dog Cottage. It is spring – sakura season.
The cabins near the bottom of the mountain were still looking ok – they were probably still being rented out, but there were no signs of any visitors or staff.
As you go higher up the mountain, it was clear that some of these cabins have not been in service in years. Completely overgrown, full of moss, algae and weeds.
A tree growing out of the front porch suggests the age of disuse.
Peering through the mosquito netting, I can see and old CRT TV and VCR
There are downed power lines and more trees. Some of the side roads leading to the cabins are completely overgrown. I don't think anyone has walked down there for years.
No more Mario-cart for you
Looks like this one has a fridge, that probably held those two tubs of whatever.
After this encounter, my first experience in “urban exploration”, I started noticing, in the town where we stayed (Atami), and along the roads of Yugawara which we drove through, there were plenty of eerie relics-
(Screenshot from Google Maps street view)
and many run down and abandoned places-
I made a point to explore further...
A roadside visitor centre / rest stop, found across the road from a toll-gate. No idea how old this is – its definitely not in operation anymore. No name to it in Google maps.
I pulled off to the side of the road and walked across the empty parking area. It had a crazy amount of parking space. I don't think it was ever full.
There was a small van parked out back, and a guy messing around. No idea how it got in – both entrances were barred.
Mt Fuji in the background
Remnants of a hotel or possible a rec centre / maybe hot-spring pool-
There is some underground structure as well. Looked too dangerous to explore.
The upper structure, attached to the mountain, leads you to go further up
Very overgrown up there. I couldn't get over the bridge to go further up.
The bridge lead over an artificial waterfall
I was making a lot of noise cracking through the bamboo... I ducked down for a bit while a traffic warder appeared.
Overgrown pedestrian walkway. There is literally nothing on the other side – just the steep mountain. I wonder how many people have ever crossed that bridge.
I think this is the “town office branch” - maybe a local council building. Only half of the building is still in use. The other half is piled full of junk.
A walkway over the road-
Leading to a school – also abandoned...
This school really intrigued me – I thought there might be some good photos to be had.
At the point, as I entered into a courtyard area, there was a car with a guy in it. He saw me to I just waved and pretended to be a dumb tourist. I continued to take a few pics, but he came out of his car and followed me for a bit...
I pretended to leave. The guy went back to his car – then I doubled-back to check out the gym!
Not being able to explore this area further, I left, however, later that day I noticed on Google maps that there is supposed to be a pool at the back of the school! - and also there is a road going up towards the back. Since we'd be travelling back past this area, I decided to give it one more go.
At the back of the school is a forest, leading up a mountain. The road stops quite a while away, and you have to make your way through the forest towards the school. Lucky for me, a path was cleared here, leading parallel to the school. I guess to prevent forest fires from reaching the school.
First obstacle was this ditch or embankment. About 1.5m deep.
As I got near the back of the school where the pool was supposed to be, there was a big ravine. I had to go down there, over some embankments and down a further set of retaining walls.
Everything was wet and covered in moss. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to climb back up the walls. It was pretty quiet out here. Only me struggling through the bamboos.
I reached the pool!!
There was a thicket of bamboo growing around it...
An abandoned hotel on the shore-
When we got back to the small town to return the rental car, I spotted this place walking to the train station-
I couple more random shots
Albania is one of those countries where I didn't really know what to expect. Recent history saw the collapse of communism in the 90s which caused the economy to crash. Since then It has made remarkable economic progress, growing from one of the poorest nations in Europe to a middle-income country, with poverty declining by half during that period. We travelled from north to south and back again taking in a few places along the way. The people are friendly, the food is good, it has decent weather, and everything is extremely cheap. Here's some of what I got up to with Adders, extreme_ironing, Otter and Reenie.
In the main square of Tirana the National History Museum has this famous mosaic called 'The Albanian' on the front. It tells the story of how Albanians have fought against invasion and occupation throughout the centuries.
Just down the road are these colourful government buildings
In the middle of the countryside we passed this communist monument, the 5 red stars symbolising communist ideology
Shëngjin Naval Base
After an epic fail elsewhere we headed to this small naval base which turned out to be pretty cool. I've already written a separate report on this so I won't include much about it here.
Fier Power Plant
Fier Power Station was Albania's largest thermal power plant having 6 identical groups of 31 MW each, totalling a capacity of 186 MW. The plant was decommissioned in 2007. Much of the site next to it was a fertiliser factory powered by the plant. The whole site has been completely stripped now, leaving just bland shells of buildings. The imposing chimneys and cooling towers however remain visible for miles as a reminder of its former importance.
Old security office next to the original gate
Always wanted a shot of adders pissing
Cooling tower ladders have long since been removed
The best bit about this place was taking in the views from one of the factory towers, although the staircase was a bit of a headfuck
Factory buildings below
The turbine hall. Amazingly two security guys appeared from nowhere and made us leave before we could grab any shots of the inside. You're really not missing much though as the turbines have been removed along with everything else. Why anyone is securing it is completely beyond me!
Kombinati Metalurgjik, Elbasan
Elbasan is located about 50km from the capital of Albania, Tirana. The Kombinati Metalurgjik steel works, a flagship of the Albanian industry, was built between the 1960s and 1970s. The complex was built by Chinese engineers with the assistance of Albanian specialists. The levels of pollution caused by the plant were the subject of much controversy in the 90s. The size of the site is colossal but only a few buildings remain operational today. Much of it is derelict beyond repair or has already been flattened.
Most of the buildings you see in the distance here are barely standing. You can see the remains of a blast furnace to the left.
The only buildings worth a look were located right next to the live site. This one was locked up tight with several dogs acting as security inside.
Next door a few buildings were wide open
Buckets for pouring molten steel
Small control room. After this we went back to the car and found an old man shaking his walking stick at us angrily so we left.
There were a few more buildings full of stuff that we didn't manage to get into as they were well locked up. Definitely a bit more to see here I think but nothing too epic.
Përrenjas - Locomotive Graveyard
The country's first standard gauge line was built in 1947. From then on the construction of the country's rail network underwent significant development as Albania was considered to be the only state in Europe not to have standard rail service. By 1987, 677 km of railway had been constructed in total, linking the main urban and industrial centres for the first time since the end of World War II. Train transport was the main transportation method until 1990. After the collapse of Communism, and increase in use of motor vehicles, the network fell into disrepair. Today the country's rail network is almost entirely defunct. In Përrejas we visited this group of abandoned diesel ČKD T669 locomotives.
Përrenjas abandoned station. There was a man inside there who didn't appreciate us climbing on the trains
Pyramid of Tirana
On 14 October 1988, the pyramid opened as a museum about the legacy of Enver Hoxha, the long-time leader of Communist Albania, who died in 1985. When built, the pyramid was said to be the most expensive individual structure ever constructed in Albania. After 1991, following the collapse of Communism, the museum closed and for several years it was repurposed as a conference centre and exhibition venue. During the 1999 Kosovo War, the former museum was used as a base by NATO and humanitarian organisations. Since 2001, part of the Pyramid has been used as a broadcasting centre by Albanian media outlets Top Channel and Top Albania Radio. Numerous proposals have been made to demolish the structure but the majority of Tirana's citizens are against the demolition. In 2017 it was announced that the pyramid will not be demolished, but refurbished. In 2018, a new project was unveiled that would turn the Pyramid into a technology centre for youth focused on computer programming, robotics, and start ups.
Inside I bumped into a sleepy eyed squatter who invited me to take a look around.
We meant to have a pop at this under construction skyscraper overlooking the main square but unfortunately ran out of time
Not a particularly impressive view from up here but certainly a unique one
A few friends we made along the way
A bunker full of goats all set for the apocalypse. Just one of the 173,371 bunkers in Albania!
Thanks for looking!
Originally the Sea View Hotel, Cautley House is in every way as bland and and tacky as I expected. Built in 1888, it was extended to the east in 1906, became the Seabrook Hotel in the 1960s, Alfred’s Hotel in the 1980s and then a christian healing centre in around 1994. A care home was next on the agenda once the healing centre closed in 2011/12, it didn’t happen though as the building needed updating and was deemed unfit for such use. So it’s just sat empty since, although there used to be a live-in guardian person, but with the disuse and the decay commencing over a number of years they left too. Now plans are in for demolition it’s days as any kind of establishment are numbered, probably to be replaced by the non-affordable homes that keep springing up round here. And despite being accessible in some way or another most of that time it’s pretty untrashed apart from naturally falling apart.
Some history and old pics here
Entrance/reception area/groud floor rooms
Later extension housing the dance floor and DJ booth/sacrificial altar with added air con
Main stairs up to the locally-named suites
All the rooms were equally as meh, so much shades of beige in this place with 70s style avocado bathroom suites too. And balcony cat-flaps.
The most fucked part was the 1906 extension
Some signage and stuff
There you have it, worth an hour or so if you're in the area
So after Chinese New Year there was yet another public holiday in Taiwan, and you know what that means? More exploring! This here is a compilation of different sites all well known to the exploring network, all very famous but compared to the general benchmark not enough to warrant standalone reports again. As I mentioned before, sometimes it's about scratching the itch just to get it off your mind rather than the drop-everything hit-the-road urge you get for some places.
台灣民俗村/Taiwan Folk Village
Taiwan Folk Village was a mock-traditional park east of Huatan, near Zhanghua in the Bagua Mountain Scenic Area. Opened in 1993 it was a hugely successful site, a showcase of Taiwan traditional temples and aboriginal architecture (straw huts, temples and so forth) although if you ask me it all felt tacky with little historic value. That's the trouble with Taiwan; compared to Europe precious little remains of genuine, traditional architecture of dynasty's gone past. Not only that, I cannot understand what desire people have to turn such places into theme parks complete with swimming pools and rides rather than showcase the history. I digress.
As with so many places in Taiwan, the 921 Earthquake meant a sharp drop in visitor numbers, pushing the operating company into the red, culminating in closure come 2012.
It's in the backwaters of Taiwan with no public transport, so I had to begrudgingly take a taxi to get there. Unfortunately the taxi driver was oblivious to my intentions and dropped me off at the main gate, in full view of security. I get out, and there they are sat outside the cabin staring at me and wondering what I want to do. I don't want to ruin my chances and arouse suspicion, so I walked away as they watched. Awkward. I walk up the road and look for a way in, but there's a huge drop from the road down to the boundary fence. Getting in was a mission to say the least, having to find a safe spot to drop down and then find a suitable point to actually enter the site! I finally found one after considerable effort, then had to beat through thick bushes to get onto the roof of the main walls. A challenge, but I have an itch to scratch so I don't have a choice.
Although I've lived in Taiwan for 2+ years, for those unfamiliar with Asian architecture the attention to detail in temples is beautiful; each aspect is unique. Unfortunately the interior was stripped and somewhat decayed with zero interest.
The site is not fully abandoned, however. There are plenty of buddhist shrines and the mock-village buildings are still maintained by on-site staff. I saw a handful of scooters parked up around the site, and was certain there was someone lurking in places least expected so I had to be very careful.
The biggest problem however was a dozen or so stray dogs who ran around in packs. Any sight of a foreigner liked myself triggered a chorus of barking, not out of hostility but perhaps curiosity and simply being an unexpected presence. Unfortunately this meant I had to move fast from building to building to avoid getting attention from security or caretakers.
I tried to access the best part of the site, the beautiful mock-village quarters in the middle of the site, however to protect the shrines and interior these were completely locked up.
At the northernmost part of the site was a large temple, which I managed to get inside however the interior was completely empty and lacking in interest. I was absolutely certain there was a caretaker lurking inside too, so only 2 shots.
I went in search of the carousel and theme park attractions to the west of the site, however since the previous reports these have all been demolished. No loss, but that meant it was time to leave, so I headed back out and bade farewell. A derp for sure, but not a complete waste of time.
Stay tuned for the rest. Love as always,