Tuesday, July 12, 2011


A few miles off the coast of Nagasaki city lies the abandoned island of Hashima, more commonly known as Gunkanjima or "Battleship Island." The nickname stems from the small island (an area of only 63,000 square meters) being surrounded with sea-walls and being built up with concrete apartment buildings- making it really look like a battleship from the distance.

Coal was mined on the island from 1810- 1974. Until 1890 the mining had been minimal, but it soon after became under the control of Mistubishi which turned it into a full-scale operation. As more and more workers and their families moved to the island, the population started to grow. The first multi-story concrete apartment in Japan was built on Gunkanjima and was followed by many more apartments, a school, a hospital and many more buildings. The facilities served to accommodate the 5,300 people living there, that's almost 12 people per square meter. That's a lot of people for such a small space- we're talking a population density nine times that of the Tokyo at the time.

In 1974, with the demand for coal dwindling the mine closed and the island was abandoned and left to the elements. Over the years it has deteriorated and now looks like a war zone. They recently opened part of the island for tourists. It's very closed off and everyone must stay on the path (there are workers everywhere keeping an eye on you), but it's still really cool. The tour guide not only had old photos to show but shared an insider's knowledge of the island because he had lived there as a child. It really is just a huge pile of broken down buildings and rubble, but looks really fun. It was would be fun, but treacherous, to walk around the whole island.

There are huge concrete walls surrounding the island. These were once used to protect from the huge waves that would crash on the island during typhoons, reaching up to 20 meters! Apparently, the used to stand and watch the waves crash as a form of entertainment.

It was really interesting to see and would highly recommend seeing it.

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