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"Lost World": The new book highlights Japan's abandoned country space

(CNN) — Just say the word "Japan" and you'll see images of manga, maid cafes, and neon lights.

But for Dutch photographer Maan Limburg, Japan is a series of rural landscapes separated by empty houses.

From homes that departed as a result of a natural disaster to closed theaters where the lights are still on, her photos of these places were featured in the book. "Lost World" published in May.

Japanese haunted house

Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world, over 100 years old 1,500 peopleAs more young people move to cities in search of work, rural maintenance is becoming more difficult.
And that is not the only major force that influences the landscape of Japan. Events such as earthquakes, typhoons, and theFukushima nuclear accidenthave also caused widespread destruction or abandonment.

Please enter the phenomenon of Akiya or Ghost House.

A 2014 government report warned that if things continued at current speeds, about 900 villages and towns across the country would be "extinct."

03 body lost world japan

Not only did Limburg find an empty house, but it was also out of business like this DVD store.

Maan Limburg / The Lost World

But even a free home is not always a cure for the situation in Akiya, Japan. Other aging countries, such as Italy, give or sell very cheap homes to foreigners, but often come with visas and residence permits. But Japanese houses are not.

As a result, it can be difficult to find someone who lives in a house and is willing to repair it. Especially if you don't speak Japanese or access to a car.

Utrecht-based Limburg found that many of these homes were irresistibly pulled into the lesser-known areas of Japan. She and her partner spent months there at once, renting cars and vans and driving parts of the country that many tourists rarely explore.

Finding ephemera like calendars and newspapers can help Limburg figure out when a place was abandoned.

Finding ephemera like calendars and newspapers helps Limberg understand when the place was abandoned.

Maan Limburg / The Lost World

Leaving the city

Limburg she said I fell in love with the countryside of Japan. "

"All the villages we went to, people said," What are you doing here? The nearest tourist attraction is 35km. You can send it there. We can draw you. Map it as needed. "It was really nice to be able to see this other side of Japan," she says.

And once she started visiting a small village, it was virtually impossible for her not to find an empty house or an abandoned building. At some point, Limburg says, her boyfriend asked if they really had to stop at each and every one.

One of the reasons Limburg was connected to the countryside of Japan was that it reminded her of her native Netherlands. Both countries have a reputation for being cold and not always welcoming foreign tourists, but Limburg disagrees.

"The Dutch people share a lot of information with you as soon as they find out that you are really interested. It's really me in Japan too. I thought it was true, "she says. .. "That's one of the things I really enjoy in both countries. If you're really interested in people, suddenly they really share their life with you."

But, of course, not all in the countryside, which was reflected in the type of empty building she found.

In Hokkaido, Limberg explains that many people had time to properly close up and seal the weather before leaving their homes. However, in areas like Fukushima where people rushed away, it was not uncommon to find bowls still installed or TVs still connected.

One of her personal favorite discoveries was the former theater. The sets, costumes and lights were still intact, as if the actor had just taken a lunch break and came back soon.

Some of the little houses had the most emotional punches. Limburg saw a photo of her family still stuck on the wall and wondered what happened to the people living here and what caused them to leave.

"I hope I treated the place with sufficient respect," she says.

Her favorite area was the "magical" northern island of Hokkaido.

"It's rough, sturdy, and weird," says the photographer. "We felt like we were painting an empty Edward Hopper."

"Once you start looking for empty houses," Limburg says, "they're everywhere."

"Empty house Once you start looking, it's everywhere, "says Limberg.

Maan Limburg / The Lost World


In all, Limburg is Japan I visited her about 10 times since she was a teenager.

Because she is a freelancer, she could spend a long time away and her average visit to Japan was 3 weeks. By traveling many times, she was able to see different parts of the country, and she was able to meet and connect with people she met along the way.

"The Lost World" is not just a photo book, but a homage to the country she loves and respects.