Japan has more than it’s fair share of abandoned places. All in thanks to the economic boom of the 1980’s, when money was free flowing and even middle class people could live a lavish life style. Unfortunately the 1990’s hit hard, and no where is this more evident than exploring Japan’s abandoned hotels in Kinugawa Onsen.
Arriving in Kinugawa Onsen:
Arriving in Kinugawa Onsen you could be forgiven for thinking the town is still live and kicking. There is still what appears at first glance to be a thriving city centre. Keep going however, and you can see the effect of the recession in Japan. From faded 5 star luxury to seedy, grotty love hotels, the town is home to dozens of abandoned hotels. While they are dotted all around, most Kinugawa Onsen’s abandoned hotels are concentrated on the road that links Kinugawa Onsen Station with Kinugawa Koen Station. Even from the outside you can see the decay. Cracked windows, rusty stair wells that give all the hotels a eery sense of abandonment.
Getting into Kinugawa Onsen’s Abandoned Hotels:
Entering the hotels is also possible, and how you can get to see first hand how times have changed for Kinugawa Onsen. Many of the abandoned
hotels have doors that are open, the locks just rusting away. Other’s require you to be a bit more inventive to enter such as climbing the fire escapes or locating back doors. Either way we couldn’t find a single abandoned hotel we couldn’t access. With the exploration of abandoned buildings in Japan gaining a cult following, it was clear that we were far from the first people to enter the hotels. Footsteps in the dust, smashed windows and even what looked like a person’s living quarters in one of the rooms, all go to show how these abandoned hotels are still bringing in tourists.
Speaking to a Kinugawa Onsen resident, it appears that the once thriving resort town is now viewed as too far away from the hedonistic lures of Tokyo.
People nowadays want to live a commutable distance from Tokyo, and Kinugawa Onsen just doesn’t provide that. No amount of Onsens are going to change that. As the Japanese stopped being able to afford lavish holidays, resorts like this town have all but dried up. Low cost airfares now mean that it’s often cheaper for local tourists to visit Korea or Taiwan than travelling within their own country.
Getting to Kinugawa Onsen
Kinugawa Onsen is located in Japan’s Tochigi prefecture, about 2 hours drive from Tokyo using the express ways. With so many abandoned hotel’s car parks in the town, parking is easy. Having a car is the best way to see the town, and enables you to travel easily between the hotels.
If you don’t have a car, it’s completely possible to arrive by train and explore by foot. From Tokyo you’ll need to get a train from Asakusa to Kita Senju, then there’ is a direct service to Kinugawa Onsen. While it’s possible to explore from Kinugawa Onsen station, it’s probably worth taking a train a few stops up the line in Kinugawa Koen to take you right into the heart of the abandoned action. Journey time from Tokyo to Kinugawa Onsen is around 2 hours and costs around ¥1500. Full train journey details can be found on the hyperdia website.
Where To Stay in Kinugawa Onsen
There’s plenty of places to stay in the town. Although it is still trying to cling on to it’s status as a resort town so they can be pricey. If you’re on a budget then there is a campsite just out of town right by the river. You’ll need to be on the west side of the river, and then head north about 500m out of town and you’ll see signs. The campsite also has it’s own Onsen.
Alternatively you can head back to near by Nikko which has a host of budget hotel options.