Urban exploration undoubtedly means different things to different people, but for me personally, visiting an abandoned building/haikyo is all about what’s been left behind rather than the actual building itself. Well, apart from a few very special cases that is; namely Kawatana Suicide Squad Training Centre, Mount Asama Volcano Museum, and the recently posted Joyo Pachinko Parlor. All of which were incredibly interesting simply as structures, and/or what they stood for.
But that said, they really aren’t the kinds of places I would initially seek out when searching for a new haikyo to visit; this small and sad-looking house on the other hand, is.
A chance find that, as soon as we walked through the unlocked door, felt like entering someone’s life. Or at least past life. Particularly as there on display was a picture of the one-time occupant himself.
Plus, due to a certificate of thanks on the wall, it was possible to find out his name, Shouji Masakatsu, and that in 1985 he was a singer on the inaugural journey of the Varuna ferry; its three day trip taking them from Oarai in Ibaraki, to Muroran in Hokkaido.
A vessel that, just like the man who once performed on it, has now moved on, but as it was sold to a Greek tour company, it could still be operating somewhere in the Aegean Sea, although it presumably sails to the sound of very different songs. And in regards to music, lyrics for some of the ballads that could well have been part of Masakatsu’s set on the Varuna all those years ago, are still in the house — all carefully copied out.
And a version of one of them, sung by somebody else, can be heard here:
But boats aside, music was obviously not only Masakatsu-san’s livelihood, but also his love, as the house is still packed with an assorted array of instruments,
Along with the suggestion that he may also have liked golf, but quite possibly didn’t really care for cooking.
It was a very similar story upstairs too, although several more personal items made the man’s presence almost palpable.
Especially with his jacket still waiting in the wardrobe.
And music was again a big theme, with an old school cassette player,
and a radio alarm clock still in the bedroom.
A room that was not only bleak, but also contained a newspaper dated 1997, suggesting that was the last time Shouji Masakatsu spent a night there.
But why he left, and more pressingly also left so many possessions, is a mystery. The selection of which made the deathly quiet of the house almost deafening.
Amazing pictures like always… I liked the audio file also, I was able to follow some parts of the song, actually. Thanks!
Thanks tamh. Glad to hear you liked the addition of the audio file.
Very interesting. Thanks. I like the personal details too. This is really sad but compelling too. You think he’s dead?
Cheers KcD. I honestly have no idea. In some ways I’d like to know, and then at the same time I also like the mystery of it.
It truly is strange, why did he just leave? How interesting. And it’s amazing how you even knew about the boat! Lol. Did you stay around for long?
That’s the big question Teabie. Especially leaving behind so much gear.
My friend did all the investigative work, so it was fascinating to get mails after our visit adding more to the story. Seeing the actual boat itself was especially interesting.
And yeah, for such a small place we were in there quite a while. It was captivating.
The second shot looks like my grandfather’s abandoned workshop (he was an engineer, inventor, and ham radio fan). I also love the shattered drumset which resembles my daughter’s thrifted toy drumset, which, shattered and well-loved, still occupies the back patio.
Happy to hear you liked it Maia.
Wow… many interrogations on this case, really interesting how things get so old and dirty in so little time, how our lives were before, how tecnology has advanced it makes you think about life and the trascendance of it, well at least for me… And well the Enka was really nice, I just hope he’s all right somewhere, somehow…
So do I Joel. All the time we were in there we kept wondering if he was still alive or not. And then when editing the photos and pulling together what info we had I kept having the same thoughts.
And I agree wholeheartedly. Haikyo do make you think about life and the passing of time. Especially one as personal as this. They are both incredibly sad and yet utterly fascinating.
Indeed Lee, indeed.
Well, been 13 years since 1997, not exactly what I would call “little time”.
On the other hand, sometimes I also catch myself when looking at customers personal data thinking things like: “Wait, born in 1990? Do we already accept applications from teena- oh wait, never mind…” -.-
Guess we’re getting old.
Yeah, I’m getting that same feeling too, lol. Anyway, you guess the year I was born, unintentionally I guess.
El-Branden Brazil says
That was magical, Lee. With the music, the whole story was mesmerising. Really, I think that was your best Haikyo so far, mainly because of the human story that permeates throughout. Very touching and encapsulates the passing of time.
Thanks Branden! Yes, I’m inclined to agree with, the added element of (at least some details) a real story has made this possibly my favourite haikyo to date.
El-Branden Brazil says
I will share this with my 1,500 Facebook friends!
Why in black and white?
It wasn’t my initial choice Marmaduke, but black & white gave the images a much greater feel of the past, and somehow, to me at least, a better sense of the silence I felt and wanted to hopefully get across.
It’s odd to me that it all seems so undisturbed. Seems like in many places it would’ve been picked clean of anything of value years ago.
Yes, definitely. Obviously now the equipment is dated, but 13 years or so ago it would have been a very different story. And it’s even more amazing considering that it’s on a fairly busy road.
The Roland Space Echo (seen in the second picture, far right) is easily worth US$400 (~ Â¥33,000)…and that ’80s Vox guitar is an equally valuable find.
C. L. says
Listening to the enka song while looking at the pictures is like time travelling. Very mesmerizing. Like many of the people here, I too am curious what happened to Masakatsu-san. I hope he’s still singing and enjoying music, wherever he is.
Excellent post as usual Lee
I hope the photographer took that Roland space echo with them.
Nah, only pictures.
I’m not sure how this is ethical. It’s bad enough that you are trespassing. (chuck that’s called robbery). Have you looked into finding out who the current owner is? Someone must own it. Even if this man is dead (how do you know?) he may have relatives who might want these things.
Legally there may well be issues jim, but for me personally, entering an unlocked building that has been left empty for 13 years, taking only some pictures, and then leaving, closing the door behind me, poses no ethical issues whatsoever.
Tried to google Shouji Masakatsu and all I could find was pictures of his house. I wonder whatever became of him. Seems there’s a really interesting story behind so many possessions left behind yet so far no clue as to what it could be.
There is no mention of him as a singer Lizzy. At least not as far as I know. He obviously wasn’t well known, and also his time was pre-internet, making it even harder to get more info.
Awesome pics! Can’t help but indulge and imagine how this scenario might appear if the man had been a technophileâ€¦ all the tapes were mp3’s, lyrics on an iThing, reads the newspaper online. Enter into the abandonned house and find some dust covered plastic and metal boxes either defunct or password protected. And little else.
Cheers! And very, very true.
Dan Ryan says
An amazing post, Lee. One of your best ever. I’m posting a link to it on Facebook. –Dan
Thanks Dan, glad you liked it so much.
That drum set is definitely from the mid-80’s, I have the same set but with deep toms that I bought in 1986. It’s a Yamaha Stage set – fairly mid to low end.. Great set. I think I’ve kept mine in better shape, though! 🙂
Great post, thanks for sharing!
Wow, this has the makings of a great anime novel. Maybe he was kidnapped thru a time portal whilst writing the song that would have made him an international superstar. Aha!
I googled the possible kanji name for Shouji Masakatsu and found one song writer named æ±æµ·æž—æ£å…‹ and one singer named åº„å¸ã¾ã•ã‹ã¤ who seemed active around 1985, although there is no evidence for anything except his name on a songwriter’s website (http://kita-takashi.com/). There are many enka singers who never gets to be popular. I met one at my friend’s wedding party and another who is a friend of a friend of mine. They are always on the road hoping to get major contract one day. Many of them end up as karaoke teachers which is a moderate success for them.
Interesting results Mazmot. We certainly got the impression that Masakatsu’s big break never really happened, and no results were found mentioning him. I guess the time he was probably the most successful was also pre-internet, so there’s even less chance of finding any mention of him. All of which, if nothing else, adds to the mystery.
Again an amazing place documented with great pictures! Did you find it by chance or did you look for it on purpose?
We found it purely by chance. An incredible find really. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Hey really nice story.
It reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of the radio show This American Life:
do listen its really amazing.
I just moved to Philadelphia this month, and there are hundreds if not thousands of abandoned buildings here.
I am going to start exploring some soon as well.
thank you for the inspiration.
Thanks Sebastien, and cheers for the link.
Good luck with the exploration. I hope you get as much out of it as I do.
Grob Hahn says
What’s so amazing is that such a brilliant but unmaintained museum even exists. In so many other places on the planet this place would have been looted years ago. It’s almost like the social equivalent of being covered in the ashes of Vesuvius. Can any of us hope to leave behind such an amazing record of our having been here? Thanks so much for the way this is conveyed.
Yes, it was an amazing place. And, like you say, even more amazing considering it has been left totally untouched for all those years.
Before you entered the house, did you know that an enka singer lived there or was it blind luck that it resulted in such a find?
Complete luck John. We were on the way to another haikyo which I haven’t posted yet, and we saw the dilapidated state of the house and thought it might be abandoned. To add to our good fortune there was parking nearby, and so we were able to stop and check it out. The dreadful state of the back of the house quickly confirming that it was indeed abandoned.
Michael David Skirvin says
Excellent pictures! Excellent eye! And you were right about the black & white.
How very intriguing. I recently lived in Southeast Virginia, USA, and I was surprised to see many abandoned homes seemingly untouched for decades in rural areas there. It gave me a somewhat familiar feeling yet at the same time an eerie feeling also. Thoughts of the residents haunt me still whenever I think about those abandoned homes.
cyndy chaszeyka says
I am so interested in what happened to the man. The pictures are great and they drew me into his life.
Cheers Cyndy. Yes, I too would love to know what happened to him. But at the same time, the speculation is arguably just as fascinating.
Grass Jelly says
Obviously this is complete speculation, but I do have a tendency to expect the worst. I wonder if it is still possible in this day and age for a person to fall through the cracks of society and simply forgotten. Thank your lucky stars you didn’t find any mummified remains.
Not only it’s still possible. Japan is actively working to find out what happened to a lot of old people from which there are no news and who are thought to be either dead or really, really old (over 110 years old). For instance, they have found some cases of people who were collecting pension money for people who were dead since long ago…
It’s a major fear, to get old and become abandoned and die alone, on a society with a low birth rate and an aging population like that of Japan.
The Envoy says
Interesting one, Lee. However, I just wonder – do you ever run into drug addicts or homeless people occupying ruins in one of your haikyo hunts? Or does this just never happen in Japan?
No signs of drug use at all, but I have come across plenty of signs of homeless having lived in haikyo. Fortunately though they have all been long gone by the time I have turned up.
I ran into a Japanese homeless guy at a Ryokan once – he lived in a shack near the main building, closed the door behind him and yelled something. I just went on to the main building and that’s it.
No signs of drugs in Japan, but the first place I went to in Europe (Luxembourg) had a belt and a syringe right at the entrance. It was a small, unspectacular building anyways, so we decided not to enter…
That guitar looks like the one Jack White uses a lot – the Airline…
This is awesome, Lee. It is like a museum. One day I’ll have to scan in my photos of an abandoned Taiwanese squatter neighbourhood in Taipei. Back in the late 90s when I lived there, Mayor Chen Shuibian (can’t remember how to spell it in non-pinyin) cleared out a lot of the Mainland Chinese squatter blocks that had been around since 1949 (and in one case right when I moved there in August 1997, he gave some Buddhist nuns 24 hours to move out of their convent).
Anyhow, this one neighbourhood where the Taipei 101 is now, I deciphered an article about the people living there and decided to go talk to them and see the place. I guess it took me months to finally read my newspaper clipping because when I visited six months after the article was written, there was a giant fence around the neighbourhood. Inside the fence, there was no one. But there was a lot of evidence that the place was hastily evacuated, with bags of people’s clothes and scattered photos of grandkids – most of the people still living in these Mainland slums were elderly. The calendars in the houses were also left at November 1998 (I visited spring 1999), while the article was written in October, I believe.
Anyhow, glad to hear these things are still left the way they are. I didn’t take anything. I hoped the poor families living there were able to come back and get some of their photos. Certainly this place no longer exists but Taiwan probably has other such places left over.
Fascinating story, and a sad one too. At least many of the places I have visited have been left voluntarily, albeit sometimes ‘cos of financial issues. If you do scan in the photos, I’d love to see them.
Excellent posts. During my first stay in Japan, 1998-9 on Awaji Island, I loved coming across old parks, buildings, temples, that had been erected and neglected. In my mind as especially lonely were: The hilltop park with a bronze statue of some guy; the concrete benches and tables (oh comfortable Japan) were broken and overgrown but the guy was still there. A shut down and dusty temple at the top of a long winding road leading up from … a temple. And this, a WWII memorial museum and monument. The museum had been shuttered intact, and when I found a broken window I climbed in to see rifles, banners, and pictures of battalions. I hoped they hadn’t been forgotten after being memorialized 50 years after the war. The monument was a big praying hands kind of design with an eternal flame at the base–extinguished. Creepy.
That’s the location… I was thinking about a trip to Awaji Island for months, but I couldn’t get myself to do it yet. Maybe if Lee comes down to Kansai one day we can do something like that together?
That sounds like quite a plan Florian, and one I’d definitely interested in. I’ve pretty much exhausted the known haikyo in Kanto, so heading further afield sounds perfect.
I’m always up for meeting fellow urban explorers – if you ever come to Kansai I hope you’ll drop me a line!
It’s only a matter of time before I make a Kansai haikyo trip Florian, and when I do, I’ll be in touch well before so we can hopefully get together.
That sounds absolutely fascinating Todd, and thanks a lot for the info. Just wish it was a bit nearer. A bit of a trip may be in order.
I’m really excited to see that conservation-minded people are doing haikyo. I should have guessed that this kind of thing would become popular. Anyway, I’ll be returning to Kansai (Kii peninsula) in the middle of next year. If you’re still around … 😉
I went to the place I thought of on the weekend and I guess it’s a different monument and museum – the one I went to looked like a concrete “sail” and the museum was completely empty. I guess it was about a student who was killed in the 60s… Will put up pictures soon.
janis - pinecone camp says
Hi from Vancouver. “Julie” referred your blog to me as I did a post called Abandoned and Beautiful. she thought I’d like your blog and I do. I actually love it. Thank Julie! These images are stunning. Love the story behind the pics too.
I was wondering if anything turned up in regards to the Enka singer Shouji Masakatsu. If I may make a suggestion, contact clubs that might have an affinity for Enka and ask about the singer. I don’t know if their are any but if you were to ask I would suggest if they know anyone or have a second link of connections to someone who might know about him. Who might be the biggest/most knowledgeable Enka fans? Maybe sending a link to this site or a better photo of him being sent with a request for information and maybe his back up singer might be a known celebrity. Suffice it to say I hope it’s possible for you to do a basic sending out of feelers.
A point to note if the guy was working, wouldn’t he have a tax record? and how accessible are those records? Maybe a radio call in show could spread some light on the matter? Heh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the simple asking of this singers whereabouts and life on a radio show sprung some life into his career? 🙂
Also to your photography, an outstanding selection of photographs from the mans house. Your professionalism is clear and evident in the photos. I’m curious as to your preferred medium of camera. Are you a film or a digital man?
Best Regards in your Haikyo wanderings.
Thanks a lot!
I’m a digital man, but while I enjoy the immediacy of digital, when it comes to looks I prefer film.
It’s a weird one. I like to find out a good amount about all the haikyo I visit, and even more so about the people that lived or worked in them. But at the same time only so much. That way, there’s forever an element of mystery, which for me makes them all the more interesting.
Many thanks for the reply Lee
Well I can certainly understand the dilemma between the two formats with digital being so immediate but to truly capture an image you need film. Film captures an image from a direct interaction of light from the environment whereas the digital is an interpretation of the light after being digitized and processed and stuffed through several miles of circuitry and blended with artificial algorithms to speed up processing. It’s a bit like how real listeners of music can tell the difference between a CD and a record(a record being analog) and prefer the sweeter tones of a more pure audio track than the digital sterility of a CD. And don’t get me started on mp3s 😛
I hope you continue your photography of these abandoned places. They’ve become alive again and are no longer forgotten from the world.
Cheers Lee! 🙂
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.
Thank you. And yes, I will continue. In fact I visited one last weekend. A wonderful little school up in the mountains.
A new message of 74th will be posted on this old article written more than 10 years ago.
I’m a stranger here, coming from the country of the rising sun.
I found this article while searching about Japanese ruins.
How is it spelled in Japanese kanji??
I’ve never heard of him, never heard of such a name in enka pop singers in our country.
From indies label, has he ever released musical media such as CD or tape??
I’ve read a lot of articles written about Japanese ruins, however I’ve never come across the name of his.
Nowdays, enka is unpopular music genre among young people in Japan.
It will die out unless it will be sold to Asian countries by active promotion.
But record company holding enka singers and their staff don’t pay attention or hate to admit that. Although the ship is sinking little by little to the bottom of the lake…
Today, we can find many symbolized keywords from enka singer, it is said…
・contempt for women
・absolute old-fashioned style
・a journey to the destruction
・a lack of musical variation
・always almost the same melody and the same rythm pattern
・pop music devoted to karaoke culture for old age
・endless poverty and boring
・feudal top-down relationship among composer, lyricist and singer
・a lack of Singer-songwriter