A vast, ornate, crumbling structure on the Japanese Island, it has everything urban travelers want from a ruin. In Japanese, haikyo means both ruins and the urban exploration process of tracking down those abandoned, overgrown spaces. Our website also focuses on Japan’s now-derelict spaces that once housed modern life: apartments, mines, and, of course, hotels and leisure facilities.
This forgotten place was once one of the biggest hotels in Japan, drawing people to its remote island for beach vacations and relaxation. Today it lies in ruins. Russian photographer Ralph Mirebs traveled to the Asian-style hotel to capture the dilapidated building.
Ralph found the stairs and went up inside the hotel lobby. It was lined with a variety of possessions – sofas, armchairs, and many taiko drums. In ancient times, such drums were used in Shinto rituals, but since the seventies of the last century, they gained worldwide fame and popularity when Japanese musicians began to perform abroad.
The hotel officially closed in 2005, leaving behind everything to crumble in the heat. This hotel had been abandoned for at least 15 years. Though obviously dilapidated, Japan’s ruins remain frozen in time like a reality of the last day they were occupied.
The Daito Hotel in Shizuoka Prefecture was one of the largest. It consisted of three buildings – the main Tsukaikaku, the old Sansui and the Grand Hotel. Sansui was the most famous, even TV series were filmed there. It was a three-story wooden building built in 1939 with an area of 720 square meters. Due to the dilapidation, visitors often complained about various technical breakdowns such as squeaks or heating failures. However, guests continued to be accommodated there when the main building was full.
On 11 February 1986, at about 1:35 am, a fire broke out in the old building. The fire was noticed only at 2:06. The night watchman and watchman who were watching TV in another building heard a suspicious noise. Looking up from the screen, they noticed a glint of red shining through the windows. Looking out, the employees saw a fire rising in the dining room area of the Sansui Building.
The employees called the front desk and reported the incident. They were told to take fire extinguishers and go through the underground passage to the place of the fire – to try to extinguish it. But the underpass was full of smoke, so I had to turn back. After that, the reception desk called their superiors asking what to do. Very, by the way, in Japanese. Instead of independently organizing the extinguishing and evacuation of the fire, they first decided to receive instructions from above. By that time, flames were already erupting from the windows of the Sansui building.
The fire alarm did not work automatically because, due to the old age of the building, it caused many false alarms and was simply turned off. Finally, we decided to wake up the guests of other buildings, but this was also done with a hitch, since the audio emergency alert amplifier was not turned on immediately. By that time, the entire building was already engulfed in flames, and the fire began to pick up and the adjacent building of the Grand Hotel. The employees did not manage to figure out on their own how to call the local fire department through the intercom, so it was not even they who called the firefighters, but the owners of a nearby meat restaurant, awakened by the noise of the fire. As a result, the Sansui wooden building burned down completely, taking over part of the Grand Hotel as well. The fire killed 24 people, including one employee, most of them in their rooms.
The commission investigating the causes of the fire concluded that the veneer of the dining room wall was the cause. The steel wall pressed against it heated up for a long time, which over the years caused carbonization of the adjacent tree and its subsequent light ignition. There were also found numerous violations in the operation of the burned down building, despite the fact that the main building met all fire safety requirements.
Following the end of the investigation, the hotel manager and fire safety officer were arrested. Passed through a trial in which the manager received two years in prison. However, the president of the owner company escaped prosecution by using his connections in the district administration. The relatives of the victims were paid a total of just over one and a half billion yen. After those tragic events, the hotel never reopened and remained abandoned for almost thirty years. Demolition of buildings began at the end of 2015.