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Matsuo Kouzen

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Located just outside of Hachimantai (northern Honshu), this long abandoned sulfur mine housed about 15,000 workers before becoming abandoned in the late 70's. The first time I visited it was raining hard and an intense, thick fog descended over the valley.  I sat in my car for about 2 hours waiting for a break and just watched as the low clouds moved and hovered over and between the rows of haunting abandoned apartment blocks (a truly stunning and fierce visual).  Each time I got out to take a photo, the torrential rain completely drenched me, so I decided to give up and head back the following day.


Day two was sunshine, warmth and awesomeness and I kind of ran towards the buildings from my car like a kid into a candy store.  Deep shrubbery surrounds it (shrubbery which appears 'deceptively' soft and easy to navigate through), and I attempted to get through it by climbing over and under bushes, but ended up just getting tangled in thick vines and undergrowth (I also got stuck in a tree with sharp thorns and got a little shredded). I made it about half way between the road and the first apartment block and ended up in some kind of unstable area with huge, deep concrete holes in the ground that'd been covered by dead leaves...and decided that this was dumb and dangerous.  So I headed back towards the road again to search for another way in...then found the actual 'trail' and felt like the tool that I am.


I reached the first apartment block at the end of a dirt path and checked out the basement area.  These buildings are very unstable and rickety, so I kind of checked the rooms out quickly and did'nt want to spend too much time in them.  I kind of knew that there would'nt be much inside the actual living areas but from time to time I'd stumble across a rusty spoon, or a plate or an old empty tin.  The nicest thing about the rooms were the plants and vines that grew inside from the broken windows. After a while, the interiors of the apartement blocks got a little repetitive and I kept trying to find something that was going to blow my mind however, it never really happened.  I realised that this place was all about the exterior visual (these buildings are totally amazing and would make an awesome location for a creepy Eastern Block commie horror movie or something...) so I spent most of my time snapping each building from the outside at different angles.   


As it got a little darker, a fog began to roll in and descended over the apartment blocks.  It looked awesome but creeped me out because I kept looking up at the dark apartment block windows that were now shrouded in this eerie mist, wondering if ghosts were staring back at me.


You can spend an entire day here hanging out and watching the buildings under different light as the day passes by... and if you stay later in the afternoon (around dusk), you might get to see it covered in fog - a truly spectacular and haunting visual.


If you're in the area and know how to get here - do it!

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