An Island Lost in Time
Hachijo Island, Japan
Hachijo Island is in the Pacific Ocean less than 200 miles south of Tokyo, but seems a world away. It is eleven hours by ferry, or 50 minutes by plane, but few people seem to visit there anymore. In the two decades after the War, when Japanese were not allowed to travel abroad, it was a prime vacation spot for those seeking a tropical paradise. When foreign travel opened up in the 1970s, the tourists moved on to Hawaii, North America and Europe.
The island is only 50 miles around, and at times looks like the Jurassic Park side of Kauai. It is still popular for surfing, diving and fishing, but the coast is very rocky and there are no sand beaches.
Ten feet of annual rainfall produces a subtropical paradise.
The Haunted Hotel
The ten story Oriental Resort, which dominated the skyline for almost 50 years, was abandoned six years ago. It is rumored to be haunted.
Even in the short time that it has been closed, the subtropical vegetation has moved in with a vengeance. The high humidity and salt air from the ocean are rapidly destroying the plaster Greek statues.
The Roman Bust
It is not clear why the bust of a Roman emperor sits in the middle of the reception lobby.
I stayed in the aptly named Garden Guest House on the back side of the island, which has been in operation for 48 years. The 75-year old proprietress remembers seeing squadrons of B-29 flying overhead on their way to Tokyo. Hachijo Island was on the direct path from Iwo Jima, but few bombs were ever dropped here. It had no strategic value.
A Bygone Era
The Hachijo Hot Spring Hotel, which looks more like a military bunker than a resort hotel, was abandoned years ago, and the jungle moved in to take the place of the guests.
The front desk looks like it has been hit by a tsunami.
The hallway to the rooms looked like a rock band had been there.
The guests checked out and the vegetation moved in.
The jungle is taking over the appropriately named Jungle Pool at the hotel.
Condiments sit on the kitchen counter, but the ovens have been cold for more than a decade.
The Banquet Hall
The party is over. The scene looks like something out of the Titanic.
The French Restaurant
The French restaurant must have been fully booked during its heyday. A bench was set up for waiting customers. It is completely quiet, now.
The Back Office
The hotel had all the latest office automation of the 1980s.
The International Hotel
The modern, for its time, Hachijo International Hotel has been closed for several years. Despite its name, it seems unlikely that many guests from abroad ever made it here.
The Common Area
The International looked much better from the outside.
If you knew how to play a piano, you could be the life of the party. It was deadly silent the day I was there.
The Game Center
The salt laden sea air has taken its toll.
The Laundry Room
Soap and towels still litter the laundry room.
The population of the island is 8000 and decreasing every year. Most young people leave for Tokyo as soon as they graduate from high school. There is no opportunity here. There were no children in this park. Almost anyone old enough to have young children has moved on to the mainland.