| Abandoned | Kinugawa Onsen

Curious by nature, we often arrive in peculiar places. We have a list of peculiar places with an entourage of memories that buttress each destination yet if someone asked us where the strangest place we've visited is, we would collectively reply Kinugawa Onsen.

Kinugawa means "angry demon river" in Japanese. Kinugawa Onsen is a spa resort town that saw a period of rapid expansion during Japan's economic boom and huge smart hotels sprung up like bamboo shoots along the banks of the river. And then.....The bubble burst!

The recession hit Kinugawa in the 90's and it took down the local bank that had financed many of the hotels. The area was brought to its knees and so many homes and establishments fell into rapid decline. This is pretty much how we found area.....

Today, Kinugawa Onsen is popular with holiday makers from Tokyo because it is just 2 hours by rapid express train from Asakusa.  Yet, when we cast our minds back to our time there, our mood and hearts shimmer with the deeply, deeply strange nebulous atmosphere that creeps and infiltrates everything here.

We remember the joy and cheerful chatter of the newly arrived couples and families and how it mingled with the melancholy that the buildings seem to be exhaling. The beautiful natural surroundings, forests, deep ravine and gushing river. The staleness of a fading town. The very polite but forced smiles of the staff (in the remaining functioning hotels), the indifferent air of the locals.  On one side of the river stand the surviving hotels like cement clad sentinels guarding their plots. On the opposite bank crumble the fallen like a reminder, a warning, a sad enka song while nature claims the remains. 

We were among a handful of visitors to the area who ventured out of the hotel to explore. We found ourselves in a living ghost town where our voices echoed down the deserted streets through the abandoned hotels with their floundering 80's glamour and the hollow staff quarters strewn with forgotten photographs of happier times. Hiro says this place is like a time loop of a trapped late Showa vibe.

Interestingly, even through the sadness (or partially due to the sadness), Kinugawa Onsen with its strange air has a compelling deeply moving sort of beauty and months later we cannot completely shake its hold on us. It haunts us beautifully. 

So? Did we venture into any of these places? Well, let's just say that that is a different story!

USEFUL LINKS | See More of Our Adventures in Abandoned Places HERE 


  1. this must have been so interesting to wander around! beautiful photographs as always. What always fascinates me, is what people just leave behind.

  2. oh i got chills looking at this! it's hauntingly beautiful now but it must've been even more so back in the days when it was flourishing. that first picture is amazing.

  3. I've always wanted to visit some abandoned place! I wouldn't want to be spooked but just seeing things the way they were left is really intriguing. Beautiful photos of a beautiful place!

  4. You guys! This post has been incredible, my mouth actually fell wide when I glimpsed the first image, what a sight. Let me understand it right though, here was staff in the place you stayed or staff operating in this area, for safety?

    More please!

    Buckets & Spades

  5. It look such an interesting place and I love your description!x
    Nice to meet you by the way, I popped over via a link from someone's blog or other- I forget who now, I've got so many tabs open! x

  6. I want more of this!! I want to see the streets, the shops, the furnitures inside the abandoned hotels. It is beautiful and eerie at the same time, I love this.

    What happened to the people? Where do they move? And is the hot water spring still there?

  7. Oh! I must use some of my adventure tokens to see this place! How devastating for the locals but utterly, utterly fascinating for visitors to witness... the state of decay and abandonment seems somehow almost unreal. I particularly love the shot of you peering in the window of the empty hotel, it does a wonderful job of conveying the emptiness and curiousness of the place.

  8. The photos are so hauntingly beautiful and sad all at the same time.

  9. Oh my gosh - I'm not 100% sure it's the same place (is it near minakami?) but hands down that was the craziest place I've ended up in Japan. We had traveled to Takaragawa onsen (in the later afternoon) where my freak out started. I honestly couldn't pin point it but I felt something was not right, so instead of staying the night at their accommodation I made my boyfriend travel back down to the nearest town - minakami. It was a ghost town but every hotel we went in (massive hotels btw) all turned us away saying they didn't have any rooms. If was so freaky because the rest of the town seemed largely abandoned. We decided to get the hell out of there (night had well and truly fallen) and lucky caught the last train back to the much more lively takasaki

    I did blog my adventures but unfortunately not to the level I do now - would love to go back (maybe!)
    the onsen: http://burnt-feather.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/japan-day-9-part-two.html
    minakami: http://burnt-feather.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/day-nine-part-three.html

  10. This place looks so eerie, and melancholic like you said. I imagine the locals must have really suffered during the recession.

  11. I can't get enough of exploring abandoned places. I completely understand what you say about them having somewhat of an allure. I loved this post and I truly hope you did explore more so I can read about it soon!

  12. what a beautiful place! would love to witness this in real life. wonderful post, yasumi xx

    Katrina Sophia

  13. An Erie Indiana could be set here. Spooooky, sad but beautiful - I hope it thrives again one day

  14. Amazing, I want to go here, love places like this :) x


Thank you for taking the time to leave a note, they are the stuff that keeps us going.