Hashima Island — ghost in the sea

Hashima Island

Hashima is a small island, 480 meter long and 150 meter wide, located about 20 kilometers from Nagasaki Port. Until 1974, the island served as a coal mine, and more than 5000 residents called it home, resulting in the highest population density in history recorded worldwide. Nowadays Hashima is abandoned.

Every piece of land on Hashima Island was built up so that the island came to resemble a massive battleship. In fact, Hashima has a nickname “Gunkanjima” that means “battleship island” in Japanese. Half of the island was devoted to the workings of the mine, the other to residential space, schools, shops, restaurants, a public bath and a hospital.

Coal was first discovered on Hashima in 1810 and industrial mining began in the late 1800s, and soon after, the island was purchased by the Mitsubishi Corporation. The industrial giant increased production, expanded the island, and constructed large residential and industrial buildings as well as high sea walls.

Hashima Island

In April 1974, after oil had gained popularity, the coal mine was closed, and its residents had to leave Gunkanjima, abandoning the island. Over the years since then, the residences and mining facilities have been deteriorating, giving the island an eerie and haunting atmosphere. Due to the danger of collapsing structures, Gunkanjima was closed to the public, and for many years could only be seen from the sea.

However, in April 2009, a new boat dock and three observation decks in a small part on the southern edge of the island were constructed, which made it possible to land on Hashima. Boat tours depart from the Nagasaki Port Ferry Terminal, taking about one hour each way to travel to the island and back. The tours are the only legal way to visit the island.

Hashima Island

After landing on Hashima Island, visitors are taken to the three observation decks but not getting close to the buildings because the risk of collapse. Travelers spend about 10-15 minutes at each location, while tour guides give explanations in Japanese. Unfortunately, there is no English-speaking guides. Cruises to Hashima are operated multiple times per day. The cost is 4300 yen ($50). It is recommended to make reservations beforehand, especially for trips on weekends and holidays.

Hashima Island

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