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Gunkanjima: The Infamous Abandoned Island of Japan

Gunkanjima: The Infamous Abandoned Island of Japan

The Hashima island of Japan, nicknamed 'Gunkanjima', is an abandoned island located near Nagasaki. Once a coal mining facility, it was one of the most densely populated places on Earth. However, in 1974, it was evacuated, with not a single soul left behind. This Vacayholics article explores why everyone left this island, for the buildings to decay, and what stories surround it.
Neha B Deshpande
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2018
Did You Know?
In the James Bond movie 'Skyfall', the villain Raoul Silva's hiding place was a replica of Hashima Island.
How far can man go and exploit nature for money? One such example was Hashima island, one of the many islands under Nagasaki Prefecture of Japan. It served as a coal mining facility, and was populated by the miners and their families. However, any industry is subject to abrupt changes, and we cannot predict what will happen next in a market which is subject to so many technological changes. Hashima Island fell victim to industry changes, and was abandoned, leaving behind the building structures to rot in the hands of nature.

The island has other names too. It was nicknamed 'Gunkanjima', which literally means 'battleship' in Japanese. That is because, the shape of the island appears similar to a battleship. It was also known as 'Midori nashi Shima', meaning the 'island without green'. The land was purchased by Mitsubishi in 1890, as a coal excavation site, and was inhabited by over 5,000 workers and residents. It was once known as the most densely populated place on Earth. In fact, the population density was almost 10 times of Tokyo.
gunkanjima island panorama view
A panorama view of Hashima Island
Interesting Facts About Hashima Island
Why Was Hashima Island Abandoned?
Hashima Island is located around 10 miles from the city of Nagasaki, in southern Japan. It served as a coal mining facility, and was home to miners and their families. During the 1960s, coal was replaced with petroleum, hence, many of them decided to abandon the island. Coal mining became an expensive activity, and the change in consumer preferences hit the company badly, which is why they decided to stop the mining activity there.

Since then, it also came to be known as the 'ghost island'. Today, the island remains desolate and in a pitiable condition, destroyed by typhoons, wind, and rain. Once booming with residents, a major change in the mining industry destroyed the future of this island. In 1974, Mitsubishi officially closed the site, and the residents vacated from there. The site is now crumbling down; however, today, it is officially open for tourists, though with limited access. All that is left now are the ruins of the buildings that look battered due to harsh climatic conditions. The island had a school, theater, and other facilities. The belongings of the inhabitants still lie there - some of them have even left behind their television sets, books, etc. Access to the island was closed from 1974 to 2009; however, it was opened for tourism in 2009.
Is Hashima Island Really Haunted?
Some say it is haunted. Of course, an abandoned land surrounded by giant waves is certain to look creepy. Also, it is said that, some people were forced into working as laborers for the coal-mining activity there. During World War II, many Chinese and Koreans were forced into labor at this site. It was a dangerous activity, and it is said that, many lost their lives in the bargain. Whether it is indeed haunted or not is unknown, but it does have a history of workers working in extreme conditions, with many having perished on the site itself.
The Island as a Tourist Spot
During the summers, the rough sea might make it difficult to disembark here. Hence, it might be possible that you do not get to see the island. On the other hand, it is preferable to visit it during the winters, since there are higher chances of nature being conducive to reach the island. It was opened for tourism in 2009. Of course, visitors are not allowed to venture out on their own, since the ruins of the buildings are in a very dangerous state. Visitors are allowed to witness the view through a fence. In short, it is advisable to plan your trip considering the weather conditions prevalent.
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As humans disappear, leaving their belongings behind, our planet Earth looks creepier. Be it war, industry collapse, disasters, or nature, mankind has been forced to leave many habitats often. Civilizations usually flourish and expand, however, when they leave an area behind to be dissolved in time, what is left of it stands as a scary memory of moments of those who breathed in there. Every building structure has its own story - stories of people who lived in them, and even if they're gone the stories remain forever. As far as Hashima Island is considered, it stands isolated in the waters of the ocean, bearing testimony of its history. Japan has been long wanting to have its name registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you love history and don't mind being adventurous, this place is certainly worth a visit.