Hemmed in by a new car park on one side and a ditch on the other, this abandoned house is small and basic to say the least. There’s no bathroom. Not even a toilet. A shared breeze-block outhouse being the only facility. Plus, as far as a kitchen goes, it was presumably a case of making do with a two ring gas table near the door. Yet despite the building’s size and rather primitive nature, until July 2005 its two rooms were clearly very much a home for the old lady who lived there.
A tiny, rectangular space as one entered acting as a living room, dining room and pretty much everything except a bedroom.
Up some terrifyingly steep and narrow stairs one finds the latter. A room that was so sad and silent that the opening verses of John Betjeman’s Death in Leamington seemed unsettlingly apt:
She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the ev’ning star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa.
Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have work’d it
Were dead as the spoken word.
But maybe she was content there, with her stuffed dog and her colorful picture of fancy goldfish? I have to think so or it’s unbearable otherwise.
Yes, it’s certainly quite possible. And as you say, let’s hope with all our heart that was actually the case.
I’ve been a silent reader for a long time, but this post has compelled me to comment. I can’t say I enjoyed it like so many of your pictures, but I just wanted to say it is great storytelling. In just a few words and pictures you have painted a sad, but intriguing story but one with so much left to the imagination. Thanks as ever for sharing.
You are very welcome, and thank you for the nice words. Really kind of you.
Glad to hear it triggered your imagination. Despite the sadness of such places, for me, wondering what the life of the person who lived there was like. What kind of person they were etc., are what really make them interesting. So good to know you got the same kind of feeling.
It’s a terribly small place but did the person who lived there know any better?
That’s a very good point. It’s also not that small in many ways either. My first place here was quite a bit smaller, as it was only one room and a kitchen. And a very little kitchen at that. So yeah, it’s quite conceivable that it was simply just normal to her. Such a size is certainly normal to many millions of other people in Japan.
The Silent World (Japanese version)
Or perhaps more specifically, the Japanese goldfish version.
The sadness is that it is abandoned. There’s nothing wrong with living simply or small. The older get, the more I work to move toward that.
No, there’s not. The steepness of the stairs aside, it was enough room for one without a doubt. The bathroom situation, however, was more grim than basic. Night time visits especially can’t have been much fun.
But yeah, the real sadness is that it’s abandoned. And more specifically, abandoned because its former occupant now no longer exists…
These photographs give me a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I can’t succinctly describe. There is a sadness element, but mostly it’s the quiet capturing of the essence of the lives lived there. I get a similar feeling when looking down over a busy city at night imagining the lives attached to every tiny light. I don’t doubt one could be prefectly content living like that – I enjoyed staying with my Grandparents when I was a kid in their 2up/2down complete with outside loo and no hot water – admittedly during the summer months, but they were cheerful and content their entire lives.
The JB verses are very appropriate and add yet more depth to this moving post.
Yes, there was a real sense of a life lived there. And that life no longer existing really was saddening. I’ve been to many abandoned places over the years, and this one had more of an affect on me than most.
Good to hear the Betjeman poem resonated. The moment I reached the top of the stairs it came to mind. And from then on in I couldn’t think of anything else.
Has a mix of feelings: the happiness of living a life, the sadness of losing a life, the immortal state of the things that will continue to exists after the human has gone (this is quite near Evangelion’s feelings).
Beside this, I was captured by the phone.
Yes, that perfectly sums up so many abandoned places. Sad, fascinating, and for better or worse, simply a fact of life.
The phone is wonderful, isn’t it? Surprising actually how many old dial phones are still in use today in Japan.
We have a very similar phone, and whilst we don’t often dial out on it, its wonderful old ring pervades the entire house (and garden). Despite its many decades of use, it’s an altogether more substantial affair than the disonant murmurrings of the cordless ones scattered about the house; which seem to need replacing every few years.
Nice. Been in old bars and restaurants when these old phones hovering, and I totally agree. A very different sound.
One bar owner insisted that when making calls the sound quality was better too.. Would you agree?
Definitely. With the modern cordless ones I’m always having to fiddle with the handset volume, or put them on “speaker”, but the cord free aspect wins out mostly and they do see more use. I find it difficult to stay in one place when talking on the phone. So the venerable black bakelite “telling bone” (Catweazel reference) is the tethered clarion call that instructs us to seek out one of its cordless minions lest we miss out on an opportunity to claim missale of PPI or buy vastly overpriced windows.
Cheers. Good to get confirmation on that. Was a little worried nostalgia may have been overriding reality.
Excellent few photos Lee. I am drawn to the figurines both above and below the television.
Perhaps you have addressed this before, but a simple question for you. Do the local Nihonjin have a cultural or spiritual aversion to visiting such places ?
Thank you. Likewise. Something about them I found quite touching.
I’ve had very mixed reactions. A good few people simply think it’s creepy, dirty etc. and have no interest whatsoever. On the other hand, a surprising amount of people I’ve spoken to about it would never go themselves as they find the whole thing a bit unsettling, and yet at the same time they are genuinely interested. There are some though that have a real aversion to it ‘cos of concerns about spirits. Never been quite sure how to respond to those who mention the latter…
BTW, I had not previously read the poem you included. But it reminds me so much of the traditional words to the song Molly Malone.
Yes, I see what you mean. Quite possibly an influence. It’s a poem I’ve liked since reading it in a book of selected works at school. Oddly, it almost felt like it had been sat in the back of my mind since then, waiting for the right moment. And when I turned my head at the top of those stairs, that was it.