This Halloween, some friends and I decided that before we followed the crowd to the photo-fest that is the costume party at Okinawa’s American Village, we would seek out a notorious abandoned (and reputedly haunted) hotel near the ruins of Nakagusuku-jo castle.
The Japanese are seriously superstitious, and when some of our Japanese friends heard about our plans they tried to deter us, assuring us that we would probably die – or at the very least be possessed by evil spirits. In the end we decided that the place sounded too interesting not to check out, and shrugging off warnings of death, doom and bloody exorcisms, we set off on our merry way.
There is a particularly creepy backstory to this never-finished hotel, which was reputedly begun in the 1970s by a businessman from Naha who wanted to capitalise on the location right beside a UNESCO world heritage site. Ignoring warnings from locals and monks that he was building too close to the site of ancient tombs and that his hotel would impinge on a sacred cave where restless spirits wandered, the unnamed businessman began his vast development right next to Nakahusuku-jo Castle. Over the course of the development several employees died under mysterious circumstances, and frightened workers abandoned the project believing that it was cursed.
Still undeterred, the businessman pledged to sleep at the hotel until the project was finished to prove that there was nothing to fear from bogeymen and restless spirits. After that, the story goes that he lasted three nights before he was driven insane, and reports disagree as to whether he killed himself or was committed to an asylum.
Of course, there are more realistic explanations for the hotel’s abandonment, but they’re not half as exciting!
Arriving at Nakagusuku-jo, it was easy to see why one might want to build in such a beautiful spot. Accessed through the site of the castle ruins, the development boasts incredible views of both the Pacific and the East China Sea, with the ruins spread out below it and jungle on all sides.
The building itself is a vast shell, which can be seen silhouetted on its hill from miles around. Inside is a maze of haphazard corridors and staircases littered with detritus, in the process of being reclaimed by the forest around it. I have to admit that, wandering around the place, it wasn’t hard to understand why locals were so spooked by it.
Whilst it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, the ruins of the Royal Hotel (Or Takara Hotel as it is also known) make an interesting and haunting juxtaposition to the very different ruins next-door. Enter at your own peril!