Otherwise known as the ‘Anti-Zombie Fortress’ on the internet, this distinctive haikyo location can be found in Fukuoka. The Winding Tower is housed inside a public park and surrounded by a standard perimeter fence, so it’s easily accessible to everyone, including explorers.
There isn’t a great deal to tell about this particular structure that isn’t readily documented elsewhere, hence why the exploration pictures have sat on my hard drive for many months. But one of my photos was recently chosen as the cover shot for Tokyo’s Metropolis magazine highlighting a haikyo article that I’m interviewed in, so it felt like a good opportunity to share this miniature exploration and the accompanying history with you all.
The place is also a famous online meme thanks in part to my haikyo buddy Abandoned Kansai. It became popular in April 2011 after a Reddit posting from a user suggesting that the structure would make a good fortress in the event of a zombie outbreak. The shaft tower was also replicated in the popular game Minecraft.
But what was this curious structure actually used for? The title might give you a little hint with the name ‘winding tower’. Apparently this vertical structure, standing at a respectable 47.65m above current ground level, used a winding mechanism to bring up coal from the 430m deep shaft below. The former Shime coal mine shaft tower, as it is officially known, is made of reinforced concrete (similar to that of the structures on Gunkanjima) and became a designated important cultural property on 8th December 2009.
The structure stands as a part of the Shime coal mine that operated from 1889 to 1964, with the shaft tower itself being used to extract coal between 1943-1945. With the newfound status as ‘important cultural property’, it has been cleaned up a bit and is now decoratively lit up at night. I personally preferred the green and grey collage of the old, but I’m pleased to see the structure being preserved.
Interestingly, apparently the iron and steel used in the reinforced concrete construction is from the U.K and the tower and related structures had a value of 2,000,000 yen in currency at the time. The tower itself is actually measured at 53.6m x 15.3m x 12.25m, although not from ground level.
There are only 3 structures of this type left in the world today, with the other two being in China and Belgium. It’s certainly one of the more striking haikyo you’re likely to come across anywhere. Although there was very little original exploration or infiltration needed on this trip, it’s a worthwhile sight and does well to remind us that ruins do not have to be abandoned in order to be appreciated. Perhaps next time I’ll get chance to see the grisly concrete giant illuminated at night :).
As for it being your zombie fortress in times of need? Well, I suppose that cavernous 430m pit below could be useful to dispose of corpses, should you be able to open it up. The place does look rather draughty for spending a prolonged period of time in though. It’s your call!