jueves, 5 de julio de 2012

A Return to the Sepulchural Doctor's Shack

 An excerpt from Gakuranman's account of exploration of an old Medical shack in Japan:

A Return to the Sepulchral Doctor’s Shack

| Haikyo / Ruins |
Just shy of a year ago I came across an age-old medical shack hidden in the heart of the Japanese countryside. Brimming with mystery and intrigue, I thought I had seen everything the place had to hide, but a repeat visit with a fellow urbexer unearthed an abundance of creepy new discoveries. Just in time for Halloween…

The Doctor’s Shack, as I’ve nicknamed it, is a an old medical clinic abandoned around 60 years ago dating back to pre World War 2. The fact that a wooden building has survived this long along is quite remarkable in itself, but the shack is filled with a plethora of old medicine bottles and books labelled in German, likely harking back to the Meiji Period around 1870 when the government adopted German systems of medicine. According to Jikei University, one of the hallmarks of the German system was an “authoritarian discipline and an emphasis on research over treatment: patients were usually regarded as objects or even as raw material for medical research.”

My haikyo partner Florian pointed out a dusty, cold gynaecologist’s chair resting unceremoniously in the corner of the room that I had missed the first time around. Among the various containers filled with strange substances and toxic powders, were also rusty cutting instruments and old vessels for dispensing liquids. Literature scrawled in German text was strewn all over the upper floor of the building. The photo below of Thrombogen appears to be the German term for Thrombin, a drug administered to stop bleeding.

These were the sort of items I was consumed with photographing on my first visit. The sight of medicines that could be as much as 100 years old piked my curiosity and I was overtaken with an intense longing to know everything about its history, as well as being very concious of how fragile the place was. Perhaps this is why I overlooked much of the darker side of the Doctor’s Shack my first time around. The only thing I remember feeling an uncomfortable awareness of was the creepy deck chair tucked away at the end of a corridor on the second floor. But this was to be the first of many eerie, dark sights…

Florian was busy shooting the lower floors of the building, so I creaked up the staircase to the second floor to get some interior shots while the light was still good. The first time I had visited, the sun was already beginning to set and it had soon become pitch black inside causing me to miss the bizarre discovery below.

A footprint, or half of one had been left bleached into the woodwork. But that’s not the freaky part – this half-footprint was on the ceiling
I considered how it might have gotten there. Kids playing a trick? The shape of the foot was very pronounced and it was not made by any sort paint or ink; the mark was stained into the wood. Even if someone had played a tried and somehow managed to put a footprint on the ceiling, why was it only half a footprint?? Examining the photo above, the footprint cuts off where it meets the next wooden slat, leading me to think that perhaps the slat had been flipped upside down and that the other half of the print was on the floor above.
But there was no floor above…

Batting off numerous humming mosquitoes, I walked underneath the mark and continued down the hallway to take another look at the deck chair. I don’t quite know what it is about the thing, but staring at it sitting right at the end of a tiny corridor really creeped me out. Something, something sepulchral, held me back…
I could still hear Florian snapping away downstairs and cursing every now and then at the swarms of insects defying the colder weather and hunting for our blood. Another famous sight within the shack caught my eye in the Doctor’s bedroom.

It reads:
I’ve tried asking Japanese friends about this, but it seems to be some sort of old idiom. The only record I’ve been able to find of it was on this website, which talks about it being an Imperial rescript, or words spoken by the Emperor at some point in time. Translating it yields something like this:
The development of a healthy nation is dependent on the morals of its leaders; special effort should be put into education.

Stepping precariously into the room next door, I was greeted with a terrible sight. Not a year has passed since I last visited, but a huge hole in the wall has appeared where damage due to a fire had been present. It looks like it’s due to natural degradation, but it’s very worrying for the structure. The staircase is already sloping at a dangerous angle and the front porch long since collapsed. I really have doubts as to whether this place will remain standing much longer…
Florian and I swapped floors and I got back to poking around the corners of the hut. Another delicate item emerged that I had overlooked on the previous visit – the chilling doll with blood-red lips! It’s documented in the the haikyo book I have, but I was disappointed not to find it before, having written it off as stolen or destroyed.

I had bought a headlamp for this visit as I’d forgotten my torch (and even misplaced the panel for my tripod, making it useless!) The doll was a perfect find for this sort of place. Creepy, mysterious and just a little bit cute. I wonder what colour eyes it used to have…
The inside of its head had been pulled out, leaving a gaping hole in its skull and the tattered rags for clothes were disjointed from the neck. I experimented with different lighting directions and intensities and holding my camera steady for sharp exposure as best I could. The hordes of mosquitoes were not letting up though, and the dozens of bites I received in my efforts to remain still would not fade for weeks after. A real blood sacrifice to the doll…

I darted back into the main medicine room just as Florian was starting to finish up. There’s only so many ways one can photograph the rows of bottles on the shelves, but I opted for a low angle shot this time. The good light made nice exposures much easier. I’d still like to try an external flash though.
One area that I wasn’t able to explore last time was the house near the shack. The ‘place where a God lives’, or so says the black stone in front of it. There were various medicines inside the house and although they could have been moved there by previous explorers, I got the feeling that people who had a connection to the medical clinic lived there.

All sorts of old items were lying around, mostly trashed, including a rounded pair of glasses, old letters and kitchen utensils. A weird spider’s web caught my eye most though. Have you ever seen threads like this?

One last item I found inside the accompanying storage house was an old hollowed-out lamp with the character 大 on it, meaning ‘large’. The headlamp came off and I played around with some interesting illuminating effects. Fortunately the mosquitoes couldn’t get inside this building, so it was a relatively peaceful time.

Afterwards, Florian and I scouted the surrounding area, checking out a couple of other abandoned houses (one of which looked pretty new and was full of untouched and expensive-looking items!). We’d missed the train, so had quite a wait until the next one, but enjoyed sitting by the river munching on a couple of onigiri to regain some strength and complaining about how itchy all the bites we’d taken were. Ahh, the things we haikyoists go through for the explore…
Be sure to read Florian’s writeup of the explore as well!


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