Last year, knowing nothing about the town other than that it was a good location on the way to, and from, some of Hokkaido’s more scenic spots, I spent an all too brief stopover in Muroran. Like so many other places in the region — and Japan as a whole outside the big cities — the jobs, and subsequently the population, have shrunk enormously, leaving behind a sad scene of former glory and faded memories. Photographs of which can be seen here.
Yet despite, or perhaps because of its decidedly forlorn nature, Muroran was somewhere I liked — a lot. It was peaceful. Fascinating in a sociological sense. Plus the people there were wonderfully friendly. And so, on a recent trip to some of Hokkaido’s small coastal towns, Muroran had to be on the itinerary.
Initial impressions, however, were that it had changed. A lick of paint and a freshly tarmacked road gave it the air of an area potentially on the rise. A hint of unexpected prosperity perhaps?
Needless to say, however, that wasn’t the case. The people are still lovely of course, but the quiet loneliness.
And the slightly surreal emptiness.
Is still very much the same.
It looks a lot different in colour. Love the deer! 🙂
I opted to go with colour because it looked a lot different to me when we arrived. The paint and road surface made quite a difference. And yeah, the deer was a great find!
Hans ter Horst says
Somehow I get the impression of an abandoned amusement park, or from a 1950 science fiction film where the whole town has been wiped away be an alien virus. Creepy!
In that part of town there is a very real sense of something like that. Just the odd person and car. That’s it. Oh, and music playing. Very unusual.
In the approximate cycle of things for a future ‘ghost town’ in the States, there is a definable sequence of events. These would typically include: loss of local income (whatever the large employer was), loss of jobs, loss of people, loss of infrastructure and services and finally an empty shell of what was that town. Is it the same in Nippon ?
Pretty much, yes. Muroran has definitely suffered the first two. It has seen a huge population decline. Whether that will continue or there is enough work to sustain the current number, I don’t know. Only time will tell I guess.
Perhaps the freshness it to hopefully attract some tourists? It certainly looks more safe and inviting now. Or, rather, during the day it should.
It does, yes. No doubt about it.
Not sure about attracting tourists. Nearby there’s some lovely coastline, and a pretty lighthouse too. That’s a bit of a draw. But even with a lick of paint, I’m not at all sure what the town could offer to tourists.
I’m curious also – what does the place look like during the day? Many years ago, I was visiting a friend in Tokyo and I commented on the total lack of people in his neighborhood at night time. It looked a lot like this!! In areas that he called “bedroom” communities, he said they were very quiet at night with few, if any, people out and about. Different story in the mornings though!
It’s definitely busier during the day. A lot of the shops are shuttered up, but the ones that are open attract a good number of local shoppers.
I guess the difference from a quiet local neighbourhood is that there are — and there were a lot more — restaruants, bars etc. So at one time it would haven been quite lively in the evening too. But with a lot of them gone, that’s not the case anymore.
I see by that last photo that as in many places in Hokkaido, a re-wilding is taking place.
Haha, yes! When the bears move back it will get really interesting!
What time was the photos taken?
It feels lonely, but I guess also surreal at the same time… not sure if surreal if the right word here :D… sorry for my bad English.
No need to apologise. Your English is fine.
I can’t remeber if it was before we went drinking, or after. I suspect it was before when we were walking about trying to find somewhere. But not 100% sure.
It was just the deer that seemed slightly surreal. Such an odd sight looking out onto the empty streets.
I am currently working here from Australia at the Japan Steel Works and can confirm that the place is like a ghost town.
Everything closes at 8pm and you hardly see a bird or insect let alone a person after that time anyway.
The people here are very friendly and the town apparently had a population of 300K plus and is now down to 90K due to another port being opened on the west coast.
Good to hear from you, Shaun. I genuinely love the place. Wish I was there right now.
If you like a beer and a bit of chicken on a stick, there’s a great little yakitori place you should visit. If I remember correctly it’s on the street running parallel with the one in the photo (in the direction of the station/main road). The oldest in Muroran apparently. And if my drink-addled memory serves me well, the woman in charge is the third generation in her family to run it. But she wants out, and it’ll shut for good when she calls it a day. So a good chance to go if you can find it.