August 12, 2012
An abandoned ghost island in the South of Japan
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on August 2012
Gunkanjima, Hashima Island
Hashima Island has two nicknames: Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) and Prison Island. The first nickname is because of its haunted battleship looking appearance. Among explorers this nickname has become much more popular than its original name.
The second nickname, Prison Island, references the severe working conditions on the island when it was a major coal mining facility during Japan’s industrialization, as well as the forcible use of Korean workers during World War II. The population on Hashima Island peaked in 1959 at 5,259, with a population density of 835 people per hectare. At the same time, the demand for coal was rapidly decreasing and in 1974, the whole island was abandoned.
Walking among the buildings, the huge concrete apartment blocks—the first-ever built in Japan—are tall and futuristic. Stairways which connected the buildings hang in the air, and the whole construction is so complicated that you always end up somewhere unexpected.
Unfortunately, nowadays the only way to get on Gunkanjima is through the official tour. And for safety reasons, you can only have a remote peek of the buildings from the outside.
Nagasaki. From Tokyo, seven and a half hours by train (¥25,000) to Nagasaki. Tour boats can be found at Nagasaki Port, which cost ¥4,000. Advance booking is recommended.