For lovers of desolate landscapes and the living history of Japan, a visit to Hashima Island is quite an experience. The island was abandoned more than 40 years ago and is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Join us on this tour of one of the most famous ghost islands in the world.
The origin of Hashima Island
With an area of 72,000 m², Hashima Island is one of more than 500 uninhabited islands in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture. This small territory had numerous coal deposits. Therefore, in 1900, the Japanese corporation Mitsubishi began to extract this mineral that would consolidate the industrialization process of the entire country.
Due to this, the island began to grow exponentially not only in population, but also in wealth and infrastructure. Its development was quite complex due to its small space. And we are not only talking about housing buildings for workers, but about schools, restaurants, shops and even gambling houses.
To this was added the construction of a large wall to protect it from the strong storms in the area. For this reason, the island began to be known by the name of Gunkanjima or Armored, due to its resemblance to a warship. It would also be known as Midori nashi Shima, or the island without green, because of the massive construction.
In 1950 the island reached its maximum growth, with a population of more than 6,000 people. This fact classified it as the territory with the highest population density on the planet.
Finally, the Mitsubishi company itself formally declared the closure of the mine. Following the announcement, the residents left the island completely abandoned. Some Nagasaki rulers planned to turn it into a landfill, but the idea would later be denied in favor of its conservation.
A visit to Hashima
Getting to Hashima Island is very easy. We will only have to hire one of the many excursions that depart from Nagasaki. The trip, which is done by boat, lasts 30 minutes. Once on the island, the guides will take us on a safe tour full of landscapes typical of science fiction and mystery. So much so that we believe we are going through a post-apocalyptic world.
The path is carried out, for most of the route, through elevated walkways located near the points of greatest interest. From them we will be able to observe large crooked beams, collapsed buildings and we will see how the vegetation has taken over the area little by little.
During the visit they will tell us the history of the people who populated the island, mostly miners, and how they lived together in such a small space. We can also enter one of the shafts of the coal mine and photograph the remains of the work, as well as the work tools of the miners.
In fact, thanks to interest in the island, Hashima was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 5, 2015 as one of the key territories during Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.
Some curious facts about the island
The island, after being listed as a World Heritage Site, has been the scene of one of the famous James Bond films, specifically Skyfall , filmed in 2012. Hashima was, during the narration of the film, the home and lair of the villain of the saga.
As if that were not enough, it has also been included as one of the maps of the famous game Minecraft. It was completely recreated by an amateur user in 2018, at 1: 1 scale. It took him a whole year to elaborate every element of it in great detail, from the streets to the great walls and abandoned buildings.
However, the island is at risk of collapse due to heavy damage to its structure due to humidity and lack of maintenance. Therefore, since 2011, Takafumi Noguchi’s team has been working on the study and condition of it to preserve it. He and his team work with the support of National Geographic to conserve this ghost island of Japan stopped in time.