And in Soviet Nagasaki, the block investigates us!

Generally, when someone says “there’s a little slice of Russia” in their neighborhood, they’re talking about an authentic restaurant or marketplace. But in the middle of Nagasaki City there literally is a little slice of Russia just kind of sitting there doing nothing except being a part of Russia.

It’s not really out of the way either, being in the Minami-Yamate area of Nagasaki right next to popular tourist spots like Glover Garden and the Oura Catholic Church. And yet, this was a surprise to our reporter Mariko Ohanabatake, who was born and raised here, so she decided to investigate.

▼ Oura Church

The area is a very picturesque location that overlooks the harbor, and Russia was just a three-minute walk from Glover Garden behind a wall overgrown with plants.

At first there looked to be a charming house blended in with the surrounding nature like something out of a Ghibli movie.

But upon closer inspection, it was just a bunch of makeshift shacks like something a homeless community might put together.

It was a quite elaborate gathering of shacks too, and yet they all seemed completely uninhabited.

It didn’t really fit in with the touristy allure of the rest of the area. When Mariko went around back she found one of the huts had collapsed in on itself.

There were also signs posted all around the perimeter.

Mariko found one that wasn’t overgrown and read it:

This land was registered as property of the Soviet Union under Japanese law on 19 October 1987. On 27 December 1991, the Japanese government recognized the Russian Federation and the Soviet Union as the same nation by way of continuity, and so this became the property of the Russian Federation.
Entry and use are prohibited.
Russian Ambassador to Japan Aleksandr Nikolayevich Panov, 23 August 1994″

So it was true. Mariko was standing at the border between Russia and Japan.

Normally, this kind of small-scale border is the matter of embassies and consulates, and therein lies the origins of this unusual property. Afterward, Mariko researched the history of the area and found that it was originally the site of an Imperial Russian Consulate built in 1875.

In the early days of Japan’s opening to foreign diplomacy, the port city of Nagasaki was already the biggest doorway to the outside world, so it made sense for consulates to be built there.

However, the Russian Empire fell in the revolution of 1917 and the consulate was abandoned. After World War II, Nagasaki residents who lost their homes from the war and atomic bomb built huts there to live in. It had since been used as a sort of shanty town.

Then, in 1987, the USSR suddenly had a renewed interest in the area and filed a claim of ownership with the Nagasaki District Legal Affairs Bureau who approved it. However, the USSR collapsed in 1991, so it’s unclear what they were planning to do with it.

After that, in 2000 Russia filed a lawsuit in Nagasaki District Court demanding the eviction of everyone living on their land, on the basis that ownership had carried over from the USSR to them.

It appears that the residents have complied, as neighbors told Mariko that no one has been seen living there any more. It’s probably for the best since the structures there have deteriorated to such a state that even a minor typhoon or earthquake seemed capable of leveling the entire block.

Mariko was peering in windows to see what it was like inside when suddenly a voice called out.


It was coming from inside the building but she couldn’t make out where exactly. Then, it grew louder…


Then, a stoic figure emerged from the shadows. It was a resident of this block who appeared greatly disturbed by her presence.


Mariko called out “Comrade Panov? Is that you?” But the squatter refused to answer and shot her an angry glare.

Mariko decided to call off the rest of her investigation to avoid an international incident in the event that really was the former Soviet ambassador.

▼ It’s a longshot that he was turned into a cat, but you can never be too careful these days.

Although it’s interesting that there’s an unoccupied mystery spot of Russia in the middle of Nagasaki, it’s also a huge problem waiting to happen. As we’ve seen the buildings there are quite dilapidated and on the verge of collapse.

It’s also located on a steep slope which means if the structures should suddenly give way, they will likely spill onto Japanese territory causing possible damage or injury. If that were to happen there will be an international issue of liability to deal with, made more sensitive by increasingly strained relations between the two countries. Hopefully the matter can be settled before such a thing happens.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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