Photos of abandoned Japanese ruins reveal an eerie, post-apocalyptic world

source
Shane Thoms

Shane Thoms is what’s known as a “haikyoist.” The word comes from the Japanese “haikyo,” which literally means “ruins” but can also mean urban exploration.

Thoms, a photographer and author of the newly released book Haikyo: The Modern Ruins of Japan,” is as big a haikyoist as they come.

His book is collection of photos he took while traveling through Japan in recent years, hoping to capture the juxtaposition between Japanese aesthetic – typically minimalist and precisely organized – with the overgrown weeds, moss, and debris that characterized the ruins.

Thoms shared a collection of the images, many of which evoke an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel, with Business Insider. Here’s what the haikyoist saw.


Thoms ventured to Japan to explore hospitals, mines, amusement parks, factories, and “other entities from different areas of Japan that have ceased operating for a number of different reasons,” he told Business Insider.

caption
The now severely dilapidated ‘Main Street USA’ replica from Nara Dreamland.
source
Shane Thoms

Some of the businesses have closed due to a shrinking economy, as Japan has grappled with low fertility rates and an aging population.

caption
The ground floor of an abandoned hotel in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms

Source: Business Insider


But others have shuddered due simply to the forces of history. “This is an artistic project with an artistic focus, not a political or economical analysis,” Thoms said.

caption
An amusement area inside the Western Village Amusement Park near Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms

As the title of his book suggests, he and other haikyoists refer to these rundown structures as “modern ruins.”

caption
A hotel bar near Shikoku.
source
Shane Thoms

They are commonplace in Japan, especially in areas where industrialization hollowed out rural communities. Post-WWII, people either left town for neighboring locations or moved to the closest city.

caption
The reception lounge of a former beach side resort located on Hachijo Island off the southern coast.
source
Shane Thoms

Source: Tokyo Weekender


Thoms decided to shoot haikyo because of a longstanding love for Japanese culture.

caption
The lounge of a hotel near Shikoku.
source
Shane Thoms

“In terms of abandonment,” he said, “I found that when I stepped away from the wider deserted commercial areas and into the more intimate interior of the traditional Japanese room, what made these decayed dwellings so different to the forgotten haunts commonly explored in other parts of the world was the thoughtful structure of the space.”

caption
The ‘Aksa’ rollercoaster from Nara Dreamland, Nara Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms

Some of the subjects he photographs are what people typically call to mind when they think of ruins …

caption
A crammed apartment complex on Hashima Island.
source
Shane Thoms

… while others he captured for the sake of highlighting the juxtaposition between decay and ornateness.

caption
A forgotten ride from Nara Dreamland.
source
Shane Thoms

“Culturally profound elements such as shoji screens, tatami mats, tokonoma alcoves, and fusuma doors all work cohesively to create an environment where the family spirit is encapsulated and preserved,” he said.

caption
Doctors’ clinic — Tochigi Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms

Taken together, those elements lead Japanese ruins to evoke more sentimentality compared to European or North American ruins, Thoms said.

caption
An abandoned tatami room, Nikko Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms

He said he felt a certain “philosophy” behind a lot of what he captured.

caption
An abandoned Pachinko and Slot parlor in Saitama Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms

As Japan continually evolves over the decades, the photographer said he wanted to freeze a moment in history in the way the environment has been preserving it naturally.

caption
Abandoned dental clinic, Nagasaki Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms

“These spaces are in a state of ‘transit’ between something that was,” he said, “and perhaps something that is yet to be.”

caption
Abandoned room in a traditional house, Nagano Prefecture.
source
Shane Thoms