Have you ever been to a ghost town? As a person born and raised in America, I have a certain fixed idea of these neglected spaces. My idea includes tumbleweeds, dust blowing in the wind; something straight out of the Wild West. Wide open spaces on endless flat land. Towns that went bust after all the oil, silver, or gold was extracted. These mental images were triggered when I came across the phrase “ghost town”. As I have lived in Asia for a better part of a decade, this and many ideas of what America is have gradually faded. I’ve come to realize through my travels of small Korean or Japanese towns that cities are far more dependent on other forms of industry than oil or precious stones.
Towns relying heavily on one industry brings me to today’s post. In October 2017 I flew to Hokkaidō to visit Yubari, a former coal producing city. Here, here, and, here are some links that provide some history of the the town. It’s crazy to think that by 2020, the median age of the town will be 65. There are not a lot of young people living here. The elementary, junior, and high schools have all been consolidated. I didn’t have as much time or a car to explore as much as the author of the Daily Mail photo essay, but I tried to cover as much ground as I could in a day. This post will focus on the doctor’s clinic. I didn’t have many clues on how to find this place. From another explorer’s page, I noticed the sign next the building. My co-worker translated the address, and then I Google Mapped it. BOOM! Found it.
Many explorers have come to the Doctor’s Clinic. You can see it in the boarded up door way and window. It’s also very obvious in the way objects are set up for photo opportunities. Personally, I am a minimal setter-upper. I try to photograph the space as is. Sometimes artifacts need to be moved into a brighter light source, but for the most part, I try not to manipulate the surroundings. The calendars on the walls of the clinic ended in the year 1995. This place has been decaying for over 20 years. The decades of being left to the elements or nature have taken its toll on the building.
In this building you can reconstruct a bit of a picture of was once a busy clinic. a Clinic that would help heal or diagnose people’s ailments. I couldn’t find any pictures of doctors, nurses, or patients, but found thousands of files with people’s medical history written in illegible handwriting. It’s a good starting point for someone who is fluent in Japanese and medical scrawl. Upstairs is where the two operating rooms were. Medical tests and surgeries were conducted here. There were also a few rooms with mattresses stacked, where in the more prosperous times, was where patients rested and recuperated.
Yuburi is a place worth multiple visits. I guarantee to revisit this place in future posts because there is so much to say about this dying town. There is a larger story here that I would like to put into words in the future. This grand narrative relates to how globalization has affected smaller towns themselves. It also touches upon the younger generations of people who grew up in the era of international influences and how it shapes the way people live their lives.