Fairly recently, I documented one of Tokyo’s many old and rundown hotels. Like all such properties, they are bookable by anyone, but in reality they mostly cater to the city’s poor who sadly don’t have the means, or indeed the necessary documentation, to get better and considerably more secure accommodation.
The building below is one such place, and it has intrigued me for the longest time due to its truly unique appearance. In winter, it’s possible to see just how worse for wear it really is, but from spring onwards it almost completely disappears beneath the leaves of trees that now seem to be an integral part of the structure.
Whether it was still a functioning business, on the other hand, was always impossible to discern. It remained listed as open with rooms priced at ¥1,700 per night, which is quite a bit cheaper than the area’s going rate of ¥2,200. That said, there has never been any displayed information whatsoever, and apart from someone once going in and out when doing some electrical work, I’d never seen any signs of life beyond the botanical. Then, when recently photographing the freshly grown greenery, I got an answer. It is actually occupied, and by several people at the very least.
Woah that is one overgrown building!!
It really is. One of those sights that never fails to surprise no matter how many times you see it.
Ken Ulrich says
Whoa, this is one of the most amazing overgrowns in tokyo – actually generally- I’ve seen so far. I even run an jnsta on them: @tokyoovergrown
Yeah, it really is special even for a city that, as you know, isn’t short of such things. I’d love to know how far the growth has got inside, but there’s no way I can just wander in.
Sanya seems a really cheap area for that price. I’ve stayed in numerous hostels, capsule hotels and so on while traveling around and met many elderly Japanese living in these places temporarily (as they all say). I remember meeting a college professor who said he was divorced and estranged from her daughter. He’d buy sake every evening (nothing fancy, supermarket sake in a carton bottle!) and after I got back from my exploration in the city we’d have a drink and try to communicate with his broken English and my non-existent Japanese. I got the feeling they didn’t want to bother anyone and felt more independent there. C’est la vie!
Some of these kinds of places have made way for more standard lodgings, but it’s amazing how many still exist. They exist for a reason too. I guess they are always temporary anyway, as such precarious existences can easily change.
I’ve heard similar stories. Most Sanya residents are there due to circumstance beyond their control, but it seems there are still plenty who go there to escape, whether that be from people, unhappy circumstances, or tricky legal/financial situations. A whole other world…
Wow, this is incredible. You never fail to surprise and entertain me with these photos and stories, Lee, and they always, for a minute, take me right there. Thanks, as always, for sharing. I hope you’re well.
Thank you very much. They surprise me too, so it’s good to be able to share them. Nice to know they manage to draw you in as well. All I can hope to do with a photo, so very encouraging to hear.
What a storybook building. A ghibliesque place if ever there was one.
Definitely one of the easier places to find on Street View. I just entered Sanya Tokyo. That centred on the Sanya Cafe and behind that is this house. It hasn’t changed since 2010 and has loads of fruit from Feb-Apr adorning it.
Seems it is a place for those who wish to disappear. This link offers a fascinating insight to what and who are within.
Oh, thanks for the link. Such a wonderful drawing, and the details of what lies within was a real surprise.
Yes, it’s primarily a day labourer area. Or it was, anyway. But that aspect, and the ability to get by without the regular types of identification, mean it’s also where people can go to escape if they want, or need to.
Bernadette Siobhan Loftus says
The nerd in me sees this as a beautiful, fantastical forest home full of magical creatures. The reality, I suppose, isn’t anyone’s idea of a fantasy. Still, what an amazing entrance! Thank you for showing the dark aspects of life with such beauty.
You are very welcome. Yes, it genuinely does offer that contrast of emotions. It’s truly special, and when abundantly green like this, really quite beautiful. But then like you said, there’s a real darkness there as well. Like life in general I guess…
I second everything Bernadette wrote!
The entrance reminded me of a tree house! Have to wonder how well the plumbing, etc still work. Saddens me that people live this way. And yet they are also resourceful to make the best of their circumstances in life.
It definitely has that quality. Quite unreal at this time of year. But yeah, it does make you wonder how well everything works, and what state a lot of the interior is in. Needs must I suppose, but it really shouldn’t be like that in such a rich country.