Photographers are often fascinated by abandoned places, and Japan has a lot of them. These abandoned places, also known as “haikyo,” are like hidden treasures in Japan. They exist because of a combination of factors, including an aging population, an economic bubble that burst in the 80s, and certain loopholes in land taxes.
Websites like Abandoned Kansai do an amazing job of documenting and recording these places. They cover a wide range of locations, from ordinary family houses to entire abandoned theme parks.
In late 2014, I became captivated by a particular abandoned family home, and ever since then, I have visited it multiple times with the goal of documenting its story. I’ve created a 5-minute video that captures my experiences and encounters with this remarkable house.
The house I explored was constructed during the Taisho Era in Japan, which spanned from 1912 to 1926. It was left abandoned at some point during the 1970s or 1980s. While it may not be as thrilling as larger haikyos such as hospitals or schools, this house still stands out due to its fascinating blend of Western and Japanese architectural styles. Despite its seemingly calm appearance, it holds its own charm and allure.
Within a small closet on the second floor of the house, I made a captivating discovery that has consumed my thoughts and fueled my obsession with this place for the past 18 months.
Surprisingly, this seemingly ordinary closet turned out to be a dark room. To my amazement, it contained a collection of over 200 glass plate negatives that were captured by a photographer nearly a century ago.
These glass plates show us a special view into the lives of the man and his family who used to live in this house. We can see how the house was built, the photographer’s wedding, the people who lived nearby, and many different everyday moments. There are even pictures of some characters who appear often, like a pet monkey. These pictures give us a unique chance to see and understand what life was like for them.
In order to protect the images from the gradual deterioration caused by time and the state of the property, I have taken photographs of all the glass plates that remain intact. Additionally, I have extensively documented the property itself through my own photographs. Moreover, I have created images that merge the two time periods by capturing the same locations as the original photographer, aligning their perspectives with mine. This way, I aim to preserve and showcase the essence of both eras in a visually engaging manner.
When we look at pictures of abandoned places, it’s common to imagine that their decay must be a result of some significant tragic event. However, the truth is that many of these sites likely experienced a peaceful and uneventful end. When I reflect on this particular abandoned location, it brings me a tranquil and serene feeling. This is especially true now that we have evidence of the complete and joyful life that was lived there, as captured by the photographer from the Taisho era.
Despite my efforts, including contacting the local council and reaching out to various distant relatives of the family, I have not been able to find any living direct descendants so far. However, I am continuing my research in the hopes of locating them. If by chance someone who is related to the family comes across these images, I kindly request that they reach out to me. I would be more than happy to provide them with a high-resolution archive of these invaluable family memories.