The Imari Kawanami shipyard on the island of Kyushu was one of the most famous abandoned places (or haikyo as they’re called) in Japan. It was where, among others, the human torpedoes were produced during World War II.
The building was constructed in 1851 as a glass factory but it was later turned into a shipyard. During World War II, the shipyard was also used as a munitions factory. At its highest point, it housed over 2500 workers, including schoolgirls and Korean nationals.
After the war, the factory continued building and repairing ships but finally closed down in 1953. The shipyard was demolished in November of 2011 by the city of Imari in order to be turned into a public part.
The Imari Kawanami Shipyard (伊万里川南造船所) is a favorite among haikyo fanatics not least because of its infamous history, but also the way nature is reclaiming the area. Light pours through gaping holes and insects dance in the beams; vines climb every wall and concrete slowly crumbles.
Before we get to the pictures and story, let’s start with a little background. Also called the Kawanami Uranosaki Industrial Shipyard (川南工業浦之崎造船所), at its highest point the place housed over 2500 workers, including schoolgirls and Korean nationals. According to ‘Imari Furusato to Tokuhon’, the Uranosaki shipyard was used as a munitions factory in 1943 as well as to build various types of boats, such as cargo ships and coastal defense vessels. This also included the notorious ‘kaiten‘ (回天) – the suicide torpedoes driven by a human being.
After World War II had ended, the factory continued building and repairing ships, but finally closed down in 1955. Recently there have been calls for its demolition in order to turn it into a public park, and in response to that, the voices of ruins aficionados also raised in an effort to promote the historical and cultural value of keeping the structures as they currently are. (Yomiuri).
Albeit being just the concrete bones of its former factory, the manner in which nature is stealing back the man-made structures captivates most anyone who decides to visit. The splashes of green leaves and golden light filtering through holes in the roof seemed more reminiscent of a painting than real life. I think I would have been completely swept away if it weren’t the constant reminder of the wildlife around me.