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Red Villa

The remote villages in Japan are full of secrets and abandoned houses. In Kanto area, wealthy families used to build houses with a western look as if the country had been a colony once. Today, those abandoned houses hold a very particular aura and they have their share of stories.

The Red Villa was found next to a lake in Ibaraki Prefecture, surrounded by a wild bamboo groove. Through it, I had my first sight of this beautiful villa built in 1922.

We were welcomed by a scary doll at the entrance and an antique phone. This was the ground floor, consisting of a dining room and a kitchen almost beyond recognition. There are a few TVs around which surely indicates that the family was quite a wealthy one. They have multiple photos of themselves around, happily enjoying their life or posing for the camera. It seems like it was a big family, probably three generations living at the same place.

We went up and found the second floor even more interesting. There are bedrooms and a nice balcony with a big comfy looking chair, an ideal place for a nap. But the real secret of this house is located inside a very little room located in the back of the main bedroom. Behind teared-up black curtains, we discovered a little laboratory. On the bottles around, we could read Kodak Sodium Carbonate and Dry Plate boxes next to them. This was an ancient darkroom!

There were many documents, letters written in English, developed photos and dry plates which are like negatives. We put them in front of the window and we could discover many photos of the house, family reunions, people playing together and a lot of pornography. The photographer living here had definitely a lot of fun experiencing many different styles.
The house became a haikyo during the 80’s. I do not know why it got abandoned but I am pretty certain that the clue is still inside the house, awaiting for someone to discover it.


– the ancien dark-room


  • 1922 – 1983