In Yokohama, near Tokyo, there is one of the most famous ruins of Japan: Negishi Grandstand. This is a favorite spot among Japanese urban explorers but despite its outside, I have never dared to explore it. It is located inside Negishi park, right next to the United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka. Thus it is monitored constantly by those shiny surveillance cameras. And of course there are barbwire fences all around, ready to do some damage on any intruders.
To get to the inside, a few Ninja jumps were required.
I got in and looked back at the threatening barbwire fence that is bending inwards, obviously getting out is not going to be easy. But while we are inside, let us enjoy and review the history of Negishi briefly together.
1866. This area was still very residential. The Emperor Meiji commissioned JH Morgan to build a racetrack. Yokohama racecourse was then visited many times by Emperor Meiji himself, and even more often by his successor, Emperor Hirohito.
Later, in 1923, Great Kanto Earthquake hit both Tokyo and Yokohama, but the building of Negishi remained almost untouched, except for the wooden grandstands that caught fire. It was renovated by then, but never again ever since.
In 1942, horse racing became prohibited and the Japanese military took over this building for printing (fake notes), the stable was used as jail for Australian prisoners during the war until Japan surrenders.
During the occupation of Japan in 1945, General MacArthur discovered the printing machines inside. He used it to print 140.000 acts of capitulation distributed throughout Japan. Negishi Racecourse became headquarter of mass communication at that time.
The U.S. military soon claimed the entire complex, turning it into a residential area; Negishi Grandstand became their administrative office. We are now in 1947 and the area was known as the “Area X” for a while, before gaining the name of “Negishi Height”.
The territory of the Negishi Height is finally returned to Japan in 1983. The ground floor of the building was used briefly as a bowling alley before being completely gutted and abandoned. The open area in front became a public park, while behind located the naval base Yokosuka. The Negishi Grandstand will probably remain abandoned and untouched like this for a long time, with the vegetation taking over the building little by little and the mischievous spoiling the barbwire fence every now and then.
The only thing that moves in Negishi? The fans…
Back to the reality! The building is large but not enough to justify more than 10 hours of photography. Soon time stopped and boredom arrives, the cold penetrates me slowly. I tried to stay close to a window where the sun beams, but in vain. I tried to imagine that there are warmer parts in the building, but the spiritual power failed me too… I look at my watch constantly … time has really stopped! When can we get out? I can constantly hear the voices and activities outside, which made me really dread for our departure later tonight…About 18:30, the sun finally started to set. We will now be able to enjoy the view from the rooftop and then go home. This is exciting!
We have to get out of here now. What a weird day it has been! We are now outside the building, hidden in a dip near the entrance. A couple meters away, on the other side of the fence, there is life, something real.
I move slowly under the surveillance camera, approaching the barbed wire. My god, it will not be easy! I swing my bag over the fence and started to climb. My jeans and my jacket were instantly caught on the barbwire, ripped open, the feathers inside my down jacket flying… I landed on the ground head first with my hands, arms and legs all covered in blood and feathers, and my jeans shredded!
I immediately drove to a local pharmacy. I show my hands to the pharmacist to explain that I want something to disinfect them. The shop assistant handed me something in shock, I smiled and told her that I was only trying to fix my car.
End of the story now, I will go take the vaccinations against tetanus tomorrow. Sayonara, Negishi-san.