Gunkanjima is an abandoned island in Nagasaki prefecture. The island is famed for its unbelievable appearance: surrounded by a sea wall, it is an entire abandoned city with huge concrete buildings. The islandís original name is Hashima but itís better known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because it looks like a military warship. It became even better known after a digital version featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall.
Gunkanjima became an UNESCO World Heritage on July 5th 2015.
Iíve had the chance to visit Gunkanjima a few times in recent years. Hereís how the island looks when you are about to land.
Official Tour & Unofficial Tour
There is an official Gunkanjima Tour (like this), but youíll be restricted to the area shown below in purple. Youíll need permission from Nagasaki prefecture (and a specific project, written in Japanese). This isnít easy to get nowadays but of course itís worth it.
Iíve written a few pieces on Gunkanjima in separate articles and this is a summary. Donít miss my night walk and the interview with a former resident of Gunkanjima.
What is Gunkanjima
Gunkanjima was an undersea coal mine located on an island, bought by Mitsubishi in 1890 from a feudal lord. Mine shafts were dug, a village was constructed and some land was reclaimed. The island grew in size. The first apartment building (Block 30) was completed in 1916 Ė reinforced concrete had arrived in Japan. The village quickly became a city that looks like a monstrous maze of concrete. In 1959, this small island had the highest population density on Earth: 5,259 residents (7,301 people/km2)! But as petroleum began to replace coal the miners and other residents began to leave the island, which finally closed down in 1974. Mitsubishi handed it over to Nagasaki in 2001 and since 2009 it has been open for public tours. In 2015, Nagasaki announced that the main buildings of Gunkanjima are to be maintained, with a view to being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
My First Visit
I first visited the island in 2010. It was only for an hour, all I could negotiate at the time, but I made the most of the time running around. The result isnít pretty but was a lot of fun. To make it more interesting I added some history. Here it is: A One Hour Adventure on Gunkanjima.
Gunkanjima: First Trip
Gunkanjima: The First Visit
Gunkanjima: Movie Theater
The Block 65
One of the most popular aspects of Gunkanjima seems to be the huge concrete apartment building called Block 65. Recognize one of the scenes from the Skyfall movie? Iíll take you to explore those apartments here: Block 65.
Gunkanjima: Block 65 Ultra Wide
The school, one of the first places you discover when you reach the forbidden area, is one of my favourites. Discover it here: The School of Gunkanjima.
Gunkanjima: Crying Piano
Gunkanjima: Teacherís Room
Doutoku Sakamotoís Memories
I met and explored Gunkanjima with a former resident, Doutoku Sakamoto. He loves this island with all his heart and is one of the official guides. I asked him to tag along with me and my friends and he kindly took us to the places he loves. Discover his interview here: The Memories of Doutoku Sakamoto.
Gunkanjima: Through History
A Maze of Streets and Stairs
Everything can be found in this abandoned city: two schools, shops, hospital, prison, swimming pool, cinema, gymnasium, all tightly squeezed into a very confined space. More here : A Maze of Streets & Hellish Staircases
Gunkanjima: Stairway To Hell
The Student of Gunkanjima
Between Hell & Paradise
Gunkanjima is not loved by everyone. It has many painful stories to tell as well as happy moments. Letís explore these contrasts here: Gunkanjima: Between Hell & Paradise.
Gunkanjima: The Chair
Gunkanjima: The Heart of the Hellship
Gunkanjima: Hair Salon
Gunkanjima by night
One of my favourite moments was a stroll on the island by night, warmed only by some sake. Follow my walk here: Gunkanjima by night.
Gunkanjima: Mine by Night
Gunkanjima: Block 65 at Night
Gunkanjima: Streets by Night
The Shrine, The Mine, The Hospital
Iíll soon be writing about those three special places but meanwhile Iím looking out more interesting and surprising details. To avoid missing any new posts, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.
Gunkanjima: My Love
I hope you enjoyed my special tour of Gunkanjima! If you are interested in such locations I suggest you to have a look at my book Abandoned Japan. It is available in pre-order here: Abandoned Japan. I also have a collection of photos of Gunkanjima here: Gunkanjima ‚ÄĘ ŤĽćŤČ¶Ś≥∂ - Jordy Meow. Thank you!
Posted in Gunkanjima, Urbex. Tagged abandoned, best-of.
Updated on July 5, 2015.
Written by Jordy Meow. Gunkanjima: Photos & Stories | Totoro Times
Hashima Island (端島 or Hashima ó -shima is a Japanese suffix for island?), commonly called Gunkanjima (軍艦島; meaning Battleship Island), is an abandoned island lying about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city of Nagasaki, in southern Japan. It is one of 505 uninhabited islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. The island's most notable features are the abandoned and undisturbed concrete apartment buildings and the surrounding sea wall.
The island was known for its undersea coal mines, established in 1887, which operated during the industrialization of Japan. In 1959, the 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island's population reached its peak of 5,259. The mine was closed in 1974, and all of the residents left the island soon after. Due to lack of maintenance several buildings have collapsed since, and other buildings are subject to breakage. However, certain collapsed exterior walls have been restored.
The interest for the island re-emerged in 2000s among enthusiasts for ruins, and they gradually became a tourist attraction of a sort. Travel to Hashima was re-opened for tourists on April 22, 2009. Increased interest in the island resulted in an initiative for its protection as a site of industrial heritage. In 2008, the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs added it along with other industrial properties to the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage approval. The island was formally approved as UNESCO World Heritage side in July 2015, as part of Japan's "Sites of Japanís Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining
The island featured in a 2009 episode of History Channel's Life After People.