Japan’s esteemed, and rapidly dynamic industrialization has spawned an unrelenting number of abandoned architectural structures. Hashima Island, also known as Battleship Island, serves as a precedent for the country’s antiquated dilapidation, transforming into a 6.3-hectare abandoned enclave in 1974 following the declining demand for coal.
Haikyo (廃虚) refers to the exploration of these discarded infrastructures. Highlighting the negligent nature of Japan’s fast-paced industry, photographers throughout Japan have long documented a breadth of dilapidated structures across the country.
Each month, courtesy of Tokyo-based photographer Ben Beech, we aim to showcase a new venture.
Western Village or Western Mura (ウェスタン村) was an American West themed amusement park built in the mountainous prefecture of Tochigi, a couple of hours drive north of Tokyo.
The village first opened to the public in the early 1970s as a family run business under the name Kinugawa Family Ranch. It consisted of a guest ranch, a few horses and a fishing pond, constructed to look like something out of the American West.
As popularity of the ranch grew, so did the size of the grounds, slowly expanding to include various other structures in a specially built American West village, including a sheriffs office, a barber shop, a bank, a hotel and many other buildings.
There were also ghost houses, amusement arcades, a restaurant, and a scaled down version of Mount Rushmore built into the side of a three story building once filled with games and attractions.
Kinugawa Family Ranch changed its name to Western Village in the late 1970s and enjoyed almost three decades as a popular day out for locals and Tokyo residents alike.
Staff would dress up as cowboys and put on shows for visitors along side moving, talking life like robots who also donned cowboy attire – kind of reminiscent of "an early childhood favorite of mine," the movie Westworld.
Western Village closed its doors in 2006 and has sat decaying ever since. As Ben explains, heavy machinery had been moved into place and demolition was imminent. He said:
"Without wasting any more time I made my way up the highway with two friends Dan and Mark to Tochigi to try and find Western Village, or what was left of it"