Conventional reasoning dictates that a building cannot qualify as abandoned if it still has inhabitants. After gazing up at the towering mess that is the World Kaikan, however, I’m no longer sure that such logic applies.
For over half a century, the World Kaikan has loomed over the back streets of Nakano, a five story edifice of decayed mystery whose very secrets have been eaten by the worms of time. Abandoned neon signs litter the grounds like the toppled gravestones of businesses that failed long ago. The front entrance is flanked by mounds of ripe garbage to the left and the fossilized remains of abandoned bikes to the right. Mutant cats dart through the rusted underbrush as if spying for their necromantic masters who stir within the crypt.
Hino Hideshi's pet cat.
Even vagrants know better than to stay out of its unsettling underground. The stairs are left unguarded for those with enough gall to brave the musty basement. Down here, door frames grow organically from the wall like fungus, derelict bars remain suspiciously intact, and a phantasmal old woman purportedly stalks the bathroom. The lights illuminate the sickly checkerboard pattern on the floor, which terminates at the mouth of a hallway swallowed by the darkness.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE WORLD KAIKAN
1) Urban legend has it that the building was a hotel in its past life, a theory given credence by the piles of rotting furniture that line the stairs. Rusted box springs poke their heads through the debris like the first flower after a nuclear winter.
This ancient unicycle is one of the building's more benign mysteries.
2) The remaining pubs and watering holes evolved to survive the harsh conditions surrounding the building. Darwin would be delighted by Vow, a bar run by an ordained monk (Jodo Shinshu, if you're keeping track,) where you can imbibe in a sutra-specific cocktail while ingesting the words of the Buddha.
There is also Dio, the Jojo's Bizarre Adventure themed bar. If you need an explanation as to what Dio is doing at The World Kaikan, then navigating the Stance-themed menu would be muda muda!
3) Kuroki Kaoru, 80's porn starlet famous for her au naturel underarms and no-nonsense public persona, attempted suicide in 1994 after ditching director and collaborator Toru Muranishi when the bum refused to pay out her fair share of the profits. She survived the plunge from a building that is only described as "a hotel in Nakano."
Considering that a person could survive a five-story fall, and coupled with eyewitness reports of a burnt-out Kuroki wandering the halls of Broadway like a reject from The Ring, it stands to reason that The World Kaikan could have been the very building that she threw herself from.
4) The previous building owner ran away overnight with his family back to Taiwan, their room on the top floor untouched since. Rumors would have you believe that the yakuza got to him first, and that his rotting skeleton now inhabits the broken elevator. The only legitimate residents these days are Korean exchange students living in a makeshift dorm converted from the hotel rooms on the top floor.
Shinjuku has Golden Street, its shanty town of old-timey bars thick with the ambiance of the good ‘ol days of post-war poverty and the national zeitgeist fueling Japan’s rise to the top. The Nakano equivalent could be called Bronze Street—Tarnished, third-rate, yet beautifully compelling in its decay. The World Kaikan stands as the frayed banner that other ramshackle buildings rally under. Around it you can find storefronts whose broken windows are mended by crumbling movie fliers and whose doorsteps echo with the footfalls of more vibrant times.
The old hands who remain have seen Nakano's rise as the country's busiest shopping center to it's fall at the hands of subsequent stylish, youth-oriented districts. Yet the World Kaikan still maintains watchful vigilance as a reminder of a time when consumerism meshed seamlessly with the community. Broadway itself is a living museum, and it's curators call these rusted streets home, with all roads running to the World Kaikan.