Over the last year or so I’ve posted a few sets of photographs from long-abandoned Japanese mountain villages. There was this incredibly photogenic little hamlet, and then more recently, the time capsule-like quality of a settlement tucked away in the trees.
The gathering of houses below, however, is a bit different. Or at least a bit different in the sense that I’ve visited it a couple times, and after recently finding a forgotten photo of a photo from when the village was still occupied, it seemed like a good idea to go back through my shots, do some re-edits, and then put them all together in a single series. A step back in time that was triggered by a much longer look into the past, and as such, I’ve included that old, undated image to round out the set, which sort of brings it all back full circle.
For a bit of background information, the village’s former residents were all hired by the forestry department, and considering the time and location, they would have lived quite isolated lives, with even basics such as food and fuel supplies requiring forward planning. An unusual existence compared to what most people are used to, and unlike their city dwelling compatriots, bears rather crowds or crime would have been a key concern. Day-to-day life that must have been as idilic as it was difficult, yet whatever the small community of workers made of it, human habitation came to an abrupt end in the late 1980s, when presumably due to a lack of employment, everyone simply packed up a few possessions and made their way down the mountain.
Thank you so much for sharing. These are so interesting and poignant. I have so many questions but I guess my main one is why did they leave so much behind? They even left a photo album. That seems so personal…………
You are very welcome. Always a pleasure to photograph places like this.
That’s a question I always ask. The bigger and heavier stuff I can appreciate. Getting all that out and down a mountain would have been a nightmare. But the smaller, more personal stuff? Yeah, I don’t understand it either.
Steve Antwine says
I lived in the Kanto plains during the early 90’s. I can totally understand. If the Japanese believe that a place is haunted they will leave very quickly! You don’t even talk about the deceased! They believe if you even talk about the dead they will attach themselves to you. If they left the little things then to me that is why!
There are so many personal items. I feel like the people didn’t leave but disappeared. Thank you for including the old photograph. I can’t stop looking at it and the one before. It is like I can feel time passing. Great work as always.
Thanks a lot. Yeah, there’s often a sense of the people being there one minute, then suddenly gone the next. A feeling that little things like washing up in the sink and half finished drinks only emphasise. Totally agree about the old photo too. Adds so much to the story.
I also order how the residents could leave behind those more personal items. Kinda weird that things seem frozen in time like that. Thanks!
Absolutely my pleasure taking these photos. Always a fascinating experience. And yeah, it’s a strange one for sure. I don’t imagine they left in a hurry, but personal items left behind and everything else just as it was does make it feel that way.
The place is in such good condition…
for a minute, I was thinking on how I would react if a stranger would “give me back” an old family photo album that I’ve never seen before.
This is what I like the most when I look at your work : photo albums.
Thank you very much.
You are very welcome.
Some bits are, but most of it is falling apart to be honest. Had to be very careful where I stood, and quite a few of the buildings have already collapsed. Being all wooden, it’s only a matter of time before the rest goes the same way.
Ah, that’s really good to hear. Everything I could hope for when taking and putting these photos together. Thank you.
Steven Gill says
Absolutely beautiful and haunting photos.
Thank you so much for sharing 😊
My pleasure. Exploring and photographing such places is a treat each and every time. And thank you. Always good to hear I managed to get across at least some of what I saw.
This is an incredible set of photographs. So much detail and complexity.
One thing that stands out in general is the level of preservation. Looking at the last two phtographs you wouldn’t think there was a decade between them, never mind the probable half century. Paper and card items mostly look barely touched by time, and there is not much sign of dust either.
Compare these with some of the houses in Namie. The affects of humidity, wildlife large and small and time in general seem to have affected them more in 10 years in an urban setting than 30+ years in this woodland.
Spooky levels of preservation – fitting for the time of year 🙂
Thanks a lot. To be honest, it’s a real mixed bag. Some parts are almost unnaturally preserved, whereas other bits have either collapsed or are on the verge of doing so.
Like you said though, it is amazing so much has survived as well as it has. The winters in this area will be harsh to say the least, but in the summer, the humidity is absolutely horrendous. No shortage of non-human life either. And yet some rooms likely don’t look all that dissimilar to the way they did on the day the place emptied.
Heart of the Yokai?
I would be so tempted to give that film carton a shake but it might belong to someone.
The bendy shelf is wonderful, and that beetle proof photo album!
I did. Simply couldn’t resist. But it was empty. Perhaps as well, as otherwise it would have forced me into a very difficult quandary.
Yeah, that shelf was something else, and the beetle blessed with impeccable timing!
I immediately thought about your photos when I read this article about a recycling center in Kamikatsu: its facade is a puzzle of reused house and shop windows. It’s only one among a few very interesting recycling practices put into action there.