Photos of abandoned Japanese ruins reveal an eerie, post-apocalyptic world

Shane Thoms is what’s known as a “haikyoist.” The word comes from the Japanese “haikyo,” which literally means “ruins” but can also mean urban exploration.

Thoms, a photographer and author of the newly released book Haikyo: The Modern Ruins of Japan,” is as big a haikyoist as they come.

His book is collection of photos he took while travelling through Japan in recent years, hoping to capture the juxtaposition between Japanese aesthetic — typically minimalist and precisely organised — with the overgrown weeds, moss, and debris that characterised the ruins.

Thoms shared a collection of the images, many of which evoke an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel, with Business Insider. Here’s what the haikyoist saw.

Thoms ventured to Japan to explore hospitals, mines, amusement parks, factories, and 'other entities from different areas of Japan that have ceased operating for a number of different reasons,' he told Business Insider.

Shane Thoms
The now severely dilapidated 'Main Street USA' replica from Nara Dreamland.

Some of the businesses have closed due to a shrinking economy, as Japan has grappled with low fertility rates and an ageing population.

Shane Thoms
The ground floor of an abandoned hotel in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture.

Source: Business Insider

But others have shuddered due simply to the forces of history. 'This is an artistic project with an artistic focus, not a political or economical analysis,' Thoms said.

Shane Thoms
An amusement area inside the Western Village Amusement Park near Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture.

As the title of his book suggests, he and other haikyoists refer to these rundown structures as 'modern ruins.'

Shane Thoms
A hotel bar near Shikoku.

They are commonplace in Japan, especially in areas where industrialisation hollowed out rural communities. Post-WWII, people either left town for neighbouring locations or moved to the closest city.

Shane Thoms
The reception lounge of a former beach side resort located on Hachijo Island off the southern coast.

Source: Tokyo Weekender

Thoms decided to shoot haikyo because of a longstanding love for Japanese culture.

Shane Thoms
The lounge of a hotel near Shikoku.

'In terms of abandonment,' he said, 'I found that when I stepped away from the wider deserted commercial areas and into the more intimate interior of the traditional Japanese room, what made these decayed dwellings so different to the forgotten haunts commonly explored in other parts of the world was the thoughtful structure of the space.'

Shane Thoms
The 'Aksa' rollercoaster from Nara Dreamland, Nara Prefecture.

Some of the subjects he photographs are what people typically call to mind when they think of ruins ...

Shane Thoms
A crammed apartment complex on Hashima Island.

... while others he captured for the sake of highlighting the juxtaposition between decay and ornateness.

Shane Thoms
A forgotten ride from Nara Dreamland.

'Culturally profound elements such as shoji screens, tatami mats, tokonoma alcoves, and fusuma doors all work cohesively to create an environment where the family spirit is encapsulated and preserved,' he said.

Shane Thoms
Doctors' clinic -- Tochigi Prefecture.

Taken together, those elements lead Japanese ruins to evoke more sentimentality compared to European or North American ruins, Thoms said.

Shane Thoms
An abandoned tatami room, Nikko Prefecture.

He said he felt a certain 'philosophy' behind a lot of what he captured.

Shane Thoms
An abandoned Pachinko and Slot parlor in Saitama Prefecture.

As Japan continually evolves over the decades, the photographer said he wanted to freeze a moment in history in the way the environment has been preserving it naturally.

Shane Thoms
Abandoned dental clinic, Nagasaki Prefecture.

'These spaces are in a state of 'transit' between something that was,' he said, 'and perhaps something that is yet to be.'

Shane Thoms
Abandoned room in a traditional house, Nagano Prefecture.

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