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Battleship Island is really called Hashima

View of Gunkanjima

Hashima island is commonly known as ‘Gunkanjima’, or ‘Battleship Island’ in Japanese. It is abandoned and located near Nagasaki, Kyushu. The island was once a symbol of the rapid industrialisation of Japan and was built as an undersea mining operation.

Why Battleship Island was built

Before the island got its name,  surveys carried out by the Mitsubishi Corporation discovered huge quantities of coal in its subsoil. Following development, thousands of people came to work here despite the precarious and risky working conditions, attracted by the promising wages offered by the company.

The working conditions were poor and the miners were constantly blackened by the extraction dust, which frequently caused respiratory diseases. Nonetheless, many young people, hoping to build a future for themselves and their families, were attracted here by wages equivalent to ten+ times greater than the average. It is said that the inhabitants of Gunkanjima were among the first in the post-war period to be able to afford washing machines, refrigerators, and televisions in their homes, then still considered luxury goods.

Abandoned buildings on Hashima Island

Since the island was purchased by Mitsubishi Corporation in 1890, it was transformed with the construction of modern buildings and conveniences such as schools, a hospital, restaurants, a cinema etc. The island reached a peak population of 5,000 people in 1959.

However, the resources there eventually ran out and,  in April 1974, the mine was permanently closed. Its residents subsequently left the island, which stayed abandoned for the next three decades.

Nature reclaiming the abandoned buildings

Seeing Battleship Island now

Since April 2009, the island has become a popular tourist destination. Several companies offer sightseeing boat tours and you can even walk among the abandoned buildings.. The coal mine of the island was formally approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015.

Why don't you go to Gunkanjima to discover its history? It's highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of Japan.


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