HomeTravel'The Lost World': New book highlights Japan's abandoned rural spaces

‘The Lost World’: New book highlights Japan’s abandoned rural spaces

(CNN) — Simply saying the phrase “Japan” can carry up photographs of manga, maid cafes and neon lights.

But for Dutch photographer Maan Limburg, Japan is a collection of rural landscapes punctuated by empty homes.

Her images of those locations — from homes departed within the wake of pure disasters to closed-down theaters with the lights nonetheless cued up — are actually featured in a book, “The Lost World,” which printed in May.

Japan’s ghost homes

Japan has one of many oldest populations on the earth, with an estimated one in each 1,500 folks over the age of 100. As extra younger folks transfer to the cities in the hunt for jobs, rural areas have turn out to be tougher to keep up.
And that is not the one main power affecting Japan’s panorama. Events like earthquakes, typhoons and the Fukushima nuclear disaster have additionally precipitated widespread destruction or abandonment.

Enter the phenomenon of akiya, or ghost homes.

A 2014 authorities report sounded the alarm, saying that, ought to issues proceed at present fee, about 900 villages and cities all through Japan might be “extinct.”

Limburg did not simply discover empty houses — there have been additionally abandoned companies like this DVD retailer.

Maan Limburg/The Lost World

But even free homes aren’t essentially the remedy for Japan’s akiya scenario. While different nations with growing older populations, like Italy, have given away or offered very low-cost homes to foreigners, they typically include a visa or residency allow hooked up. Japan’s homes, although, don’t.

As a outcome, it can be hard to find people keen to reside within the houses and repair them up, particularly if they do not converse Japanese or have entry to a automotive.

Limburg, who relies in Utrecht, discovered herself irresistibly pulled to the lesser-known areas of Japan the place many of those homes exist. She and her companion spent months there at a time, renting a automotive or van and driving by means of components of the nation that many vacationers hardly ever discover.

Finding ephemera like calendars and newspapers can help Limburg figure out when a place was abandoned.

Finding ephemera like calendars and newspapers will help Limburg determine when a spot was abandoned.

Maan Limburg/The Lost World

Leaving the cities

Limburg says she “fell in love” with rural Japan.

“Every village we got to, the people were like, ‘What are you doing here? The nearest tourist attraction is 35 kilometers. We can send you there. We can draw you a map if you want to.’ It was just really nice to see this different side of Japan,” she says.

And as soon as she started visiting smaller villages, it was virtually not possible to not discover empty houses or abandoned buildings. At one level, Limburg says, her boyfriend requested in the event that they actually needed to cease at each single one.

One of the explanations Limburg linked with rural Japan is that it reminded her of her native Netherlands. Though each nations have a status for being chilly and never all the time welcoming to overseas guests, Limburg disagrees.

“As soon as Dutch people see you’re actually interested, they will share a lot of information with you. That’s something I also really found in Japan to be true,” she says. “It’s one of the things I really enjoy in both countries that, if you have real interest in the people, suddenly they really share their life with you,”

But in fact not all countryside is similar, and that was mirrored within the sorts of empty buildings she discovered.

In Hokkaido, Limburg explains, many individuals had time to correctly shut up and weather-seal their homes earlier than shifting away. But in areas like Fukushima, the place folks had fled in a rush, it wasn’t uncommon to seek out teacups nonetheless set out or TV units nonetheless plugged in.

One of her private favourite discoveries was a former theater. The units, costumes and lights had been nonetheless intact, as if the actors had merely taken a lunch break and had been due again any minute.

Some of the smaller houses had essentially the most emotional punch. Limburg noticed household images nonetheless tacked up on the wall and located herself questioning what had occurred to the individuals who lived right here and what had made them go away.

“I hope to have treated the locations with enough respect,” she says.

Her favourite area was the “magical” northern island of Hokkaido.

“it’s rough and it’s rugged and it’s weird,” the photographer says. “We had a feeling that we were in an Edward Hopper painting without any people.”

"Once you start looking for empty houses," Limburg says, "they're everywhere."

“Once you start looking for empty houses,” Limburg says, “they’re everywhere.”

Maan Limburg/The Lost World


In all, Limburg has visited Japan about 10 occasions, starting when she was an adolescent.

Because she is a freelancer, she’s capable of spend lengthy intervals of time away, so her common Japan go to was three weeks. Multiple journeys enabled her to see completely different components of the nation, in addition to to satisfy and join with a number of the folks she encountered alongside the way in which.

The Lost World” is greater than only a photograph book — it is an homage to the nation she loves and respects.


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