Hurrah! Autumn is here! The lands are awash in rich reds and heavenly golds and I, tired of the relentless greys of the city, am positively tingling to get out of Tokyo. Nothing beats a warm fall day in Japan, except perhaps one spent in the company of a good friend in a spectacular haikyo. Lucky for us that’s just what is in store.
It’s been far too long, friend. Well over a year in fact, since I regaled you with the details of my latest adventure in the ruins of Japan. The house of a long forgotten photographer, riddled with fragments of a secret life, perhaps unknown even to close friends.
That’s not to say that I’ve been resting on my laurels however. Since then I’ve been Stateside tackling the beastly ruins of Detroit, making friends with French police and their pet guard dogs, and even unearthing a hoard of skulls used for some mysterious ritual. Stories for another day, though.
A Gold Lining to His Wooden Abode
Today I’d like to take you with me to the countryside of Japan. In the not too distant lands to the west lies a school, slumbering peacefully in a quaint little town. Not a particularly unusual find by any means – Japan is full of wooden schools and clinics dotted around the far reaches of its countryside. But a top class location nonetheless, thanks in no small part to its sole remaining inhabitant – the so-called ‘Mr. Innards’.
Mr Innards has been alone here for some time now, likely circa 1985 when this building was closed and the school merged with another. The school’s history dates back as far as 1872 however, the original building itself being destroyed in a fire. According to records, some of the students were forced to use the facilities of a nearby temple for their studies while the school was being rebuilt.
Since being closed, the school has seen a smattering of activity in its use as a location for a television drama, and catering to the ageing local residents for their games of croquet. But otherwise, the only people to come creeping around the wooden walkways these days are curious adventurers like myself.
On a day like today however, the school seems to resonate. A hub of activity as the low Autumn sun hits its walls and fills the corridors with life once more. Bright yellows and metallic oranges burst through every crack and crevice. The Kingdom of Mr. Innards is alive once more!
And what’s that!?
A marvellous smell drifts from a sea of fallen fan-shaped leaves in front of the school, slowly being cooked in the sunlight. The golden leaves rustle and crunch in a most satisfying way as I walk through them. The smell is so inviting that I’m compelled to shut my eyes as I bring a handful of them close to my nose and inhale the delicious odour: like warm jam being toasted with peaches. Oh man!
Usually ginkgo trees are known not for their pleasant smell but rather their unpleasant smell. It is said that it falls somewhere between rancid butter and vomit (although only when the fruit actually starts rotting). But I care not for this fact right now. Clearly Mr. Innards is inviting us inside with a carpet of pure bliss.
My haikyo comrade Ben wrinkles his brow with a concerned look as I sniff around the leaf litter on all fours.
“Best be getting inside Mike.”
He motions towards a new friend, also intrigued by the fruity golden leaves. A well-kept pooch is headed our way, with a local owner likely not far behind.
We slip quickly between a man-sized gap in the door and scoot inside the old school building. Quite in contrast to the fruity smell outside, in here a dry must greets us. The planks on the floors and staircase give a little with every step, reminding us of their age. Each footstep echoes around the hollow walls of the classrooms.
We whisper to one another in the silence while trying to keep our movements to a minimum. There’s still the possibility that our friend is outside with his owner, and the last thing we want is to be kicked out before we’ve met the esteemed Mr. Innards.
Avoiding the first floor then, we immerse ourselves in the items left behind on the second floor. It’s not long before I make my first discovery. While Ben is busy snapping away at a lonely Kaiser keyboard, I’m flicking through a collection of old black and white photographs straight out of the Meiji era. I’ve never seen these photos online before, but here they were – a grand collection of memories, quite like the erotic dry plates we discovered in the red villas previously.
Some with beautifully ornate vintage borders and that weathered look impossible to perfectly replicate. All touched off with a dusting of butterfly wings and deceased insects. No really, they were lying right there just begging to be in the picture!
Each room had something to offer, even if it was just four walls and a calm solitude. And in some ways, it helped balance the thrill of discovering hidden objects like the photos above. I was so engrossed in taking pictures that Ben had to drag me out of the first room! He was worried we wouldn’t even make it to our second location of the day!
Heading his advice, we set off in search of the eccentric Mr Innards.
“Let’s get our anatomical friend out the way then, just in case something happens” I say.
“Sounds good to me. Perhaps he’s downstairs..?” Ben suggests.
We descend, checking one room after the next and coming up empty. A bland looking staffroom, with fresh cigarette butts and a relatively new calendar on the wall. A storeroom stuffed the ceiling with boxes of rock samples and a vintage radio. A cluttered entrance hallway. No sign of him, and I’m starting to get nervous…
“What if someone made off with him?” I pose the question to Ben.
“I’m gonna be really disappointed if we came all this way and he’s gone…”
“There’s still a room or two left past the entrance. Maybe he’s hanging out in there?” Ben replies.
I turn the corner and peer inside…
The Eccentric Mr. Innards
Propped up near the blackboard inside a small classroom was a slender figure bearing the shadowy contours of a human. Yes… Yes, that’s right. It was without a doubt, Mr. Innards. There’s no mistaking his mischievous grin, even from across the room.
His glassy eye glints in the morning light and I fist-pump the air.
“Fuck yeah! He’s here, man!” I exclaim.
Ben smiles back at me and we walk over to the window. From this angle we can be sure. His yellowed bone and ageing sinew seems to breathe in response to our disturbance. Or perhaps it’s just the dust in the beams of sunlight…
Good morning Gentlemen… I’ve been expecting you.
Why don’t you piece me together and we’ll get started. You’ll find my vital organs on the top shelf. My thinking cap on the bottom.
After diligently helping our teacher pull himself together, we take our seats as obedient students. Mr. Innards writes the topic of the day on the blackboard. That’s right – ‘School of Haikyo!’
Shall we begin..?
Ben and I spend the next couple of hours really enjoying some good photography. Our subject had just the right blend of decay and retro intrigue. And his smile never faltered during those two hours. Not once.
Even, I might add, when he got a bee stuck in his bonnet. Quite literally!
And so it was that Mr. Innards so surpassed my expectations that it seems befitting that this school – just an ordinary elementary school at first glance – should henceforth be known as the ‘Kingdom of Mr. Innards’. For without him and his impish grin, it simply would not be the same.
After our lesson, we set our companion back at rest and finished up photographing the remainder of the school, thoroughly sated. Truly an exploration to remember on a beautiful Autumn day. Pure Haikyo Adventure!
Long may our anatomical friend reign over his peaceful Kindgom!
*Extra!* View Ben’s account and his great photography here.