I hope you’re ready for a quick history lesson! I’m taking you to one of Japan`s most popular historical urban exploration sites, the Maya Tourist Hotel.
The Maya Hotel is located (fittingly) halfway up Mt. Maya. Maya is the second highest peak in Kobe, part of the Rokko mountain range which bisects the city. Built in 1929, the Maya Hotel is a perfect example of Japan`s pre-WWII craze for Western art-deco architecture. During the war, the hotel`s roof was loaded up with anti-aircraft guns and used in the defense of Kobe. Kobe city, like Osaka and Tokyo, was heavily fire bombed and mostly destroyed. The hotel, as a converted military target, was damaged in the raids.
After the war, the city decided to sell the hotel to a private owner. The hotel was repaired and reopened for business 1961. However, in 1967 a typhoon and mudslide greatly damaged the building once more and its doors were shuttered again.
The hotel got one last chance in 1974 when it was repaired (again) and rechristened the “Maya Student Center.“ It never took off as a student center, though. It was rarely used and the final nail in the coffin came in 1995 when the Great Awaji Earthquake – which killed more than 6000 people in Kobe – badly damaged the grand old building once more. The hotel was sealed up, the hiking trails leading to it were sealed up, and no more business would be done there.
However, a beautiful building with such a tumultuous history wouldn’t stay forgotten for long so, of course, the Maya Hotel became one of Japan`s most famous haikyo (abandoned place). Since then it has been used as a filming location for various music videos and TV episodes. One of which, in fact, brought in an authentic B-29 Superfortress tire for a war scene and left it there. The tire can still be found today.
I had wanted to go hiking to the Maya Hotel for a long time. I finally got the chance recently and made the early morning trek 400 meters up Mt. Maya. Since the hotel is located directly under the Maya Cable Car, anyone interested in exploring it has to get there and do most of their walking around before 8:30 when the morning Cable Car staff comes to work. They have a reputation for calling the police whenever they see trespassers at the Maya Hotel.
After searching around for the now-closed hiking for trail for a half-hour, my companions and I finally found the “Do Not Enter“ sign and fence that marks the start of the path up. The hiking trail is short but intense. Ropes laid out by other hikers line most of the way since the path is steep and slippery in places. We reached the Maya Hotel sweaty and groggy but upon finding it we started zipping around the various floors and rooms like excited children exploring a toy store.
I’m going to turn it over to some photos now. I`ll just leave it with this: the Maya Hotel is one of the coolest buildings I’ve been to in Japan. For anyone willing to wake up early and make the steep climb up, you won’t be disappointed. For those interested in more information on the hotel and getting there, or in seeing more photos, you can email me through the contact page on this site or post a comment on this entry.