The old Watarase Keikoku railroad that runs through the Tochigi Prefecture a few hours north of Tokyo claims to end in the tiny mountain village town of Mato, but that’s a lie. Check things out from outer space and you’ll see that the tracks continue into the mountain wilderness to one final destination no longer acknowledged by the mapmakers.
At this ghost terminus is the remains of Ashio mining town and industrial complex, once the most technologically advanced place in all of Asia. It might look like an Ewok flophouse today, but in the 1880s, during Japan’s Meiji era, this now barely accessible place was at the forefront of Japan’s industrial revolution. It was the first place in Asia to generate hydroelectric power and the first place to have a telephone network.
Unfortunately, it all went tits up. Despite basically running the huge Japanese copper industry from this mountain top, the plant’s owners were paying their employees about three magic beans per annum (apparently the workers would have needed a 60 percent pay rise just to reach a level they could actually live off). In 1907, during a cold winter, they revolted. Soon after that the plant gave way to Japan’s first major industrial pollution disaster, filling the rivers with sludge and waste from the copper plants, killing off the local fish community, and fucking up rice growth all across the huge Kanto Plane.
Today, only a few houses are still inhabited. Weirdly though, it is also the centre of an unusually high quantity of Communist Party propaganda posters.
This rare car was even pumping out communist propaganda from the loudspeakers fixed on top of it.
Poking our heads through the rusted bars, we saw the towering, hollowed-out carcass of the central factory, reduced to its bare bones after being destroyed by the acid rain that it produced. We had to climb through barbed wire to explore inside.
We found dust-covered offices with decades-old bureaucratic paperwork scattered across the floor, a clocking-in machine for the workers, and a plethora of drill belts and other industrial tools.
Above this warehouse was one of the main power hubs. We flicked one of the giant sci-fi switches inside but nothing happened.
Ashio is a huge complex and we wandered to the former site of the workers’ housing. Here we found the remains of old public baths and the foundations of houses, now totally overgrown.
BTW, all this once looked like this:
In amongst the housing remains, the word "SEX" was scrawled in chalk on a wall. You can see why – it's a sexy neighborhood.
Opening up the little cupboard hole nearest to it, we hit the mother lode: a collection of lame Japanese pornography.
The collection was dated from the 1980s, so while the copper industry dwindled here, it became some lonely wanker's palace of onanism. It's reassuring that as one thing withers, another bursts into life.
What’s this guy looking coy about?
Uh-oh, this is going to be good...
That's clearly Japanese for "shwing!"
Phwoar! Squeeze those tits for me, my dilapidated train tracks, and my fallen industrial empire!
Well that was lame, they forgot to draw her vagina. Bloody communist pornographers.