A Return to the Sepulchral Doctor’s Shack

By Michael Gakuran | | Haikyo / Ruins | 37 Comments |

Just shy of a year ago I came across an age-old medical shack hidden in the heart of the Japanese countryside. Brimming with mystery and intrigue, I thought I had seen everything the place had to hide, but a repeat visit with a fellow urbexer unearthed an abundance of creepy new discoveries. Just in time for Halloween…

The Doctor’s Shack, as I’ve nicknamed it, is a an old medical clinic abandoned around 60 years ago dating back to pre World War 2. The fact that a wooden building has survived this long along is quite remarkable in itself, but the shack is filled with a plethora of old medicine bottles and books labelled in German, likely harking back to the Meiji Period around 1870 when the government adopted German systems of medicine. According to Jikei University, one of the hallmarks of the German system was an “authoritarian discipline and an emphasis on research over treatment: patients were usually regarded as objects or even as raw material for medical research.”

My haikyo partner Florian pointed out a dusty, cold gynaecologist’s chair resting unceremoniously in the corner of the room that I had missed the first time around. Among the various containers filled with strange substances and toxic powders, were also rusty cutting instruments and old vessels for dispensing liquids. Literature scrawled in German text was strewn all over the upper floor of the building. The photo below of Thrombogen appears to be the German term for Thrombin, a drug administered to stop bleeding.

These were the sort of items I was consumed with photographing on my first visit. The sight of medicines that could be as much as 100 years old piked my curiosity and I was overtaken with an intense longing to know everything about its history, as well as being very concious of how fragile the place was. Perhaps this is why I overlooked much of the darker side of the Doctor’s Shack my first time around. The only thing I remember feeling an uncomfortable awareness of was the creepy deck chair tucked away at the end of a corridor on the second floor. But this was to be the first of many eerie, dark sights…

Florian was busy shooting the lower floors of the building, so I creaked up the staircase to the second floor to get some interior shots while the light was still good. The first time I had visited, the sun was already beginning to set and it had soon become pitch black inside causing me to miss the bizarre discovery below.

A footprint, or half of one had been left bleached into the woodwork. But that’s not the freaky part – this half-footprint was on the ceiling

I considered how it might have gotten there. Kids playing a trick? The shape of the foot was very pronounced and it was not made by any sort paint or ink; the mark was stained into the wood. Even if someone had played a tried and somehow managed to put a footprint on the ceiling, why was it only half a footprint?? Examining the photo above, the footprint cuts off where it meets the next wooden slat, leading me to think that perhaps the slat had been flipped upside down and that the other half of the print was on the floor above.

But there was no floor above…

Batting off numerous humming mosquitoes, I walked underneath the mark and continued down the hallway to take another look at the deck chair. I don’t quite know what it is about the thing, but staring at it sitting right at the end of a tiny corridor really creeped me out. Something, something sepulchral, held me back…

I could still hear Florian snapping away downstairs and cursing every now and then at the swarms of insects defying the colder weather and hunting for our blood. Another famous sight within the shack caught my eye in the Doctor’s bedroom.

It reads:


I’ve tried asking Japanese friends about this, but it seems to be some sort of old idiom. The only record I’ve been able to find of it was on this website, which talks about it being an Imperial rescript, or words spoken by the Emperor at some point in time. Translating it yields something like this:

The development of a healthy nation is dependent on the morals of its leaders; special effort should be put into education.

Stepping precariously into the room next door, I was greeted with a terrible sight. Not a year has passed since I last visited, but a huge hole in the wall has appeared where damage due to a fire had been present. It looks like it’s due to natural degradation, but it’s very worrying for the structure. The staircase is already sloping at a dangerous angle and the front porch long since collapsed. I really have doubts as to whether this place will remain standing much longer…

Florian and I swapped floors and I got back to poking around the corners of the hut. Another delicate item emerged that I had overlooked on the previous visit – the chilling doll with blood-red lips! It’s documented in the the haikyo book I have, but I was disappointed not to find it before, having written it off as stolen or destroyed.

I had bought a headlamp for this visit as I’d forgotten my torch (and even misplaced the panel for my tripod, making it useless!) The doll was a perfect find for this sort of place. Creepy, mysterious and just a little bit cute. I wonder what colour eyes it used to have…

The inside of its head had been pulled out, leaving a gaping hole in its skull and the tattered rags for clothes were disjointed from the neck. I experimented with different lighting directions and intensities and holding my camera steady for sharp exposure as best I could. The hordes of mosquitoes were not letting up though, and the dozens of bites I received in my efforts to remain still would not fade for weeks after. A real blood sacrifice to the doll…

I darted back into the main medicine room just as Florian was starting to finish up. There’s only so many ways one can photograph the rows of bottles on the shelves, but I opted for a low angle shot this time. The good light made nice exposures much easier. I’d still like to try an external flash though.

One area that I wasn’t able to explore last time was the house near the shack. The ‘place where a God lives’, or so says the black stone in front of it. There were various medicines inside the house and although they could have been moved there by previous explorers, I got the feeling that people who had a connection to the medical clinic lived there.

All sorts of old items were lying around, mostly trashed, including a rounded pair of glasses, old letters and kitchen utensils. A weird spider’s web caught my eye most though. Have you ever seen threads like this?

One last item I found inside the accompanying storage house was an old hollowed-out lamp with the character 大 on it, meaning ‘large’. The headlamp came off and I played around with some interesting illuminating effects. Fortunately the mosquitoes couldn’t get inside this building, so it was a relatively peaceful time.

Afterwards, Florian and I scouted the surrounding area, checking out a couple of other abandoned houses (one of which looked pretty new and was full of untouched and expensive-looking items!). We’d missed the train, so had quite a wait until the next one, but enjoyed sitting by the river munching on a couple of onigiri to regain some strength and complaining about how itchy all the bites we’d taken were. Ahh, the things we haikyoists go through for the explore…

Be sure to read Florian’s writeup of the explore as well!

37 comments on “A Return to the Sepulchral Doctor’s Shack
  1. L says:

    Wow, the footprint was plain creepy! Amazing observation!

  2. Vivasanta says:

    Wow, Very interesting footage of your exploration. I wont ask you whereabout this is, as it may ignite people’s curiocity and the site may end up getting too many visitors.
    It is unbelievable that those old abandond places are still there and the town did not bother clearing them up.

  3. TigrouMeow says:

    One year later, the number of medicine bottles didn’t really change it seems. A good sign! Except of course that the roof completely collapsed… but still, the most interesting in the doctor’s room. This haikyo is still great!

  4. Yamie says:

    As what the others say below, you are indeed a brave man. Both you and your friend. The shots were amazing, creepy but beautiful. You guys inspire me so much, I might even consider doing my own exploration :D Thank you for sharing your explorations :)

  5. Roxas le Corbeau says:

    I have find your website only eight hours ago but I read a lot of articles and I must say … You are brave… I mean, go to place in ruin with only one friend watch your back mut be pretty creepy… for me in fact, it’s a nightmare …
    So I must thank you for sharing your adventures here (I avoid the dutty to go, in certain way…) and I say good luck for all your other Haikyo explore !
    (Certain of the pictures fraking me out…)

    PS : Sorry for my pityful english, I’m not used to write long text in this language (I’m Belgian, so I speak and write in french) but I want to know my feelings, even if they are not formidable (<- in place of a better word… I'm so bad in English, I'm sorry…)

    • Gakuranman says:

      Hey! Thanks for your comments! I’m glad you can experience the adventure a little through my pictures :). I will of course take take care in my future explorations!

      Also, it’s nice to hear from someone in Belgium! There are lots of great haikyo there I really want to explore! (P.S. Your English is fine :) ).

  6. great post, the image of the doll is great.

  7. Ad says:

    Wow, this really is scary! Especially the half footprint and the doll. Beautiful pictures too!

  8. Vhikarious says:

    I just recently found your site and I love your photography on here! What equipment do you use?

  9. Jeffrey says:


    Might the odd “spider’s web” be a mold/fungus growth of some sort?

    • Gakuranman says:

      That’s certainly a possibility! I doubt that fungus would grow out in the way those threads are positioned though. There could well be some mould in the middle patch though!

  10. Anonymous says:

    There’s another set of photos of the same place over here, if you want some more visuals.

    The text on that paper is an imperial message delivered on October 30, 1931, to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the 東京高等師範学校, which is today the Tokyo University of Education.

    • Gakuranman says:

      Yea, the Team Haikyo guys are quite the explorers. I used several of their clues when researching the place last January :).

      Thanks for confirming the text. Good to get more information about that. Seems a rather odd thing to have in the clinic though, even if it was in the Doctor’s bedroom.

  11. Great post! The text almost made me feel I was there exploring the place with you. And the photos are wonderful, too. You did a great job with the one of the doll. The light, the composition, everything is in place! But to me, the old chair in the end of the corridor is the scariest one. It’s amazing how you managed to convey this feeling of “I don’t want to be there” in that photo!

    As for the footprint on the ceiling, I think Steve’s explanation makes a lot of sense. But it doesn’t necessarily make the footprint less creepy. Have you heard of the blood footprints on the ceiling of Genkoan (源光庵) temple, in Kyoto?


    Maybe the old doctor did some experiments with his clients somewhere else, and used the same wood to build his clinic…

    • Gakuranman says:

      Hey Paulo. Thanks for the comment. That article you linked was very interesting! I hadn’t heard of the bloody footprints in Genkoan before, but after hearing this and the comments from others it seems like the footprint in the shack was likely made before the place was built. That’s the only plausible non-supernatural explanation so far!

      Glad to story pulled you in. The writeup is another area of the posts I want to keep improving on, along with my photography :).

  12. Gakuranman says:

    Cheers Florian! Those mosquitoes were murder, weren’t they? Hopefully on our next trip they’ll be all but gone. It’s about bloody time! See you on the next explore!

  13. Gakuranman says:

    Yea, a bit light on the post recently! I’ve been working on several others projects :). This second visit was definitely much creepier than the first. It’s really quite a special place, the shack.

  14. Steve says:

    Great photos! This was a really interesting post to read. I have a theory about that half-footprint: it was probably made before the slat was actually put into the house. Maybe it was lying on the ground after being cut to size, for example, and someone stepped on it. Or maybe some of the wood used was “recycled” from other buildings. Nothing supernatural about these possibilities, I’m afraid, but it seems the logical answer to me.

    • Joe Munro says:

      Yeah, I’ve been trying to figure out that mysterious footprint for a while now and the best thing I could come up with was that it was stained on the wood prior to the construction of the building. Basically, what you said.

    • Joe Munro says:

      Yeah, I’ve been trying to figure out that mysterious footprint for a while now and the best thing I could come up with was that it was stained on the wood prior to the construction of the building. Basically, what you said.

    • Gakuranman says:

      Could be a possibility! I certainly hope it was something like that – just spotting it above my head really freaked me out! :p

  15. Jason Collin says:

    Very nice story telling. I like the “twist” about the footprint on the ceiling. Wanted to see a wide shot of it in context though.

    Your best haikyo photography work to date. The doll shot is outstanding, definitely a cover shot of some kind. I like the procession on the spiderweb shot as well. The low angle shot of the medicine bottle room from below the table’s perspective is an example of how one should photograph such a tight space. All the lines in the shot lead toward the center, a nice effect.

    Yeah, the doll shot is a real photograph. Print it!

    • Gakuranman says:

      Cheers Jason :). I spent a lot of time shooting that doll and getting eaten by the bugs. The itching for over a week afterwards was awful! Everything seemed to fall into place in that shot though, and post-processing just tweaked it slightly. I’m quite happy with the low angle shot of the bottles too. Tried a little cross-processing on that one.

  16. Joe Munro says:

    I must say that I’m incredibly impressed with how much your photography as improved since you started blogging about Haikyos. You’ve become quite the photographer and your shots surprisingly don’t give off a “quickly point-and-shoot” feel. They appear well thought out and they capture the surrounding environment remarkably.

    As for this particular Haikyo…
    That seems so dangerous! I can’t get the thought of accidently walking into some sort of bloody disease infested needle out of my mind. Or accidently breathing in some sort of old, putrefied, and dangerous medicine/chemicals. A very creepy place too! As you said, perfect for halloween :).

    • Jason Collin says:

      I agree with what Joe says in his opening sentences. Definitely purposeful photos, not just shooting what you see in front of you while standing at eye level.

    • Gakuranman says:

      Thanks for the comment Joe. I’m glad to know that my pictures are improving. Hopefully the storytelling is interesting too!

      I suppose this haikyo is pretty dangerous, but mainly for structural reasons. The place will collapse sooner or later, I reckon. No needles that I could see, although there was a box full of blood samples between slides. I almost starting touching those on the first visit without realising!

      • Joe Munro says:

        To be honest, I just came to read this post because it showed up on my twitter. Actually, I didn’t really come to read it at all, it was just something I clicked so I could see what it was all about. You know how us internet users are “What’s this, oh, nevermind” with a total time of 2 seconds spent on a newly opened link before it’s closed. I’ve just never been terribly interested in Haikyos, I guess. But after reading the first few lines I was hooked, and I made it all the way through and then wanted more. The storytelling was phenomenal. Well done!

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