VICE has this awesome piece on Japan’s Hashima Island.
An hour or so’s sail from the port of Nagasaki, the abandoned island silently crumbles. A former coal mining facility owned by Mitsubishi Motors, it was once the most densely populated place on earth, packing over 13,000 people into each square kilometre of its residential high-risers. It operated from 1887 until 1974, after which the coal industry fell into decline and the mines were shut for good. With their jobs gone and no other reason to stay in this mini urban nightmare, almost overnight the entire population fled back to the mainland, leaving most of their stuff behind to rot.
Today it is illegal to go anywhere near the place as it’s beyond restoration and totally unsafe. The Japanese Government aren’t keen to draw unwanted attention to this testament to the hardship of the country’s post-war industrial revolution either.
“Battleship Island” is an English translation of the Japanese nickname for Hashima Island, Gunkanjima (gunkan meaning “battleship”, jima being the rendaku form of shima). The island’s nickname came from its apparent resemblance to the Japanese battleship Tosa due to its high seawalls. It also is known as the Ghost Island. It is known for its coal mines and their operation during the industrialization of Japan. Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 and began the project, the aim of which was retrieving coal from the bottom of the sea. They built Japan’s first large concrete building, a block of apartments in 1916 to accommodate their burgeoning ranks of workers, and to protect against typhoon destruction.
In 1959, its population density was 835 people per hectare (83,500 people/km2) for the whole island, or 1,391 per hectare (139,100 people/km2) for the residential district, the highest population density ever recorded worldwide. As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima’s mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine in 1974, and today it is empty and bare, which is why it’s called the Ghost Island. Travel to Hashima was re-opened on April 22nd, 2009 after more than 20 years of closure.
Reopening of the island for tourism
Source: Mainichi Daily News
The long abandoned “Battleship Island,” once a bustling coal mining settlement, will be reopened to the general public. Those wishing to visit the island should apply to the Nagasaki Municipal Government at 095-829-1152. Tickets are 150 yen for primary school-aged children, and 300 yen for those of junior high school age and older. The Yamasa Kaiun maritime transport company also conducts cruises to the island, including a trip ashore, out of Nagasaki harbor. Interested parties can contact the company at 095-822-5002.