Part II - The Apartment Building
The largest structure in the neighbourhood was a small two-storey apartment building. There were six apartments, each consisting of a six tatami mat room, a four-and-a-half mat room, a kitchen, a tiny bathroom, a toilet, and a couple of closets. This is thoroughly typical Japanese housing. I once lived in a similar, but slightly smaller place myself.
I found some newspapers in one of the apartments, and a calendar in another. These were from 1992, suggesting that the building may have been abandoned a quarter of a century before I made my visit.
Most of the apartments were nearly empty, with only a few assorted possessions left behind. One of the ground floor apartments contained some furniture, electrical equipment, and other assorted junk, but it looked like at least some of it may have been dumped there illegally rather than left behind.
I was surprised to see a handgun lying in plain sight on the edge of the gas stove. Since handguns are strictly prohibited in Japan, I assumed that this was a toy, and picked it up to have a look. If it was a fake, it was a disconcertingly realistic one. It had the weight of a real gun, and bore the following markings:
SMITH & WESSON
MADE IN U.S.A.
SMITH & WESSON
I can't think of a rational reason for someone to leave a highly illegal firearm lying in plain view in an abandoned apartment, so in all likelihood it was a replica, or perhaps a real pistol that had been modified to make it non-functional.
I found a dessicated bouquet of flowers on the floor of one of the bedrooms, which looked like it had been lying there for many years. The attached card revealed that it had once been given to a woman for her 21st birthday:
This translates to:
Congratulations on your 21st birthday.
I hope this year is the greatest for you.
From Kato Eba
Presumably the recipient of the bouquet was the last occupant of the apartment. It seems unlikely that someone else would take such a thing to an abandoned building and leave it lying on the floor for no apparent reason. Unfortunately the card was undated, but a calendar on the wall was open to May/June 1992. If the bouquet was given at around that time, Kuni-chan would now be in her mid-forties. I hope life has been good to her.