Battleship Island - 📍Hashima, Nagasaki
View of Gunkanjima
Hashima Island is commonly called ‘Gunkanjima’, meaning ‘Battleship Island’ in Japanese. It is an abandoned small island located about 20 km from Nagasaki on the main island of Kyushu. The island was once a symbol of the rapid industrialization of Japan and a world-class undersea mining operation.
After some surveys carried out by the Mitsubishi Corporation discovered huge quantities of coal in its subsoil, thousands of people came to work here despite the precarious and risky working conditions, mostly attracted by the promising wages offered by the company.
The working conditions were often exhausting, and the miners were constantly blackened by the extraction dust, which frequently caused diseases of the respiratory system. Nonetheless, many young people, hoping to build a future for themselves and their families by undergoing hard work for a few years, were attracted here by wages equivalent to ten and over times greater than the most common wages. 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.
Since this uninhabited island was purchased by the Mitsubishi Corporation in 1890, it was transformed with 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, as one can imagine, the mineral resources would not have been eternal, and starting in April 1974, the mine was permanently closed. The residents had to leave Gunkanjima, abandoning the island with all its constructions for the next three decades.
Nature reclaiming the abandoned buildings
Since April 2009, the island has become a popular tourist destination. Several companies offer sightseeing tour boats and allow one to land on Gunkanjima. 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 the battleship island history?! It's highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of Japan!