Hashima Island: The Hidden Jewel of Japan

Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima or Battleship Island, is a small island located off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture in Japan. Despite its small size, it has a rich history and unique culture that draws tourists from all over the world. In this article, we’ll explore the history of Hashima Island, what makes it so special, and what you can expect when you visit.

Hashima Island
Battle-Ship Island in Nagasaki, Japan | Credit: kntrty
Map of Hashima Island. Google Maps

History of Hashima Island

Densely populated, high-rise buildings appeared on the island during its flourishing period. Photo: Gunkanjima Digital Museum

Hashima Island’s history dates back to the late 1800s, when it was discovered to be rich in coal. In 1890, the Mitsubishi Corporation began mining operations on the island, which continued for over 80 years. During this time, the island’s population grew rapidly as workers and their families moved to the island in search of work.

Hashima circa 1930 | Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Part of Hashima Island from above, 1948. The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

The island’s unique shape, resembling a battleship, earned it the nickname “Battleship Island.” At its peak, Hashima Island had a population density of over 83,500 people per square kilometer, making it one of the most densely populated places on earth.

The last inhabitants left the island | Credit: Gunkanjima Digital Museum

In the 1970s, as Japan began to shift away from coal as a primary energy source, the island’s population began to decline. By 1974, the Mitsubishi Corporation had closed the mine, and the island was abandoned. For nearly 30 years, the island was left to deteriorate, with nature slowly reclaiming the land.

What Makes Hashima Island Special?

Today, Hashima Island is a popular destination for tourists looking to explore its history and unique culture. The island has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in recent years, it has been the focus of several documentaries and movies.

Google Street View of the abandoned coal factory at Hashima | Credit: Kevin Dooley
Gunkanjima Hashima Japan – Photo on Pixabay

What makes Hashima Island so special is its unique blend of history and natural beauty. The island’s abandoned buildings and infrastructure provide a glimpse into what life was like on the island during its heyday as a coal-mining community. Visitors can explore the island’s narrow streets, abandoned buildings, and towering concrete structures, all while taking in stunning views of the surrounding sea.

Nagasaki Hashima (端島) | Credit: Ronald Woan

But Hashima Island is more than just an abandoned ghost town. The island’s unique blend of Japanese and Western culture, a result of its close ties to the Mitsubishi Corporation, is evident in its architecture and design. The island’s buildings feature a mix of Japanese and European styles, with many of the buildings boasting intricate tile work, stained glass windows, and ornate metalwork.

What to Expect When You Visit Hashima Island

If you’re planning a visit to Hashima Island, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, the island is only accessible by boat, and there are only a limited number of tours available each day. It’s recommended that you book your tour in advance to ensure that you’re able to visit the island on your desired date.

The island seen from above

Once you arrive on the island, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the island’s abandoned buildings and infrastructure. Visitors are free to wander the island at their own pace, but it’s important to stay within designated areas for safety reasons.

Out of the 71 buildings on the island, not all of them are accessible to visitors. Only the open area on the left side of the island is permitted for guided tours.

One of the highlights of any visit to Hashima Island is a tour of the island’s abandoned coal mine. The mine was once the lifeblood of the island, and visitors can explore its narrow tunnels and underground chambers, which have been preserved since the mine’s closure in 1974.

Another must-see attraction on Hashima Island is the island’s observation deck, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding sea and nearby islands. From here, visitors can take in stunning views of the island’s unique landscape, which features towering concrete structures and narrow alleyways.

In Conclusion

Hashima Island is a hidden jewel of Japan, a small island with a rich history and unique culture that draws tourists from all over the world. Its history as a coal-mining community, its unique blend of Japanese and Western culture, and its stunning natural beauty make it a must-see destination for anyone visiting Japan.

But it’s important to remember that Hashima Island is more than just a tourist attraction. The island’s history is a reminder of the harsh conditions that many workers faced during Japan’s rapid industrialization. The island’s abandoned buildings and infrastructure serve as a haunting reminder of the toll that coal mining took on the island’s workers and their families.

Despite this, Hashima Island remains an important part of Japan’s history and a testament to the resilience of its people. For anyone interested in exploring Japan’s rich history and unique culture, a visit to Hashima Island is a must.

In summary, Hashima Island is a unique and fascinating destination that offers visitors a glimpse into Japan’s rich history and unique culture. Its abandoned buildings and infrastructure provide a haunting reminder of the harsh conditions that coal miners faced in Japan’s rapid industrialization. But it’s also a place of natural beauty and stunning views, with its unique blend of Japanese and Western architecture and design. If you’re planning a trip to Japan, make sure to add Hashima Island to your itinerary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *