Hashima island
The Tour of Hashima by Joe Hsu, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hashima island is an island situated about 15 kilometers from Nagasaki. It is covered in concrete buildings and has been uninhabited since 1974. Although now abandoned, it was once the home for about 5.000 miners.

Another popular name for the island is ‘battleship island’. Viewed from a certain angle, the island resembles a battleship silhouette.

Creation

At around 1810, coal was discovered on the island. In 1890, Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha bought the island and starting mining the coal from undersea mines. From then on, the island underwent a formidable transformation. Seawalls were built and because of land reclamation, the island nearly tripled in size.

Apartment blocks
Nagasaki Hashima Island (端島) Gunkajima Tour by Ronald Woan, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Apartment blocks were erected to house the workers. But also a school, hospital, town hall, a cinema, shops, … In short, they built a small city on the island. Concrete was the favorite building material, because it gave the best protection against typhoons.

The island reached it’s highest population in 1959, counting some 5.259 inhabitants.

Dark history

Hashima island certainly has its dark side… From 1930 till the end of World War 2, Korean and Chinese laborers were forced the work under harsh conditions. An estimated 1.300 people lost their lives during this period because of accidents and malnutrition.

Downfall

At round the 1960’s, petroleum started replacing coal in Japan. A lot of coal mines started closing across the country. Mitsubishi decided to close down the coal mines on Hashima island in January 1970,  and at the end of april the same year, all inhabitants had left the island.

Current state

The island is regarded as some sort of a time capsule. A lot of buildings are in a poor state, some have even collapsed because of typhoon activity. But others have stood the test of time very well. Many buildings still contain objects from back in the day, such as furniture, soda bottles, even black and white televisions.

Mitsubishi remained owner of the island before handing it over to the city Nagasaki in 2002. In 2009, about 5% of the island was opened for tourism. The rest of the island is too dangerous for public access.

Concreet buildings
Gunkanjima, Japan by blackyuuki, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
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