Gunkanjima: the ghost island

Hashima, one of Nagasaki prefecture’s 505 deserted island, in Japan, is a creepy and charming place, destination of an usual kind of adventurous and alternative turism.

The island is also known as Gunkanjima, which means “battleship”, due to the appearance of its profile on the Ocean: a grey and decadent island surrounded by a concrete wall, with buildings on the brink of collapse outlining the shape of large warship. This mysterious island was built on an important coal mine (owned by Mitsubishi) which, between 1887 and 1974, contributed heavily to Nagasaki’s energy production. It was such an important mining centre that there were built apartments for the miners, and schools, hospitals, gyms, cinemas, bars, restaurants and shops for their families. Japan’s first buildings in reinforced concrete were built there, as defence against the frequent typhoons hitting the area. In 1959 the island came to be the place with the highest population density in the world, with 3.450 inhabitants per square kilometre. The apartments were like monks’ cells, narrow and suffocating, and the inhabitants were divided in “classes”: unmarried or married miners, and Mitsubishi managers and teachers, who could even have the luxury of a private kitchen and bathroom. Hashima’s survival depended entirely on the supplies from the mainland, so if a typhoon hit the island its inhabitants had to try and survive for days before the successive cargo ship.

In its period of fullest activity, the island produced 410.000 tons of coal every year, an intense rhythm kept at the expanse of human life. For this reason, mostly Corean and Chinese prisoners were employed in the mine. Many lost their lives due to starvation or bad hygienic conditions. Here’s an excerpt from the account of Suh Jung-Woo, a Corean who was forced to work on the island interviewed in 1983:
“Even with such a exhausting work, our meals consisted for the 80% of beans and 20% boiled rice with a few sardines. I suffered from diarrhoea almost every day, and gradually my forces abandoned me. I tried to rest, but the guards would come and force me to work…I don’t know how many times I thought about throwing myself into the sea to drown…Forty or fifty of my Corean companions committed suicide or drowned trying to swim to Takahama. I can’t swim. But I was lucky. After five months I was transferred to the Mitsubishi Saiwai-Machi factory in Nagasaki, and thus managed to leave the island. If I had remained there, I wouldn’t be alive now. Now they call the place “Battleship island”, but for us it was “Prison Island”, with no way to escape.”
Hashima Island was abandoned after petroleum started to substitute coal as source of energy. Since 1974, Gunkanjima is a ghost town
Even tough it was a place of suffering and death, Hashima now represents an important place in Japan’s post-war development’s history. The island is today a cemetery of buildings on the brink of collapse, but, maybe because of this ghostly charm, it’s a destination for urban exploration enthusiasts and film directors. It’s been the set for such movies like “Battle Royale II: Requiem” (2003) and “Inception” (2010), and for the music video “My Lonely Town” of Japanese rock band B’z. In 2009 it has also made an appearance in BBC’s documentary “Life after people”.
In 2005 a few journalist were permitted access to the island and then the world has come to know of the existence of this incredible place. Up to 2009 setting foot in this ghost town was punished with imprisonment but, in that year’s April, part of the island was opened for visitors, even if, due to sea conditions, it’s possible to reach it only for 160 days a year.
Those who’d like to take on this adventurous trip on the ghost island can take a look at this site, unfortunately only in Japanese: Gunkanjima website. For additional information in English, visit the site Gunkanjima mini-tour.

Image gallery on original post.

Other link:

( Translation by Marco Salvadori )

No comments:

Post a Comment

I commenti non verranno pubblicati immediatamente perchè saranno moderati. Non verranno accettati insulti, post di carattere politico o non attinenti all'argomento del post o del blog in generale.