All I knew about the Bibai Bio Center when I added it to the itinerary of the *haikyo trip to Hokkaido* was its name and a photo similar to the first one I published myself – just without the snow. I was intrigued by the strange looking tower and the ripped upper floor of what seemed to be the main building. At that time the GoogleMaps satellite image was so blurry that it was basically useless. So when *Michael Gakuran* and I drove up to the place we had no idea what to expect – or how to get in…
Blessing and curse of visiting Hokkaido in late November is the fact that most of the huge island is already covered by snow; which is nice to look at, but limits the accessibility of certain areas and buildings. The Bibai Bio Center, way bigger than expected (about 100 meters by 200 meters!), was one of those areas / buildings. Well, there was an easy way in, but luck wasn’t on our side as we found a whole crew of workers repairing the street and / or lamp posts right in front of the bio center! So we had to find another way in, which turned out to be surprisingly difficult as there were several houses and companies nearby, the surroundings of the buildings were completely overgrown with all kinds of plants – and the whole area was covered by 20 to 30 centimeters of snow. At this point I was actually willing to call it a day and move on to the next location. It was cold, we had to deal with unknown terrain, the building looked rubbish and we were in constant danger of being spotted by workers, local residents or even cars passing by. Michael on the other insisted on getting in somehow, clearing the way from the backyard of a private home like a minesweeper, using his tripod to find possibly dangerous spots under the snow – which worked out surprisingly well, except for one or two missteps… and the fact that we gained about two meters of ground per minute.
Once inside the Bibai Bio Center my impression of the place changed completely! Sure, it was run down and there was not much to see, at least not much you could describe as spectacular or even unusual, but for some reason I totally fell in love with the level of decay, the little things here and there, and especially the colors. The colors were amazing! Most of the rooms had a wooden floor and were severely damaged, moss and mold had taken over, so it was basically impossible to step inside. The more interesting and challenging were the shots I was able to take from the hallway. I fondly remember a ceiling lamp lying on the ground, surrounded by moss and mushrooms. Or a stack of tatami mats rotting away at different levels of decay – the side on the hallway was still intact, the middle was black and the window side was already green thanks to growing moss… and all of that in late November in Hokkaido!
Usually I am the one who finishes shooting a place first, but this time it was Michael who got bored and made me hurry a bit. I shot a quick video at the first building, which seemed to be kind of a dormitory or a school (or maybe both?), and then we moved on to other parts of the vast area.
Through a corridor we reached a lower building connected to the first one. Here we found several offices with stacks of scientific magazines from the 1980s about plants. Since most ceilings in that part of the building must have collapsed years ago the offices were in horrible condition, but one of them had a calendar on the wall, dating back to 1992.
Sadly there are not many sources anywhere revealing information about the Bibai Bio Center – and I won’t go down the slippery Resident Evil, T-virus, Umbrella Corporation road…
Its full name must have been “Fuji Foods Bibai Bio Center Co., Ltd.” and it looks like it was a company that produced processed food and perishable goods, like enokitake – enoki mushrooms, a key ingredient in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisine. Originally the land was used by a company called White Birch Wooden Yarn (白樺毛糸) before Fujishokuhin (= Fuji Foods) took over and added quite a few buildings and machinery.
Those buildings Michael and I were exploring after leaving the office area, but first we had a quick look at the shiny silver sphere on top of a tall pillar that caught my eyes months earlier and was basically the main reason for me to go to the Bibai Bio Center. I am still not sure what it was exactly, I guess a water tower, but there was some strange antenna attached to one side… maybe a lightning rod?
On the way there we found a vandalized and tagged abandoned car partly covered by snow. I guess no abandoned place is complete without an abandoned car!
The factory buildings with all kinds of tanks, boilers and containers attached to their sides weren’t in good condition either. Some of them were damaged by fires, other must have been collapsed thanks to the masses of snow they had to deal with for 20 Hokkaido winters. One of the huge halls, featuring wooden tiles on the floor, was filled with dozens of huge trash bags (the white boxes on that photo I took were supposed to be filled with enoki mushrooms according to their labeling), another one was basically empty. There weren’t a lot of shelves or production machinery, so I guess a lot of the interior was sold – either to other companies or for scrap. Or maybe we missed some stuff as we were rushing through the gigantic area way too big to squeeze it into a three location per day exploration schedule. Places like a growth chamber I was only able to see from the corner of my eye. Definitely a place to come back to if I ever get the opportunity to travel to Hokkaido again!
As leaving the Bibai Bio Center the way we came in (or just waltzing outside the front gate since the workers were gone at that point…) would have been way too easy, Michael decided to explore new territory… again. Attached to the huge halls were some kinds of metal covered supply tunnels. We saw a collapsed one from the outside, so when Michael saw a small opening in a wall from the inside to explore an intact one of course he was gone before I had the opportunity to yell “Objection!”. Being about 50% older, taller and heavier than Michael I don’t like narrow spaces and maybe I should have just left via a more secure way, but of course I acted against my conscience and followed him. Big mistake. The supply tunnel ended in a collapsed part from where we had to jump down back into the snow. From there we had to climb through a window into another building and from there we went outside again, back to the area we came in – but about 150 meters to the east. Walking along another one of those snow covered supply tunnels (outside this time…) we got miserably cold and wet within minutes and I almost poked an eye out thanks to the resilient plants. And as if being cold and wet and wearing snow filled hiking boots wasn’t bad enough I slipped down a tiny slope at the final drainage and landed straight on my behind, filling my jeans with snow from the top, too. The fun of urban exploration in winter! At that point I thought I couldn’t get any colder – little did I know that the *Canadian World* an hour later would easily top that…