Off-the-map villages in Japan: A Google Maps investigation

I remember reading once about a “town that doesn’t exist on a Japanese map”, where burakumin live. As far as I can tell this was the fancy of some anti-Japanese writer. Still, the idea intrigued me, so I went and scoured the Japanese Web for a list of private residences that don’t exist on maps. Most hisabetsu buraku, old untouchable hamlets, have vanished from town borders and are now replaced with ordinary, nice little suburbs. But on this list, there are a few oddball places that I can’t explain from the information available on the Internet.

Please cue the X-Files theme for whenever you see that a hamlet really has no official name.

For comparison…

View Larger Map

Official name: 香川県高松市田村町
Location: Hellish inland Shikoku
Conclusion: Real hisabetsu buraku

This is what an actual hisabetsu buraku looks like. I found it on a list of list of historical ones here, most of which are nonexistent today, but this one clearly still exists. It’s hard not to tell that this area is full of burakumin, because it’s a large mass of identical housing developments surrounded by fields, and there are a lot of violent criminals living there, according to Google. However, it’s not strictly segregated from the businesses around it, and it has a proper name.

Without further ado…

The “off-the-map” villages

I found these examples of “weird, off-the-map” locations on 2ch and investigated each of them as far as public documents would take me.

View Larger Map

Official name: 精進民宿村
Location: Northwest of Mount Fuji
Conclusion: It’s a little village of hotels.

This place was actually on Japanese television. There was a typhoon here in 1966 which destroyed all the hotels along the lakeside. To prevent this from happening again all of them moved to this preplanned space along the highway, which is why there’s an old schoolhouse and a post office here.

View Larger Map

Official name: 京都市北区衣笠開キ町
Location: North of Kyoto
Conclusion: Korean slum

This is a really weird little slum inside a Korean village in Kyoto. It’s hard to tell from the overhead map, but the entire thing is located in a depression made by a dam. If you try to look at it on Google Maps there are no official roads, and the view from a nearby road is blocked by purposefully planted trees.

If you like this place you’ll love Utoro, another zainichi Korean village in Kyoto. The signs on that slum say things like “Utoro is every zainichi’s hometown” and “protect our Utoro”.

View Larger Map

Official name: 千葉県大多喜町横瀬
Location: Mountains of Chiba
Conclusion: Very, very small village

It looks to be about 6 people living by themselves in the mountains. Someone even visited there and was refreshed by the countryside scenery, although he didn’t take photos, for privacy reasons. Hisabetsu buraku don’t look like this, unless if we’re living in a Princess Mononoke universe or something. It doesn’t have a name on Google Maps, which is spooky for 2ch’s sake, but the local government has given it the perfectly cromulent name of Yokose, and this appears on the national map service’s website. There are 3 buildings here and, allegedly, a statue of the bodhisattva Kokūzō Bosatsu, which the itinerant blogger says was really a shrine.

View Larger Map

Official name: None
Location: Genpei-cho, Kobe City
Conclusion: Possible Korean slum

I don’t know what exactly this is but these people are literally living on the wrong side of the tracks. There’s also all kinds of junk lying around. And to deepen the mystery further, when you look at Yahoo Maps none of these buildings exist and there is something inexplicable in their place.

View Larger Map

Official name: 福岡県北九州市若松区北湊町13−18
Location: A port in Kitakyushu
Conclusion: Boatyard belonging to North Korea

Apparently Japanese readers are kind of shocked by the decrepit state of this boatyard, but it’s not exactly creepy.

View Larger Map

Official name: None
Location: Kakamigahara City, Gifu
Conclusion: None Shrinekeeper’s household

edit: I spoke to someone from Kakamigahara and this is apparently the residence of an old shrinekeeping family. It’s hard to tell from the data on the Internet but it’s actually on the top of a small hill, which explains why there is nothing built on the sides.

This is an inexplicable group of segregated residences. They lie outside the officially designated blocks for the area, as you can see here, and have no name. Military photography shows that it existed in 1975. Recently someone bulldozed part of the forest near this buraku, as if aiming to build a development there. If you look around there’s a lot of other weird stuff in the area too. It seems like most residents of Kakamigahara did not historically build in this area.

View Larger Map

Official name: 山梨県巨摩群身延町八坂
Location: Mountains of Yamanashi
Conclusion: Formerly a village, now abandoned

This place is actually well-documented by the people of a town 2km away, as a former rural village. It was visited by the same blogger who went to the other mysterious places.

The total count of “weird places 2ch found in Japan”

Rural villages or remains thereof: 2
Planned communities: 1
Shrinekeeper families: 1
Things Koreans made: 3
Segregated buraku: 0

Posted: February 8th, 2012 | Japan 3 Comments »

3 Comments on “Off-the-map villages in Japan: A Google Maps investigation”

  1. 1 Leonardo Boiko said at 11:19 pm on February 11th, 2012:

    Did anyone say kakurezato?

  2. 2 Leonardo Boiko said at 9:32 pm on February 12th, 2012:

    Oh, and she also has a cool description on The Catalpa Bow of some rural family houses, and in one case even a village, that were segregated because neighbors believed they were kitsunedzukai “fox-users”; essentially a kind of witch who works evil using a spirit-fox familiar. Apparently at a certain time it was quite easy to work on a grudge by spreading rumors of your disaffect being a kitsunedzukai, particularly if they were well-off middle-class newcomers.

  3. 3 Leonardo Boiko said at 9:35 pm on February 12th, 2012:

    Er, sorry, apparently “disaffect” is not an English word meaning “a person one resents”. I still stumble on faux amis at times.