A luxury leisure resort on the lush hillside of Okinawa. Panoramic ocean views. A waterpark, a petting zoo, a night club. Now crumbling into ruins, swallowed up by nature reclaiming the land developers tried to take. Perhaps the owners should have known better than to build on the site of ancient tombs. The local priests warned them. But they didn’t listen.
This is the tale of Okinawa’s Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel, one of the most haunted abandoned sites in Japan.
The Nakagusuku Shiroato Kogen (lit. “behind-castle plateau”) Hotel Leisure Land, aka the Royal Hotel, was to have been a leisure resort complex attracting wealthy customers, a playground of sorts in the hills of Kitanakagusuku, Okinawa. The owner was reported to have been a wealthy developer from Naha, the capital city of Okinawa, who according to locals planned to capitalise on the influx of tourism as a result of the 1975 Okinawa Ocean Exposition.
The location was seemingly ideal. The site was literally feet away from the far end of Nakagusuku Castle, high in the hills, where gorgeous views of both the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea could be enjoyed by wealthy patrons. However, the site infringed on an area where ancient tombs, graves and sacred sites still exist today. Monks from a local Buddhist temple warned the developers that the construction would anger the resident spirits, but they were ignored.
Development came to a complete halt mid-way through 1975 after repeated construction accidents hampered development. Locals claim that many workers believed the land was cursed and boycotted the project. The original owner is said to have volunteered to spend the night in the unfinished hotel to prove that it wasn’t haunted, but by morning, he had gone insane and was subsequently committed to a mental asylum, from which he disappeared shortly afterwards. Now, his ghost is said to roam the rubble-strewn corridors.
A more rational (but much less exciting) explanation is that the project was simply impractical. After all, this was during Japan’s bubble economy years, when money was splashed about wildly on various projects which were essentially badly planned flights of fancy. Japan is littered with abandoned sites as a result of poor economic decisions made during the ’70s and ’80s, and the Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel might have been another victim of reckless spending and poor budgeting.
On the other hand, perhaps the local monks were right…
This writer visited the Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel several summers ago, equipped with only a camera. The local residents I questioned about the hotel advised me against setting foot on the sacred grounds desecrated by greedy developers some 10 years before I was born. Additionally, I was wary as the United States Military had declared the site a no-go zone for all servicemen, following an incident where a group decided to explore the ruins and another “accident” occurred – a solider was critically injured when part of the floor he was walking on collapsed and he plummeted to a storey below.
However, being an absolute sucker for ghost stories, abandoned places, and creepiness of any kind, I wasn’t about to let any of that deter me, so in I went.
The site is extremely easy to access, and is situated down a short path behind Nakagusuku Castle (which, incidentally, is a UNESCO World Heritage site). While there’s no gate to prevent entry, there is a sign warning would-be explorers to “Keep Out”, as well as a broken, seemingly hand-painted and extremely faded board which describes the history of the hotel. To paraphrase: “This is the ruin of the Nakagusuku Hotel, which was abandoned in Showa 50 (1975), and is extremely unstable. Nakagusuku Castle takes no responsibility for any injury or loss of life as a result of entry...”
The site is indeed extremely unstable. Most of the roofs have caved in, and it’s difficult to get far back through the main hotel. I desperately wanted to make it to the top of the haphazardly stacked structure which was allegedly supposed to have been a nightclub, although this part was never finished.
Unfortunately, the roof was so caved in and the inside was so dark due to the vegetation that had crept in through the empty windows, I couldn’t see to find my way any deeper. I was also wearing flimsy shoes, shorts and a T-shirt, and thoughts of collapsing roofs and being buried by rubble in such a desolate, isolated place deterred me from pushing on any further into the hotel. Instead, I decided to explore the rest of the complex, although it was so overgrown that more than half of it seemed buried in a sea of green foliage.
Graffiti artists had been at work inside, and some of it was pretty good. This tortured screaming face makes me think of the owner’s spirit roaming the complex. Perhaps it’s an homage to his ghost…
This must have been the main lobby of the hotel. Now it’s filled with rubble and debris. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was very little in the way of man-made rubbish at the location. Abandoned places have a reputation for being hideouts for unsavoury individuals, but I saw no evidence of any dodgy activity, and perhaps because it’s Japan, I felt I had much more to fear from the vengeful spectres than flesh-and-blood humans.
As I turned to leave the main lobby, I caught a glimpse of a man in the corner of my eye. Suddenly terrified, I froze as he turned, slowly, to face me. It was just another tourist with a camera. He nodded at me and walked off down a corridor. I never saw him again.
I decided to return to the path and follow it up into the hill complex. I entered a miniature town with standalone, decrepit buildings. Walkways choked with vines led from the main building to several sub-buildings that were too overgrown to get near to.
▼ The entire complex was as silent as a tomb.
▼ In some places, trees were actually growing up inside the buildings.
As I wandered deeper into the little town, I began to feel nervous. Okinawa is known for its deadly habu snakes which live in deep foliage and secluded places, and are known to be highly irritable as well as extremely venomous. Also, I was starting to lose signal on my phone, which made me feel even more isolated and alone.
▼ The complex stretches back deep into the hills.
▼ The environments are as creepy as anything in The Last of Us or Silent Hill.
I ducked through a window into one of the standalone buildings, and stood staring in confusion for a long while. It was a large, empty, circular room with a waist-high partition all around, and strange wooden slats. After a while, I realised this must have been the remains of the petting zoo. I wonder what kind of animals they planned to keep there?
▼ Many of the buildings were too overgrown to see anything inside.
▼ There were several buildings standing alone. I wonder what they were intended to be?
▼ I half expected some hideous, malformed mutant to slowly amble out of the bushes.
▼ The air was thick with atmosphere and a heavy sense of foreboding. Or maybe it was just the humidity.
Eventually, I came to the side entrance of the hotel, which must have been impressive back in the day. The doorway was boarded up, but I climbed through a window to see if I could get any further into the hotel. However, I couldn’t quite get my bearings since half the rooms were collapsed, and parts of the walls jutted out at weird angles. In fact, the architecture of the place was slightly off somehow, like the Winchester Mystery House or something.
I did manage to find my way to what I think were once the kitchens. You can see the ovens rusting away on the left.
▼ Plus, some more graffiti.
▼ I dubbed this one the Fat Lady.
Heading back outside, I decided to see if I could find any of the old graves or tombs that were said to be the root of all the hotel’s troubles. I headed down a path which snaked around to the right, curving around the hillside.
The buildings gradually died away as I headed around the hillside. Soon, I came to a dirt track. The track gradually became narrower and narrower until it disappeared altogether. I hacked my way through the overgrowth until I came to a clearing.
And then I saw them: the graves.
They clearly hadn’t been tended in a long time, but they were definitely graves. I had assumed that the “sacred land” yarn I’d heard was simply local colour and that the hotel’s demise was probably economic in nature. But no, here were the graves themselves… yards away from a sprawling leisure complex!
As well as the graves, I also found a tomb or mausoleum of sorts, completely overgrown with vines. That’s when I started getting really scared. Wasn’t I, too, trespassing on sacred land now? Was I going to be cursed, like the hotel’s owner? Would I become another ghost, haunting the complex for all eternity with only the snakes for company? Plus, the sun was starting to go down. I wanted out of there… fast!
▼ It looks like it has a face…
Typically, that’s when I realised that I was completely lost. I could no longer find the little dirt track I’d followed to the gravesite, and the rest of the buildings were invisible through a thick canopy of greenery. Luckily, I managed not to freak out, pulled out my phone, brought up google maps (thankfully, I had internet!) and decided to just head towards the castle. I was a tiny dot in a sea of green.
I was really hoping to find the waterpark that I’d seen photos of online, but I had no idea where to start looking for it – I couldn’t even spot anything that looked like a waterpark on the online map. Plus, the idea of being here, alone, in the dark filled me with dread, so I decided to head back in the direction of civilisation.
Once I got home alive, I decided to do some further digging online on the hotel and stumbled across photographs on Flickr of a promotional pamphlet showing the waterpark and decorated interiors, with people posing as guests. The style is totally ’70s, but you can recognise some of the locations from the ruins that are still standing today.
This image shows the waterpark:
Flickr – ontheborderland
This image shows some of the interiors and the path through the little town:
Flickr – ontheborderland
And this image shows what was probably the hotel lobby:
Flickr – ontheborderland
You can see the rest of the pamphlet scans and further images of the ruins at ontheborderland’s Flickr , and you can read more about the history of the hotel and view more images at Abandoned Kansai . This Japanese website has photos of the waterpark ruins, and Misuterareta has another report with pictures .
There’s so much more to the complex than what I was able to see in a few hours, and I desperately want to go back again someday with some sturdier equipment so I can discover more of the Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel’s secrets.
Abandoned Kansai have also uploaded several videos of the ruins, which are a must-watch!
Here’s a video taken in the central area. Be sure to check out their site for more videos!
If you’re thinking of visiting the ruins yourself, please do take care, given that the whole thing is on the verge of collapse and probably riddled with venomous snakes (and ghosts…). For urban exploration fanatics, however, it’s basically a motherlode of fantastic exploration opportunities that you definitely shouldn’t pass up.
Unless, of course, you value your soul…
Source: Wikipedia , Flickr – ontheborderland , Abandoned Kansai , Misuterareta , Gpzagogo
All photos © RocketNews24/Evie Lund unless otherwise specified