Hashima Island (端島 or Hashima) commonly called Gunkanjima (軍艦島; meaning Battleship Island), is an abandoned island lying about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city of Nagasaki. The island’s most notable features are the abandoned historical concrete buildings, undisturbed except by nature, and the surrounding sea wall.
The 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island was known for its undersea coal mines, established in 1887. The island reached a peak population of 5,259 in 1959. In 1974, with coal supplies nearing depletion, the mine was closed and all of the residents departed soon after, leaving the island effectively abandoned for the following decades.
Back in 2002 Thomas Nordanstad and CM von Hausswolff created a documentary named ‘Hasima’. Nordanstad explains the history of the island as such: “The deserted island of Gunkanjima, as it is most often called, was a coal mining colony based on an island roughly the size of a football field. This was the most densely populated place on earth before Mitsubishi, the company who owned the island, closed the operation in 1974. Upon closing they offered the population to apply for jobs on the mainland, leading to a mass-exodus within only a few days of closing its mines. Thus, the island was left as if a neutron bomb had gone through it, with people´s breakfasts remaining on the tables, bicycles leaning on the walls, and beds still unmade. It is a harrowing place.”
You can watch the documentary here
A number of collapsed exterior walls have since been restored, and since 2009 it is possible to visit the island as a tourist. Increasing interest in the island resulted in an initiative for its protection as a site of industrial heritage. The island was formally approved as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2015.
When you plan to visit Nagasaki, you should visit this island too. Though for the James Bond movie Skyfall a number of shots were taken between the buildings, as a tourist you can enter the island with a tourgroup only and view the collapsed structures from a safe distance. Nevertheless the whole island is very impressive to visit!
Just watch this next video taken with a drone and you will know why you will be impressed.
How to get there
You get there in 45 minutes by boat from Nagasaki port. There are a few touroperators selling tickets but be aware you should plan ahead and make a ticket reservation when you like to visit the island during a weekend day. Some touroperators have English websites to make a reservation more easy for you.
As we failed to make a reservation ahead for the day we wanted, we were friendly assisted by the Tourist information Center inside the train station. For us they called a number of touroperators and were able to make a reservation for next day. The tickets themselves you get at the ticket center inside the port terminal.