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. The rabbit island with a history so contrasting to it’s cuteness appeal.
Okunoshima @ Tadanoumicho, Takehara, Hiroshima – During WWII the Japanese army secretly produced poison gas on this isolated island. The rabbits were brought to the island for testing the effects of the poisonous gas though there is debate as to whether the thousands of rabbits present today are relatives of freed test bunnies or were in fact brought to the island by schoolchildren in 1971. There are half a dozen war ruins which recount the times of the very distant past including cannon batteries, and the power plant and poison gas storehouse from the Imperial army days. More details here.
2. The abandoned ruins of a lakeside hotel in Izu.
Lakeside Hotel @ Yoshida, Ito, Shizuoka – Located next to Ippeki-ko Lake is this abandoned hotel known as Lakeside Ippekiko (レークサイド一碧荘) which originally opened in 1960 and was newly constructed 17 years after that. More details here.
3. The creepiest buddha statue in Japan?
Itakuracho Tobu Community Center @ 2698 Itakura, Ora-Gun, Gunma – This 1.8 metre tall buddha statue has been around since 1978 and took Japanese artist Yoneiji Inamura over 6 years to create. It consists of 20,000 dead insects including a variety of bugs and beetles. More details here.
4. Japan’s most controversial shrine & its museum.
Yasukuni Shrine & Yushukan Museum @ 3-1-1 Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku – Past visits of former Prime Ministers such as Junichi Koizumi caused quite a stir in the media as 14 class A war criminals are enshrined here among the 2.5 million war dead. Most of these protests are from China and Korea who suffered most from Japanese aggression during WWII but the adjoining war museum (Yūshūkan) has no mention of any of the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army, including the Nanking massacre. More details here.
5. A reminder of what mother earth can do.
Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park @ 2 Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo – At 5.46am on 17th January 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck this region. The destruction was quite devastating and 6000 people died and over 30,000 were injured. This basic, open-air, harbour-side display tells the story through artefacts and a video presentation in English. Most striking is a section of the dock that has been kept in the condition left by the earthquake.
Click here to read ‘Dark Tourist (Japan Special) Vol. 01’
Click here to read ‘Dark Tourist (Japan Special) Vol. 02’
Click here to read ‘Hell On Wheels – My Metropolis Magazine Article’