A Brush with the Law at a Haikyo Hotel

By Michael Gakuran | | Haikyo / Ruins | 30 Comments |

Arriving at the haikyo hotel was relatively straightforward. A train ride to the nearest station and a long walk along a road skirting the edge of a mountain. I discovered the entrance, partially blocked with the telltale orange and black ‘Safety First’ signs. I scouted around for security systems at first, as there were a few notices about hidden cameras. But I couldn’t really see anything obvious on the outside of the building, and I knew for a fact another explorer had recently documented the place without trouble. I was pretty sceptical about them anyway. Of all the ruins I’d visited, not one had ever been secured, let alone alarmed. Who would want to secure this place, anyway?

Calling their bluff, I ventured forward, finding a way around the back of the hotel. I was excited. Finally I could see a few old vending machines and the rear boiler rooms and storage sheds, so I busied myself with some photography. It was great weather and so far fairly interesting, even with just the rubbish outside to shoot.

There weren’t any immediate entrances, but upon closer inspection, the broken windows revealed themselves to be merely covered up with boards loosely stacked against them. Swallowing my nervousness, I began to shift one, sliding it sideways to peer inside the back room. Out of nowhere a faint high-pitched wail began to sound. Heart in throat, I dashed down the steps towards the boiler room and leapt over the rusty black fence.

It was a few moments before I realised how stupid I was. There was a very steep slope leading straight down into a lake.

How could I forget I was on the side of a mountain??

I was already sliding dangerously as these thoughts flashed in my head. To make matters worse, half of the trees I attempted to grab onto were rotten and on several occasions the bark crumbled away cleanly in my hands. I began to pick up pace stumbling down the mountain, my shoes filling with debris and branches hitting me in the face. The momentum became so much that I was flailing my arms around blindly just to grab anything.

Smash. Whack. Crunch.

Somehow my left hand found a suitable narrow tree trunk to grasp. It was healthy and strong, and I gripped it fiercely. My feet slipped and left the ground badly, and before I knew it, I was swinging by one arm precariously over the top of a sizeable drop…

The fun begins…


Now that I had stopped, I had to get back up the 15 or so meters I had come down. It wasn’t over yet… Among the wet Autumn leaves and loose soil were rocks poking out of the slope’s edge.

With some good, sturdy footholds I can surely clamber back up, right?

Much to my dismay though, the rocks were loose and worse still, they literally disintegrated in my hands as I tried to grab onto them. At this point I was seriously worrying about my safety. One wrong move would see me at the bottom of the slope in a lake, most likely injured.

Still, I made slow progress, carefully choosing my handholds and gradually got back to a safer location where I could sit and rest. I wasn’t ready to go back to the hotel yet, through fear of police or a security guard coming.

After about an hour of waiting in trepidation, I decided to brave it and slowly work my way back up. After some time, I was back by the window I had fled from and listening to the birds and distant sounds of cars. The sun still beat heavily and there seemed to be no sign of disturbance at all.

A little trapdoor opened in my mind.

Perhaps I was just imaging things? I thought. I’m overly cautious and wary – no way there’d be an alarm in a place like this, right? I’ve come all this way to take photographs of this place and I can’t back out now…

I started to move a few boards from another window, successfully making an opening into the kitchen area. Sticking my arm in and waving it about saw no reaction. Not even knocking over a piece of wood triggered anything. I decided I had just been unlucky. Maybe I really did just imagine the noise? Gathering my bag, I plunged inside.

I sat down, looked around and sighed a little. It was dark and cluttered with kitchen objects and I got that tingling sensation of excitement at a new place to explore. I was almost about to turn on my torch when I heard it again… That faint, high-pitched wailing.

“Oh for fu… Shit, man!”

And it was back out the window in a panic and down the mountain side again, only this time with care and along a safe route.

Another hour passed.

Close encounters


It was mid-afternoon now and I was tired, a little shaken-up and very worried now that I had been caught on camera or something. I was very aware that I would have to go back by train and my mind entertained nasty thoughts of police waiting at the station. I really just wanted to go home.

I climbed back up and round to the gate at the side of the hotel when something puzzling caught my eye. The padlock that had prevented me from coming through the first time appeared to be open…

Perhaps I just didn’t notice this? I thought.

I didn’t check very carefully, after all, as it was obscured from view the first time. Shrugging it off, I slipped through the gate into the small alleyway and slid the bolt back into place. Clutching the padlock in my hand, I turned and froze stiff. All the weight of my body sunk down and settled in my feet. There, not more than 3 meters in front of me, was a padded, navy blue-uniformed security guard, staring rather blankly at what appeared to be an alarm box on the front of the hotel.

My heart was in my throat, sweat on my brow and my brain busy handling expletives. I had bolted the gate behind me – I couldn’t just slip back through now. If he so much as tilted his head in my direction he would see me, for it was nothing more pure luck that he happened to be looking at an angle perpendicular to where I was standing. My only option was to take a half step to the side, behind a large sign that had been propped up against the wall. I dared not move much at all through fear he would hear my footsteps, but it was just enough to hide me from his line of view, should he decide to look sideways in my direction.

There was nothing I could do except wait.

He lingered for a while. I could see his back through an opening in the sign, and I prayed that he didn’t return to lock the gate that I had just come through.

What to do? What to do? My brain whirred frantically, conjuring up all manner of bizarre escape scenarios.

But the gods, it seemed, were favouring me today. For some reason, he turned and walked back towards the car park.

I desperately began thinking of my next move. He might, after all, just be going to get a set of keys. Images of the computer game ‘Metal Gear Solid’ floated through my head in a very distracting fashion.

This is neither the time nor the place to be reminiscing about guiding the lead character ‘Solid Snake’ through military bases without being caught! This was real stealth! I’ll be up shit creek if I don’t choose my next move accordingly…

Escape


The un-locked gate was my biggest concern. I still clutched the padlock in my sweaty palm and my better logic told me that it was very likely that the padlock had not been unlocked when I arrived in the morning. Hence, there were two possible scenarios now: 1) Stay perfectly still and hope the guard leaves, forgetting to lock the gate properly. 2) Go back through the gate, hide on the side of the mountain and re-formulate an escape plan.

I decided to move. The area I was in was simply too exposed for comfort. The guard could have gone back for his keys or anything and it was too risky to assume that he was leaving. I figured I had a space of about a minute – less, now that I’d spent time thinking – to get my sorry behind back into the woods.

I hung the open padlock on the front of the metal gate and slipped my shaking hands through the gap. Fumbling with the bolt very gently, I managed to slide it open without so much as a clink. But now was the big test, I realised.

Doors and gates – especially gates – creek when you open them, right? No shit sherlock.

I had no choice though… I pushed and hoped.

The large gate door swung open on its hinges in a buttery manner. No sound – not even a slight groan. As old as this hotel was, this gate was perfectly well oiled, it seemed.

I wasted no time in carefully closing the gate and replacing the bolt. I don’t know why I didn’t just hurry back down the steps and onto the mountain – something told me to secure the gate. Ironically though, the padlock was still hanging on the front of the gate in blatant view of anyone who should approach it.

Perhaps the guard will just think he forgot to lock it..? I hoped.

This time, I snuck under a concrete ledge at the edge of the hotel, perfectly hidden from sight and not in the rustling discomfort of the mountainside undergrowth. There I waited for at least another hour. It’s difficult to say exactly. At one point I could have sworn I heard footsteps above me, but it was impossible to tell, as crisp Autumn leaves fell rustling to the ground with every gush of wind.

As safe as I was in my immediate spot, my mind was still running distances.

Should I just play it safe and stay here tonight? Should I go back around the side of the hotel? How about edging along the mountainside back to the road? What about when I’m on the road again – what then? I will stand out a lot to passing cars along the mountain road and it’ll be even worse if there are any police cars circling the lake looking for the culprit…

Mosquitoes frequently hovered near my head and bit my arms and neck before I noticed them. It wasn’t a great place to be sitting and the heat of the day was starting to wear off. Dusk was approaching…

I definitely can’t stay here, I thought. I’ve no choice but to go back out the way I came in – the only other exit being a vivid blue lake at the bottom of the slope. But I couldn’t walk back around through the gate… What if the guard realised someone had moved the padlock and was waiting?

My instinct took me around the edge of the hotel in the woods, taking footstep by footstep and trying to keep as quiet as possible on the crunchy, soft ground of leaves below me. After a good 20 minutes, I emerged near the entrance to the car park and peered through the trees at the front of the hotel. There was no-one in sight, it seemed. I scanned around carefully.

Definitely no-one there.

With much determination, I stepped out from the trees into the car park and gazed up at the towering mass of concrete, still slumbering happily against a backdrop of blue sky and warm Autumn sun.

I snapped a few final pictures of the outside of the hotel before making a hasty retreat. Back along the mountain road, I sweated, worried by the thoughts that people might be waiting to ‘pick me up’ at the train station. It wouldn’t be hard to find me on camera arriving at the train station that morning and match me up to any footage that was caught at the hotel, if there was any… I also pondered about the padlock. I hadn’t dared go back around the side of the hotel to check if it was where I left it. Part of me really wanted to know – if it had been moved, I would know the guard had returned to lock the gate… If not, perhaps the guard was still round the back or even inside the hotel looking for me?

I shuddered and walked on, dodging cars and trying to calm down. Calling into a convenience store, I took the time to wash my muddy hands and buy an ice cream. Gotta look normal going back through the station, right? I eventually arrived back at the station, empty but for an elderly man and the guard in the ticket office. I bought my return ticket and walked through the gate, avoiding eye contact…

On the train, I sighed and closed my eyes in disbelief. It might still not be over, I considered. Maybe this day will come back to haunt me sometime, but for now, it seemed, I was safe. I drifted off into a gentle slumber all the way back to my destination…

30 comments on “A Brush with the Law at a Haikyo Hotel
  1. 2nihon says:

    Great story here. If I still bit my nails, they’d be down to the quick right now… :)

  2. Just to come back quickly on the ” why someone would secure a truly abandoned building”
    Well I don’t know about Japan, but in Europe, at least in some country, a property have a owner.. abandoned or not, still have a owner..  So imagine someone going inside a very old building to take pictures, and the building collapse.

    1. the building was secured with warning every where, and a security system, and so, the owner is safe and not responsible of the injury/death of the intruder

    2. there is no security, no alarm system, no warning, and so the owner can be sue for not taking care of his property by the intruder’s family for example..  letting people going in and out of the building… know what I mean?

    So maybe this Hotel had a responsible owner, that protect himself against any scenario with alarm system and security guards .. maybe the hotel can collapse anytime  from landslide or..

     

  3. Davecoxley says:

    Michael after you are done with this, how about getting interveiews with some Japanese people who will allow you to impart their story online. Many of us in the West would relish having some one out there that can bring the thoughts and hopes of  Japanese people to compare to our own and let us know what they are doing on a day to day basis.

    I am sure that you will be taken to many different destinations.

    Dave O

  4. ikumi says:

    私はこの話が最高にエキサイティングで面白いので大好き!You Are Lucky ! 

    • Gakuranman says:

      笑。ラッキーかもしれんね。とても真似することじゃないと思うけど、確かに今振り返ってみると面白いエピソードになっているw。

  5. C Ohara says:

    Hokey smokes!  Makes me want to go and find some hikyo myself though.  But perhaps just as much, or even more than, my fear of being caught by security would be my fear of being caught by someone else inside the building.  When we were kids my friends broke into an old and local abandoned house and it was filled with magazines and shit… obviously someone had been hoarding.  I can only imagine what would have happened if they happened to run into that person inside the dark and boarded up old home.  ><

    • Gakuranman says:

      It’s the same feeling I had when reading reports from other explorers before I started the hobby. Just be sure to know exactly what you’re getting into before you go anywhere!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Reading this, I had to keep reminding myself that if you were blogging about it, nothing too *terribly* untoward could have happened. But — gahhh. Especially the part about coming back up and getting inside only to realize you were in there /with/ security. ’cause — mountain slopes? Fine, I got into situations kind of like that when I was younger. But the idea of being in Serious Trouble freaks me out; aside from little infractions like speaking out of turn, I was pretty good at following most rules as a kid, so my confidence in the face of an authoritative figure in a situation where I was guilty of deliberately not following the rules? This was much more panic-inducing. (In one situation, desperation allows you to cling and claw at things to keep from falling. The other situation requires much more delicacy, and isn’t helped by the inevitable panic/adrenaline/desperation at all.)

  7. ドラマティック says:

    Next time, you should bring a cardboard box, just in case.

  8. Travis Seifman says:

    Wow. What a story! Glad to hear you got out of it safe…

  9. Anonymous says:

    I can’t help but think that one of the dumber things than developing an illegal hobby while you work as a government employee in a foreign country would be blogging all about it. Maybe that’s just me being excessively cautious and old, though. ;-) 

    • Gakuranman says:

      Well, I didn’t sit on this post all this time for nothing :p. I figured it was cool enough now to tell the story. Maybe it’ll serve as a warning to others about the risks – both in a legal and physical sense.

      I’m keen to note however, that there was no breaking and entering involved at all. The windows were already broken and the place documented on other websites. I approached it much the same way as I do all my explorations; just wandering around taking pictures and looking for a way in, moving at most a few boards propped up against the window.

      The issue here is trespassing, which is a bit of a grey area depending on the person and the situation. Most incidents I’ve heard of where explorers are captured usually end amicably, with little more that a slight warning. It seems the authorities are more concerned about vandalism than trespassing in itself, and are often reassured when they find out the person is a photographer and that they just enjoy documenting old buildings. That said, it is indeed still illegal, and not everyone is open-minded to the pursuit, so I do consider my posts carefully before writing them.

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually you need to brush up on your understanding of the legal concept “breaking and entering,” which is certainly what you were doing. (This being Japan, of course, the English term isn’t as important as the precise definitions of 「住居を侵す罪」 as given in Chapter XII of the Penal Code.) In any case, stay safe!

        • Gakuranman says:

          I suppose it’s always worth brushing up :). Here’s the goods:

          http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/M40/M40HO045.html#1002000000012000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

          第百三十条  正当な理由がないのに、人の住居若しくは人の看守する邸宅、建造物若しくは艦船に侵入し、又は要求を受けたにもかかわらずこれらの場所から退去しなかった者は、三年以下の懲役又は十万円以下の罰金に処する。

          Article 12, Paragraph 130. Entering another person’s residence, building, marine vessel or dwelling that is under administration without appropriate reason, as well as people who fail to leave when asked to do so are liable to be punished with up to 3 years penal servitude or 100,000 yen.

          (I guess the ‘breaking’ part of ‘breaking and entering’ would come under property damage – a separate act to actually entering the building).

          **********

          The tricky part here is the ‘dwelling that is under administration’. Assuming that the building is unlocked and not controlled by anyone, it cannot be said that the building is being administered, and thus is not punishable under paragraph 130 of the Penal Code. This section of the Wikipedia article has a note about it:

          http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%BD%8F%E5%B1%85%E4%BE%B5%E5%85%A5%E7%BD%AA#.E9.82.B8.E5.AE.85.E3.83.BB.E5.BB.BA.E9.80.A0.E7.89.A9

          「人の看守する」とは、人による事実上の管理・支配を意味する(最判昭和59年12月18日刑集38巻12号3026頁)。鍵も囲いもなく放置されている場合には「人の看守」がないとされ、そこへの侵入が住居侵入罪とはならない場合がある。

          **********
          Instead, it is punishable under the Minor Offences Act:

          http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S23/S23HO039.html

          一  人が住んでおらず、且つ、看守していない邸宅、建物又は船舶の内に正当な理由がなくてひそんでいた者。

          Article 1, Paragraph 1: Entering a residence that is uninhabited or a building or marine vessel that is not administered without appropriate reason.

          I can’t find an official source right now, but it seems that punishments are detention from 1-30 days or a fine of up to 10,000 yen.

          **********

          With that in mind then, the place above was clearly under administration, so you’re quite right that this would have been a more serious offence, had officers handling it seen fit to punish to the full extent of the law.

          For the majority of haikyo though, it’s usually unknown whether or not they are being patrolled or administered (and judging by the state of some of the buildings, it’s often fair to say no-one would want to do so). A truly abandoned building would be one that is not administered and thus only punishable under the Minor Offences Act. The chances of being caught or severely punished for such a scenario is quite low, in my opinion. Though there is always the risk, as I found out this time, of stumbling upon a building that is actively administered, and which could lead to more serious consequences. I’m sure ignorance to the fact that it was administered wouldn’t help.

          Those are the risks I take, I suppose.

          (Incidentally, how would you translate 看守する? I reckoned ‘administer’, but perhaps there is a better word out there?)

          • Anonymous says:

            “Under administration” seems like an appropriately vague way to deal with the somewhat vague Japanese term, actually. The quasi-official translation (which never gets called anything but provisional, so as to avoid giving it anything approaching legal force) is here: 

            http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?id=1960&vm=04&re=02

            They use “guarded by another person,” which smacks of 直訳 and seems to narrow the scope of the legal provision quite a bit. “Under administration” leaves room for places that don’t have staff on the grounds, but on which property tax continues to be paid or ownership papers continue to be filed appropriately, as well as properties that have been repossessed by the public authorities for failure to pay tax. 

            (The deleted Article 131, by the way, dealt with the separate crime of 皇居侵入. Probably far more serious, as you can guess from the characters, but it was stricken from the code after the war.) 

            Anyway, as I noted above “breaking and entering” is an Anglosphere legal concept that has nothing to do with Japan, but the “breaking” part includes entirely nondestructive acts like pushing open a door swinging freely on its hinges to enter a property, and has nothing to do with property damage (which is a separate crime addressed in Articles 260–261 of the Penal Code). Your acts in the post above would qualify.

            • Gakuranman says:

              Well whadya know. I sat down and translated the darn things and there was a semi-official translation out there already! D’oh.

              I read about the stricken paragraph about trespassing into Royal residences. That would’ve have been a nasty one to succumb to!

              Interesting to hear about the breaking and entering definition. I’d always thought it meant entry by force. I wonder why they lump such entries together… Surely forced entry is far more severe than walking through, say, an open, unlocked door..?

          • Matt Greenfield says:

            If you end up doing penal servitude I bet you get a neat outfit to go with your shovel! 

  10. Great story, Michael! Nothing like running into security at an abandoned place… For sure the most intense memories created while exploring stuff.

  11. TigrouMeow says:

    Funny ;) I didn’t knew you that went all the way for that place. I went there too a few months back, the alarm rang, we run away (with a friend) and… later… we went back. It’s at this time that two policemen came straight behind us ! I just said quickly “let’s remain calm and say we’re french photographers just going around the lake, and who got curious about that weird place”. We both are very bad at Japanese, so one of them was actually laughing at us, while the other one was still diligent and serious. It helped somehow. Eventually they let us leave. Only MJG went there apparently, and it was a long time ago. Since that, everybody got caught, it seems. When did you go?

    • Gakuranman says:

      Yea, I remember seeing your notes about going. Seems this place is pretty tightly secured, even now. Are you sure they were policemen though? Security guards wear very similar clothing. I believe this place is watched by Alsok.

      I personally went ages ago. This article has been sitting on my site as a draft because I was worried about writing about it. It made for a great story afterwards though!

      • TigrouMeow says:

        Oh yeah, they maybe were those Alsok guys, as they looked exactly like on this picture : http://i.imgur.com/Wcs2Y.gif :) Haha, would be also nice to have a place to gather all the misadventures we experienced :)

  12. megan says:

    How intense!  Good thing you got out of there okay.

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