Ibaraki Prefecture was once again voted the least attractive prefecture this year, but what it lacks in tourist sites, it makes up for with an abundance of haikyo. This time, we took a drive to the quiet city of Hokota in search of abandoned ruins.
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Located in central Ibaraki, Hokota sits around 90 kilometres from Tokyo and 30 kilometres from the prefectural capital of Mito. As of April 1, 2023, its population is around 47,000, and it is the largest producer of melons in Japan. While melons are currently out of season, we did manage to explore four haikyo.
Ramen shop in Togasaki（ラーメン 歓）
Our first stop is a ramen shop located in Togasaki along prefectural road 8. Although it is unclear exactly when the store closed down, reports state that it was already out of operation in 2012.
The signboard bearing the ramen store’s name 歓, as well as a list of available shochu, remains in relatively good condition. The roof itself, however, has seen better days. The kanji 歓 can be read as either kan or yorokobu, which means joy, pleasure.
The entrance and most windows have been sealed with plywood, but you can catch a glimpse of the interior through a window beside door and on the side of the building. Text on the sole uncovered window at the front says the store is looking for part-time staff. It also states the opening hours as 11:30am to 11:30pm.
Peering inside, you can still see the remains of the ramen kitchen with rusted steel panels at the back. A number of round lights hang from the ceiling.
The view from the side window shows cardboard boxes and old construction equipment, with a mirror and sink in the background.
A set of self-operated coin laundry machines stands nearby, which look new and well-maintained.
So while it seems you can’t come here for ramen anymore, you can come to wash and dry your clothes.
Onose beauty salon（オノセ美容室）
This quaint-looking retro beauty salon sits in the heart of Hokota, near the former station on the now-defunct Kashima Railway Line. In fact, the entire area near the old station resembles a ghost town, with abandoned establishments becoming increasingly common since the train line was discontinued in 2007.
This two-story residential and commercial building still displays the remaining Showa retro wall patterns and lovely round-edged windows. An outline of its name remains proudly etched on the semi-transparent door.
A rusted staircase on the side is cordoned with spiderwebs, making the thought of climbing it unappealing. Especially since we could see the spider and all its little bits of prey.
We went round the other side where there was a small window high up, attempting to take a picture of the inside. It looked like a minefield of dust and mold.
There is an establishment with the same name in Mito, but whether it is the successor to this abandoned salon, or related in any way, is unknown.
Hokota service station（鉾田SS）
Right across the road from Onose beauty salon is a crumbling gas station that is the perfect specimen of a haikyo.
The Hokota SS, which appears to have been unused for over a decade, is full of broken glass, with the exterior walls cracked and peeling.
Exposed metal structures have rusted to a reddish-brown colour, and the toilet is in various forms of disarray.
Many of the windows are blown out, and doors are missing from their frames. Which means you can step inside and explore the interior if you really wanted.
An overgrown plant and a pile of logs adorn the back. An expansive field offers fine views of the sunset, bathing the decrepit structure in a warm golden light.
Hokotaza movie theatre（宝来多座）
A short walk from the Onose beauty salon and Hokota SS is a traditional movie theatre of the past — Hokotaza. The entertainment establishment closed down sometime between 2005 and 2012.
Despite the building’s dishevelled appearance, there are a row of potted plants lined up in front of the entrance. Granted, many of them are withered, but it seems that somebody is at least staking ownership of the property. Saying they are maintaining would be a stretch, as the glass pane on the front window is missing, and creeper vines cover the side walls.
Some parts of the “Hokotaza” sign have fallen off, or are in the stage of falling off, making the name almost illegible. There are also visible cracks on the walls, which are believed to have been caused by an earthquake.
There was a newish white car parked in front of the right wing the day went, but whether they reside there is unknown. A peek inside the window showed the following.
Looks more like the room is used more for storage than for living in.
If you are looking for more haikyo in Ibaraki, read up on Tsuchiura Black Mansion. Or check out the archives for more articles about haikyo sites in and around Tokyo.