Bleak Scenes

Abandoned places, lesser-known attractions, and assorted oddities

Ōeikaku Ryokan


Ōeikaku Ryokan was a Japanese style inn located in an onsen (hot spring) district in the hills south of Osaka. I read about it on a Japanese language website and decided to explore the ruins while I was touring the area in December 2015.

The remains of the ryokan stand on a steep, densely wooded hillside above a creek. Although I knew where to go, it took me some time to find a way there. A road winds up the hillside about 30 metres above the building, but I didn't see anywhere to park within a reasonable walking distance. I found a safe place to park by a lane on the opposite side of the creek, but the direct route across was blocked by buildings and extremely steep banks.

I found a path down to the creek a short distance downstream. There were many large rocks to serve as stepping stones, and I was able to get across the creek without any serious difficulty. Unfortunately the hillside on the opposite bank turned out to be so steep and treacherous that I soon gave up trying to climb it and decided to look for an easier route. On my way back across the creek I slipped and fell backwards into the water. My jeans were soaked, and my camera bag was briefly half submerged, but fortunately my equipment stayed dry. In the end I walked across a bridge and through the car park of a neighbouring establishment, and found an easy path through the woods to the ryokan. I was reluctant to take this route because I though it better to avoid being seen, but fortunately the place seemed to be deserted.

The ryokan was a rather large, rambling structure, built up the side of the hill, so that even the top floor was at ground level at the rear. I think it had five levels in all. I entered through an open window on the top floor and got to work taking photographs.

The top floor consisted of a single large, Japanese style room. It was a mess, but apart from a few small holes in the floor it didn't look particularly dangerous. A staircase at one end led to the floor below.

As I made my way deeper into the building, I found some interesting and rather beautiful scenes of abandonment and decay. In its heyday the Ōeikaku Ryokan was probably a pleasant place to stay. It looked like most of the contents of the ryokan had been left behind when it was abandoned. It was poignant to see yukata (light cotton robes) that were still folded in preparation for guests who would never arrive.

The sky was partially overcast, so the lighting conditions changed frequently with the amount of cloud covering the sun. This made photography a bit more challenging than usual. In my experience a uniformly overcast sky is ideal for photographing building interiors, because it gives a soft light without harsh shadows. Unfortunately I was only in the area for a few days so returning when the weather was more favourable wasn't an option.

I discovered that part of the front of the building had collapsed, and much of what remained looked unstable. A large section of floor next to what looked like the front desk had fallen away, leaving a large open void. It was such a dramatic scene that I risked staying long enough to take some photographs, but I cut short my exploration of this part of the building. The part of the floor that I was standing on was supported by a sturdy concrete beam, but even so it was far from safe.

I would strongly advise anyone reading this not to risk entering the Ōeikaku Ryokan at all. The structure will have decayed even further since my visit, and could come down at any time. Japan has many far less dangerous and equally interesting places to explore.

The kitchen was in an annex to the side of the building. A lot of crockery and cooking utensils were now scattered around amongst the rotting remains of collapsing shelves. A filthy wok sat atop a gas burner, containing an unpleasant liquid that looked like rust soup.