I wrote this email to friends and family whilst travelling in 2009. I found it whilst digging through old hard drives looking for my scripts..
Okay, there’s no internet here so you’ll probably get like three emails in a row… or maybe not. I am writing this with the main purpose of serving as a warning to other in case we never get out of here.
If you are lacking in time, or interest in poorly written stories, then just look at the picture and be done with it.
This place is, without a doubt, one of the freakiest places I’ve ever stayed.
It feels like they copied a level out of Fear 2 (the one where you’re wading around in blood-soaked hallways for like 15 hours). And then they mixed it with some of the Jap horror films like Ju-on and Ring. We are currently investigating talismans that we’ve gathered in shrines to see if any will ward off evil.
Since we haven’t yet taken out cameras out here I’ll have to describe the place…
To get to Aso is a strange journey. After our stopover in Fukuoka last night, we caught a Limited Express (on step down from a Shinkansen) to Kumamoto.
There we changed to an “ordinary” train. This dumped us at an isolated station where we changed to a single-car, diesel-powered train. On the way here, the train often stopped, waited 5-10 minutes, and then went back the way it came.
Our final station was even more remote; you could count the buildings in sight on one hand.
The hotel, Aso Hakunsanso, is a short walk down a road that is surrounded by nothing but rice paddies.
The hotel appears to have been made in the early 80’s; it has that pseudo-futuristic layout that leaves you totally confused (similar to Episode 5 of Kara no Kyoukai – Paradox Spiral… and now Sprinter (the theme song for that episode) has come on… Coincidence? I think not…). It makes me wonder if I am actually here for the first time, or if I am just re-living the last night of my life as part of some experiment…
From both the outside and inside, it feels like a re-modelled hospital. The carpets are all faded pink-patterned, but most are quite clearly water-stained. As you close your door, all of the windows down the hundred-metre long corridor rattle ominously. Every ten meters there is a marked “Emergency Exit”, but most of those seem to be pointing at windows or sections of wall. The wallpaper is peeling ever so slightly along the walls, breaking the straight lines of the corridors, further adding to the mental stress. Furthermore, every twenty or so metres, there is a large, automatic steel door that swings into place to compartmentalise the resort in case of “emergency”.
The main onsen (the reason that we came here) is located in another building; something not uncommon in these resorts. However, the route there takes you along a corridor of three abandoned tatami-mat rooms, each the size of a moderate ballroom. Two of them are mostly empty, one has a single chair sitting in the middle of it.
Running off this same corridor is also an abandoned kitchenette, jammed full of trestle tables and knives. Finally, there is a water-stained and rusting stairway no more than 70cm wide….. The Higurashi theme song just played twice in Winamp; perhaps this is a warning (like the KnK song before it)…?
The abandoned corridor leads you into a lobby with boarded-off doors and old lino floors. The windows are unboarded, however they stare out over absolute darkness.
In the changing room we meet the first person we’ve seen since check-in; a bloke on a mobile phone. We postulate that this is to ward off ghosts to let you bathe. (That is a very old reference and I’ll forgive you if you don’t get it).
As I mentioned before, the reason we came here was because of the bath. Now, most of the baths that we’ve been to have been unique, yet beautiful. Staring out over the Sho River in Shirakawa onto snow-covered hills was awesome. Also, each bath has its own combination of minerals based on the spring that the water was drawn from. As this place is literally on top of a volcano, we were expecting something special here. (Turls brought up a good point – in Ring an erupting volcano on “a southern Island” featured in the Video.)
The second the doors opened we were assaulted with a wall of steam. We could not see more than a metre into the room. It took a little time to actually find out where everything was. The bath itself is a circle, but surrounded but a regular octagon of walls. Cleaning stations line seven of the walls, and the entrance makes the eighth. However, when you are sitting in the bath, you can’t actually see which wall you are facing. Coupled with the fact that this bath is both the hottest and murkiest that we’ve been in, I don’t think that I’ve ever been so disorientated (hot water makes you dizzy after a little while).
In the bath there was a single, old man. It felt like one of those moments in Fear, where you have the option to do something, or to not do it. You know that one of those options is going to lead to you pissing your pants, but there are no clues as to which option to take. I had to stop myself from asking “How long have you been here?”, because I knew the answer would be “A Thousand Years….” and then he would consume my soul.
On the return trip from the baths, two little girls were playing in the boarded-up lobby. Nuff said.
We made it back to the room without being wiped off the planet. Turls suggested that we turn on the TV. Having seen enough Japanese horror I knew that this was the worst idea out; if we saw static, we were as good as dead., and I told him as much.
Every second channel is static. One of these channels was filled with static but you could faintly see Geishas… As a safety precaution, Turls has put his jacket over the TV screen.In other words, this is simultaneously the best and worst place I have ever stayed. If you enjoy playing Fear in the dark by yourself, then make sure you come here.
If I never make it back, then avoid this.
Oh yeah, and the attached photo is from the Volcano being set on fire. The character means “fire”… 10 points for originality I guess… We look into the crater tomorrow…. if we ever wake up.
I know that, to you, this will arrive at the Same time, but it’s been a good 24 hours since writing the last email.
Thankfully, we weren’t consumed by ghosts.
There are a number of other weird things that we did find out today: – We are living on the 4th floor, as is everyone else here. (As in, none of the rooms on the 3rd and 2nd floor are occupied). In case you didn’t know,the number “4” in Japan is similar to the number “13” in Western culture.
– The baths that we went to last night have been taped over on the main maps of the building. Apparently they have been closed for some time, but for some strange reason they are doing renovations on the Main baths, so they temporarily re-opened the decomissioned baths.
– This whole area appears to be deserted. We managed to walk into an onsen, but there was no-one there. We tried calling out a few times, (Turls used the toilet…) but no-one replied. We fled.
– The boarded off area in the secondary lobby that I mentioned last email is marked on the maps, but like the baths in that wing, it has been taped over.
– The building has the layout and feel of an old hospital.
– The “offical” testing of the Onsen’s water occurred in Shouwa 42 (about 1971 from memory).
We managed to get quite a few pics during the day, but the hard drive on this small machine is full so they will have to wait until I get back. Instead, please enjoy a photo from the Crater of the Nakadake Vent on Mount
Aso. Yes, the water is green. There are about 10 concrete bunkers about 20m from the crater’s lip as, being an active volcano, it occasionally erupts. Like, for real, with fire and such. There is a volcanic bomb on display from sometime in the past 50 years (another Shouwa date…) that weighs 420 kg and was found 1km from the vent.