Photos of abandoned Japanese ruins reveal an eerie, post-apocalyptic world

Shane Thoms is what's known as a "haikyoist." The word comes from the Japanese "haikyo," which literally means "ruins" but can also mean urban exploration.

Thoms, a photographer and author of the newly released book "Haikyo: The Modern Ruins of Japan," is as big a haikyoist as they come.

His book is collection of photos he took while traveling through Japan in recent years, hoping to capture the juxtaposition between Japanese aesthetic — typically minimalist and precisely organized — with the overgrown weeds, moss, and debris that characterized the ruins.

Thoms shared a collection of the images, many of which evoke an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel, with Business Insider. Here's what the haikyoist saw.

Japanese ruins reveal post-apocalyptic, eerie-looking world
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Japanese ruins reveal post-apocalyptic, eerie-looking world

Thoms ventured to Japan to explore hospitals, mines, amusement parks, factories, and "other entities from different areas of Japan that have ceased operating for a number of different reasons," he told Business Insider.

Pictured: The now severely dilapidated 'Main Street USA' replica from Nara Dreamland.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

Some of the businesses have closed due to a shrinking economy, as Japan has grappled with low fertility rates and an aging population.

Pictured: The ground floor of an abandoned hotel in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture.

Source: Business Insider

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

But others have shuddered due simply to the forces of history. "This is an artistic project with an artistic focus, not a political or economical analysis," Thoms said.

Pictured: An amusement area inside the Western Village Amusement Park near Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

As the title of his book suggests, he and other haikyoists refer to these rundown structures as "modern ruins."

Pictured: A hotel bar near Shikoku.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

They are commonplace in Japan, especially in areas where industrialization hollowed out rural communities. Post-WWII, people either left town for neighboring locations or moved to the closest city.

Pictured: The reception lounge of a former beach side resort located on Hachijo Island off the southern coast.

Source: Tokyo Weekender

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

Thoms decided to shoot haikyo because of a longstanding love for Japanese culture.

Pictured: The lounge of a hotel near Shikoku.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

"In terms of abandonment," he said, "I found that when I stepped away from the wider deserted commercial areas and into the more intimate interior of the traditional Japanese room, what made these decayed dwellings so different to the forgotten haunts commonly explored in other parts of the world was the thoughtful structure of the space."

Pictured: The 'Aksa' rollercoaster from Nara Dreamland, Nara Prefecture.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

Some of the subjects he photographs are what people typically call to mind when they think of ruins ...

Pictured: A crammed apartment complex on Hashima Island.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

... while others he captured for the sake of highlighting the juxtaposition between decay and ornateness.

Pictured: A forgotten ride from Nara Dreamland.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

"Culturally profound elements such as shoji screens, tatami mats, tokonoma alcoves, and fusuma doors all work cohesively to create an environment where the family spirit is encapsulated and preserved," he said.

Pictured: Doctors' clinic — Tochigi Prefecture.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

Taken together, those elements lead Japanese ruins to evoke more sentimentality compared to European or North American ruins, Thoms said.

Pictured: An abandoned tatami room, Nikko Prefecture.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

He said he felt a certain "philosophy" behind a lot of what he captured.

Pictured: An abandoned Pachinko and Slot parlor in Saitama Prefecture.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

As Japan continually evolves over the decades, the photographer said he wanted to freeze a moment in history in the way the environment has been preserving it naturally.

Pictured: Abandoned dental clinic, Nagasaki Prefecture.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)

"These spaces are in a state of 'transit' between something that was," he said, "and perhaps something that is yet to be."

Pictured: Abandoned room in a traditional house, Nagano Prefecture.

(Photo by Shane Thoms)


See Also:

SEE ALSO: 'This is death to the family': Japan's fertility crisis is creating economic and social woes never seen before

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