Bleak Scenes

Abandoned places, lesser-known attractions, and assorted oddities

Murayama Ruins


I passed through the town of Murayama, Yamagata Prefecture in October 2013, as I was wending my way south on the return leg of a road trip. I had no particular reason to go that way - I just like to wander and see what I come across. I wanted to cover some distance that day, so I spent most of my time driving and took relatively few photos.

A derelict building to my left caught my eye, and I decided that it was worth a look. I turned onto a side street, found a place to park, and unloaded my gear.

I noticed the collapsing remains of a house nearby. Demolishing buildings costs money, but decay and gravity will do the same job for free if you wait long enough.

The building that first attracted my attention once housed a pachinko parlour at one end, and a small book and video store at the other. The middle section looked like it was once some kind of workshop or garage.

The front door to the old shop was open, so I just wandered on in and started taking photographs. There were several rooms behind the shop where the shopkeeper may have lived. Most of the rooms were dry and in decent condition, but one was suffering heavy water damage.

There was a low-ceilinged attic room over the book and video store and the workshop, which looked like it was used as a storeroom. Part of the roof had collapsed, and a fair amount of vegetation had become established under the hole, forming a roof garden of sorts.

The workshop (or whatever it was) was a filthy shambles. The floor was wet and covered in flakes of rust and other detritus. The steel frame supporting the ceiling still looked sturdy though, so I judged it safe to enter.

Most of the wall that once separated the pachinko parlour from the workshop was gone, leaving an exposed wooden frame. The studs extremely rotten, and some of them were broken, so the frame looked ready to collapse at any moment. I was afraid that it would bring the ceiling down with it, so I decided not to enter the pachinko parlour. I made do with a few photographs from the relative safety of the workshop.

When I studied my photographs later on I realized that the ceiling was also attached to the steel frame above, and probably wouldn't have been especially dangerous. Overestimating the risk cost me some potentially interesting photographs, but underestimating the risk could have cost me a lot more, so I can't say I regret my decision too much.

I saw an empty block of land for sale nearby. I'm guessing that it wasn't a seller's market. The ruins gave the area something of a seen better days look, but to be fair I also saw plenty of new, well maintained houses.