I have to admit: Finding and exploring the abandoned poultry farm in Okayama prefecture was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences since I started urban exploration. It was unusual in many ways and I’m so eager to tell you about it, that this has become the fastest published article in Abandoned Kansai history – the events, photos and videos are just 5 days old…
Gosh, where to start? Pretty much everything about this exploration was unusual. The whole thing started when in 2011 a red factory factory / mine popped up on Japanese blogs several times. Urban exploration usually means going to places where many men (and women) have gone before, so I did some research, but didn’t get more than the information that the red mine was supposed to be in Okayama prefecture. So when I kind of randomly looked at the satellite mode of GoogleMaps I found two places with red roofs in the mountains that might have been abandoned. While I found confirmation about the smaller one that it was really a factory, the larger one I had no lead on. A still quite blurry satellite image, that’s it. No information on other blogs, no marking on a Japanese haikyo map, no Streetview – darn, not even a link to a Panoramio photo nearby. Just a bunch of buildings with red roofs standing rather close to each other, kind of similar to the satellite image when you look at the *White Stone Mine*. I didn’t know what they were or even if they were still there as the satellite photos of GoogleMaps tend to be a couple of years old. Nevertheless I grabbed my equipment and a book (The Hunger Games, which I really enjoyed!) last Saturday early in the morning and boarded a train – and another one, and another one, and…
After I finally reached a small station in the middle of nowhere I left the tiny town it was in quickly and walked along a country road for about half an hour, reaching a small settlement close to where I suspected the red roof shacks to be. I was on my own for this exploration – it’s hard to find people to get up when it’s still dark outside to go to a cold place in the middle of the mountains, especially when you can’t promise a spectacular site; or in this case: anything at all. While I was walking past gorgeous little wooden Japanese houses with the stunning roofing tiles and neat gardens a small pickup truck with two senior citizens passed me and turned left down the road – where I suspected the red roof shacks to be. My heart sank almost as quickly as when Gil and I approached the *Deportation Prison Birkhausen-Zweibrücken* back in Germany. And like half a year ago I was right: Getting passed by a truck near an abandoned place is barely ever a good sign. When I reached the small gravel road that supposed to lead to the red roof shacks I found the street and the whole area fenced off. Not with a sturdy fence that is easy to climb. No, one of those half-ass ones you basically have to trample down to get across – unless you are willing leave and get home. But at that point it wasn’t the decision to be made. Because the previously mentioned senior citizens were there, early on a Saturday morning of all days… inspecting the fence and making sure that it reached about a meter over the little river so nobody can go around it – like *Enric* and I did at the *Iimori Mine* two years ago. Since those guys looked like they came to stay I climbed a nearby small mountain with a cemetery. My hope was to get a glimpse into the valley, to at least confirm that the red roof shacks were still there. But that didn’t work out either. Slightly frustrated I came down the mountain and made my way back to the train station when I realized that I will miss the once per hour train by about five minutes even if I’d run. At that point I became rather frustrated and angry. Why the heck did I get up early on a Saturday winter morning to ride trains for hours to go all by myself to a cold mountain valley where I didn’t know what to expect just to find it fenced off and guarded by two old guys? While I was silently cursing on my way through the settlement outside the little town I heard a small pickup truck behind me. When it passed I saw the two old guys sitting in there and I stopped… I had at least half an hour to kill and even then I would make the next train. Why not getting back to that stupid fence?
So that’s what I did. I hurried back to the fence only to find that Japanese planning never disappoints. Since I couldn’t make it around the fence I just followed it for a while. Up another mountain and another cemetery. And there it was, an opening in the fence, at least a meter wide, probably to allow hikers and mourners to reach the top of the mountain. I followed the fence back (on the other side, of course!), only to find a rather steep slope along a wastewater pipe or something like that. Luckily somebody set up a rope there, so it was quite easy to get up and down, ignoring the fact that I ripped my fingers on the cutting plastic, but well, small sacrifices…
Finally on the other side of the fence at the gravel road I hurried deeper into the valley. The road here was overgrown and barely visible, but to my left I saw a couple of shacks in abysmal condition. I was relieved. A lot! Whatever I saw on the satellite pictures was still here. But the feeling of relief didn’t lower the tension at all. At this point I was still visible from the street and being alone in a fenced off area in the Japanese mountains isn’t the best situation to be in. No need to worry about poisonous snakes in January, but I ran into both wild boars and wild monkeys before… and there are wild bears in Japan, too. I tried to ignore those worries and hurried deeper into the valley on this overcast, hazy winter morning. And there it was – the big red building with the intact roof. And at first sight it was clear: This wasn’t the red mine / factory I hoped it would be… it was better!
The first thing that caught my eyes was the small silo in front of the open, but rather uninviting building. When I entered I saw cages inside. Dozens, hundreds of them. With the roof still intact the building was pretty dark towards the middle, so I got outside again, circumvented the place and entered from the back. It seemed like nobody had been here in years. And there’s where I found a couple of Lyon Debeaker machines (to „stop losses from picking, cannibalism, fighting, and egg eating”). A silo, cages, debeakers… no need to be a modern Sherlock Holmes to conclude that this was an abandoned poultry farm. An abandoned poultry farm that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been mentioned on any urban exploration / haikyo blog. Ever. Not in Japanese, not in English. So this wasn’t the nth mine to visit – no, this was a unique place. An abandoned poultry farm in Japan!
Finding new places is always exciting to some degree, but in most Japanese prefectures you can’t throw a stone without hitting an abandoned private home or small business, so it isn’t actually that unusual. Finding a yet unknown gigantic abandoned animal farm in the middle of nowhere on the other hand… that’s kind of the urbex definition of “jackpot”. I was truly happy for a short moment, until I realized that I had only a little bit more than an hour to shoot the huge place – I could afford to skip a train, but I would have to catch the next one to make it on time to the second place on my agenda that day. Nevertheless I forced myself into taking my time at the mostly undamaged building. Doing some bracket shots and taking photos with long exposure time in the dark parts of the one room building.
Separating the one intact building from two dozen severely damaged shacks was a small, mostly dried out river. I followed it for a while back towards the fence to find a place where the river bank on both sides was rather low so I could make it on the other side. I had about one third of my time left to cover 80% of the area, so I decided to leave my tripod behind and take some freehand photos, which turned out fine; nevertheless I wish I had an additional hour or two, but there was this other mysterious red roofed building on my schedule. So I hurried a bit making my way through the poultry farm and took a video on my way back to the tripod. I then crossed the tiny river and walked carefully up to the fence, but nobody was in sight. Just to be sure I climbed the mountain again and ripped my fingers just a little bit more. Back down the mountain and through the settlement. This time with a big smile on my face. I had found a huge yet unknown unique abandoned place in the middle of nowhere without any help and explored it all by myself on a cold Saturday morning – the only thing making this experience even sweeter was the fact that I almost failed when the two old guys showed up at the fence at the same time as myself.
What an absolutely awesome adventure!
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