After about a dozen haikyo trips all on my own I took a dear friend and colleague to the Iimori Mine in Wakayama. Doing urban exploration on your own or going with somebody are completely different experiences with both advantages and disadvantages, so I was a bit sceptical at first – but now I have to admit that I prefer to go with company. Especially since E and I complement each other very well.
When we arrived at the Iimori Mine we were surprised to see that our destination was located in a beautiful mountainous area with lots of orange groves. Yes, orange groves. In the middle of the mountains. In Japan. In December! Stunned by the gorgeous nature we walked around for a while exploring the groves and looking for alternative ways to get to the mine: The straightforward entrance was blocked by a company and closed off by a barbwire fence to a water canal – at least we thought so…
We went up a hill and after an adventurous climb along a steep slope we made it to the second highest level of the mine ruins. There it turned out how good it is to have a partner who complements you. While I’m more of a planner who hasn’t climbed over a fence or even wall in about 20 years, E was totally fearless finding a way through the forest up the hill. I guided E to the mine, he guided me in.
If you like taking pictures of rust and concrete Iimori Mine is the place to go! The amount of great subjects is almost endless and shooting took us quite a while. On the way back we had to get further up again and that’s how we made it to the top part which offered a stunning view down the valley. By that time it was already afternoon and since the sun goes down rather early in Japan we decided to call it a day.
But the fence bothered me… Since we only reached the upper parts of the mine I at least wanted to have a look at the barbed wire fence – which turned out to be a good idea since the fence not only had a gate without barbwire, but it ended 30cm before it reached the water canal – so you can easily walk around it! Another example of great Japanese planning… For once not being afflicted by it we took our chances and entered the lower part of the mine although the sun was already setting.
While the upper part is all about concrete and rust, the lower part is more about concrete and jungle. The vegetation there is pretty thick even in the middle of winter and at a certain point I had to give up to advance further – partly because of the climbers and trees, partly because it was actually getting dark.
When I looked for historical information about the Iimori Mine on the internet I was disappointed to find barely anything. No longer texts, no pictures. All I know is that it was an iron sulphide mine opened in 1878, bought by Furukawa Mining in 1918 and closed down in 1970.
Overall the Iimori Mine is a great haikyo destination. Beautiful location, completely different looks depending on the way you approach it and an endless amount of pictures to be taken. On the downside there are no real buildings left – just a wild construction of concrete, metal / rust and (partly burned) wood. (Even vandals spare the place since there is barely anything left to be destroyed without a serious amount of dynamite.)
In case you are a haikyo newbie going on your own I would recommend to gain some experience first – the Iimori Mine is a dangerous place and should be approached with respect. Especially in summer, when it seems to be infested with snakes…