The 2018 Netflix series ‘Dark Tourist‘ featured New Zealand journalist David Farrier visiting eight different countries (including Japan) on a mission to visit all manner of places relating to humans suffering in some sort of way whether it be victims of crime, tragic events or natural disasters. Of course, this kind of morbid traversing is nothing new, and people have been visiting these places for many decades but this TV show did help promote the idea of such tourism.
Having visited some famous dark historical sights in the likes of Poland, Germany, Australia, England and Cambodia (to name a few), I have to admit that I am slightly fascinated by such tourism. Japan has a fair number of places historically associated with death and tragedy, and Tokyo Fox has collated them into a series. Each volume will show a mix of relatively unknown places alongside the far more famous (or infamous in some cases!) ones.
1. Vivid reminders of the tragedy of the Battle of Okinawa
Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters @ 236 Aza Tomigusuku, Tomigusuku-city, Okinawa – It was actually Joanna Lumley who brought this place to my attention on her ITV show in 2016. Even though she said the tunnels were unbearable I felt we should visit them to get an understanding of how the Okinawan people fought the war. 175 men committed suicide as the battle for Okinawa came to a bloody conclusion in June 1945 and the wall of the staff officer’s room is riddled with hand grenade blast scars. More details here
2. Japan’s only temple devoted to the Russo-Japanese War.
Joshoin Temple @ Okabecho Utsutani 1967, Fujieda, Shizuoka – A nondescript temple which enshrines the 223 soldiers (and horses) who died in the Russo-Japanese War (1904 – 1905) with each one represented by its own uniquely individual wooden uniformed figure featuring their names and villages of origin underneath. Various photos in the dusty hall help encapsulate the somber experience of this rather brutal war where over 150,000 people died. More details here
3. The WWII damaged building in a Tokyo park.
Higashiyamatominami Park @ 2-106-2 Sakuragaoka, Higashiyamato – This building, originally an electric substation for a military supply factory, was attacked and bombed two times in 1945 killing over 100 people and injuring another 100 or so. After the war, a number of buildings with evidence of war damage were knocked down but this place stands still and sits as a grave reminder of the effects of those WWII air raids. More details here
4. A powerful reminder of the devastation caused by the bombing of Hiroshima.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park @ 1-2 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima – No trip to Hiroshima (or even Japan) is complete until you have visited this park and the museum within it. The thing with so-called dark tourism is that people are actually visiting such places due to the historical significance rather than anything more morbid. It’s a high quality museum offering a sombre and thought-provoking experience about the horrors of what happened before, on and after August 6th, 1945. It’s also a place that inspires and promotes world peace with it’s anti-war message. More details here
5. The remains of a former haunted house.
Tsutsujigaoka Park @ 3278 Hanayamacho, Tatebayashi, Gunma – Located in the depths of this park is a blue building which was originally a haunted house before closing down due to the dwindling number of visitors. Once upon a time there were some other remains but now all that can be seen is this Frankenstein head. More details here
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