Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Halloween Weekend: Haunted Hotel Ruins

If you've ever seen the movies "The Grudge" or "Shutter", then you have a good idea of how superstitious and creepy Japan can be. No, Japan is not creepy in general, but the Japanese people are incredibly superstitious. On our little speck of an island alone, there are about a dozen "haunted" places that I could name for you. I might also add that I, personally, am not at all superstitious, nor do I believe in ghosts. Angels and demons, yes (but that's another story!). Nonetheless, there is one so-called "haunted" place on this island that I have been DYING (pun intended) to go visit, and that is the remains of the haunted Takara Hotel right down the street from our house in Kitanakagusuku.

What's the story, you ask? Here goes: Supposedly, back in the 70's, a Japanese businessman decided to build the large theme hotel/resort up on one of the hills in Okinawa, overlooking both oceans. The only problem - the site was said to be sacred ground. Instead of listening to the local villagers to stop the development, he went ahead with his plans... or lack thereof, as the place is said to be built without the use of blueprints. The hotel has an extremely haphazard layout with such attributes as stairs that lead to nowhere, maze-like hallways, walls built over sections of staircases, and columns that bulge into guest rooms at unusual angles. The hotel, in fact, was never opened to the public, never even finished. Some workers left after they heard the warnings, and still more left after their fellow workmen were killed or injured in a series of mysterious accidents. Finally, the businessman decided to prove his hotel was not haunted by spending every night there until construction was finished. He lasted three nights, went insane, became bankrupt and was committed at an institution on the island or, some stories say, he killed himself two weeks later. There are still rooms full of abandoned furniture and ragged curtains and crates full of once-new tatami mats, expensive items that were left abandoned.

In addition to the hotel, there is a strange, largely unfinished looking tower of several stories, a zoo, and a water park complete with slides and a pool. However, the hotel was never opened and it remains, undisturbed on its hill, overlooking the Pacific and the East China Sea, with the jungle slowly consuming the remains.

So, why haven't we been to check this out yet, you ask? Well, it just so happens that this site is apparently off-limits to Marines and their family members stationed here in Okinawa, not because it is supposedly "haunted", but because the place has been abandoned for over 30 years now, and it is falling apart and dangerous. The concrete structure is a mass of open windows and holes, broken glass, wood, rocks and rubble. However, this site only recently went on the "restricted for Marines" list - August 2009 - the month before we arrived here! In one part of the roof, there is a huge circular opening with a tree coming up through it. It was meant to be an atrium over the lobby but was never finished, so this gaping hole remains open with no glass enclosure. Last year, a serviceman (not sure if he was Navy or Airforce) was up on the roof with some buddies and fell down the atrium hole. He landed stories down, cracked his skull and nearly died. This injury is what ultimately led the Marine Corps to make this hotel off-limits to us. However, we were being very careful, and I just couldn't leave the island without getting some cool photography of this abandoned place! I may not be superstitious, but this was definitely the creepiest place I've ever been... hands down.

The main path that runs through the hotel complex - it is said to have been built to resemble a small village.
There were so many low ceilings - I'm not sure why they would build them so low. I know the Japanese are short people, but this was just ridiculous in parts! We really had to watch our heads.

On the roof of one of the first buildings in the complex with the tower in the background

I promise we were very cautious of everything we did here!

Creepy ceiling inside one of the guestrooms

It was a true haunted house - every hallway in the guestrooms building looked dark like this. I'm not going to lie - I was pretty freaked out the whole time, but I just tried to focus on photography!

My favorite photo - it looks like Matt is scared, but he's really looking into one of the guestrooms and saying "Wooooaaahhh, this is awesome!"

Mattress remains

Peeling corridor wallpaper

An area known as "the locker room" - I think it may have been meant to be an exercise room

More incredibly creepy hallways that I was scared to go down (the graffiti you see throughout the hotel complex was done by Japanese locals as well as American servicemen who have visited the hotel over the years. Before it was off-limits, Americans would go there to play paintball and have parties and bonfires.)

Just an unfinished hole in the ground - couldn't figure out what it was meant to be
The hallways really had no rhyme or reason - I don't think there was a right angle in the place!
Yet another example of the insane building plan - stairs that inexplicably jut into this guestroom

The Atrium - looking up from the bottom

Japanese-style toilets in the floor (also known as "squatty potties")

More graffiti

The lobby - complete with reception desk. We even saw desk chair bases behind it.


One guestroom that had obviously gone through some sort of fire

What a contrast between the hotel and gorgeous Okinawa

Unfinished staircase on the side of the tower - just a little scary

Concrete blocks hanging off the tower from rebar

The tower must have been the last part of the hotel to be built, because it was the farthest from being finished. It was basically just a concrete skeleton. I've heard rumors that it was meant to be a restaurant with a dance club on the top level... guess we'll never know

View from the one of the top levels

Overlooking the whole hotel complex - you can see all the roofs of the buildings

An outdoor passageway near some more guestrooms (we think these may have been meant to be suites)

Some of the drop-ceiling that hasn't held up so well. This section had actually fallen.

Some of the flooring tile

We're not quite sure why many of the windows had bars over them. It was possibly a precaution to prevent damage from typhoons. Either way, it really added to the creepiness of the place!

One of MANY ancient, overgrown tombs in the surrounding grounds - these were part of the reason this land was considered sacred.

The Zoo - an incredibly long walkway that led to the pool area. It was lined on one side with cages - some had bars, while others were windows that were meant to have glass in them. We couldn't figure out what type of animals were supposed to be in the cages, but they were almost completed - most had rock formations and even jungle themes painted on the back walls.

The pool/waterpark area is one place that many visitors haven't been able to locate in one visit as the area is greatly overgrown with jungle. We almost gave up on finding it ourselves, until we saw some old pool hose!
Matt and I ended up covering pretty much the whole complex in an hour and a half. As you can tell by the end of that last video, we were in a race against the daylight - there was NO WAY I was going to still be in that hotel when the sun went down! It was especially scary that the layout was almost like a maze - (for those of you in the Chicago suburbs, Matt thought it resembled Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale). Although we saw almost everything (I think), we never did see any staircases that led to nowhere... I think what shocked me the most is how very close to complete this hotel actually was. I was expecting an empty building, but there were many rooms with remnants of beds and other furniture. There were fully completed bathrooms and even electrical wires. The pool area had waterslides, railings and patio furniture. I would have loved to see this resort completed!
Hope everyone had a fun Halloween!

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