Monday, April 26, 2010

Battleship Island: The ultimate haikyo

Gunkanjima (Battleship island) is the nickname of Hashima, a very small uninhabited island about 15k from Nagasaki. Why that is its nickname should be obvious from this first photo.


Originally much smaller than its current size, at the end of the 19th Century coal was discovered under the island and Mitsubishi began mining. As rock was brought up from the tunnel digging it was used to expand the island and protect it with a big sea wall.


At the mine's peak in the late 1950's the island had a population of 5,300 people, which translates to a density of 216,264 people per square mile, certainly among the highest in the world.


In 1974 the mine closed and all the people moved off, and the buildings began to crumble. Incidentally, Japans first large concrete building, a 9 storey apartment block was built here.


There are regular tour boats from Nagasaki that circle the island, and since 2009 there have been tours that actually visit the island, though only a small section, fenced off, is currently accessible, but the plan is to extend the accessible sections. Photos from on the island tomorrow.


Fans of the 2012 James Bond movie "Skyfall" may think they recognize the island, and in fact it was used as a model for the lair of the villain Raoul Silva, but it was filmed on a lot at the studio in London.


  1. Strange, I had never heard about this before. I looks a bit like the island of Alcatraz in San Francisco that is alos open for visitors.

  2. domo arigato for sharing, very interesting!

  3. Hmmm - very post apocalyptic! I have to say that in this day and age, it's amazing that they could have just abandoned it. Here we would have had to have restored the island back it's original condition... or at least to a safe condition.

  4. Hi Ben
    The island was owned by Mitsubishi, the worlds biggest polluter,... corporate rights trump human and environmental rights in japan...

  5. Your photographs are lovely. Definitely want to become a follower. Linked to your blog on mine today, so let me know if you don't want me to. Will delete immediately.

  6. It's amazing really - but also very sad.

    Mitsubishi - the world's biggest polluter? To be honest, I didn't realise they were so bad - but then again, here in Australia, Mitsubishi is associated with cars and some electronics products (air con etc). Not quite the Evil Empire...

    One of the things that's sometimes easy to forget is just vertically and horizontally integrated the Japanese economy is... I am guessing you're referring to Mitsubishi Oil (isn't it called Nippon Oil these days... that run the Eneos Petrol Stations amongst other things)?

    Japan is a strange beast at times. On one hand, it's reverence for nature can be truly heart-warming, and yet at the same time, the apparent lack of concern can be disgraceful. Of course, for my Japanese wife, she would just shrug her shoulders and say that's just the way it is... and wonder why I find it hard to understand.


  7. Hi Ben
    Mitsubishi is a huge conglomerate with companies in just about every field. I think its their size that contributes to them being number 1. Actually the US military pollutes more but they arent technically a company.

  8. The island looks terrible now. A few motnhs ago I had seen some pictures from there, and definitely it was not in better conditions. This let me totally shocked.