Gunkanjima Island (Map)

Gunkanjima Island, also known as Hashima Island, is a haunting yet fascinating destination located off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.

The island’s nickname, “Gunkanjima,” translates to “Battleship Island,” reflecting its silhouette which resembles a battleship.

Once a bustling coal mining facility, Gunkanjima is now an eerie ghost town, offering a unique glimpse into Japan’s industrial past.

This article will guide you through the island’s most intriguing sights, providing a comprehensive map to help you navigate this remarkable destination. So keep reading!

About the desolated island

A Brief History of Gunkanjima

Gunkanjima’s history dates back to 1887 when coal was first discovered on the island.

Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890, developing it into a thriving coal mining community. At its peak in the 1950s, Gunkanjima was home to over 5,000 residents, making it one of the most densely populated places on Earth.

“Gunkanjima” (or “Battleship Island” because of its shape) is an abandoned island built by Mitsubishi corporation. Its sole purpose was to house 5000 residents there to work in its coal mine for 100 years.
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However, as Japan shifted to petroleum as its primary energy source, coal mines began to shut down, leading to the island’s abandonment in 1974.

Today, Gunkanjima stands as a stark reminder of Japan’s rapid industrialization and its subsequent decline.

Must-Visit Sites on Gunkanjima Island

Gunkanjima Island
3D view of the island via Google Earth

While exploring the island, don’t miss out the following destinations:

1. The Landing Pier

Your journey begins at the landing pier, the only entry point for tourists. This pier, reconstructed for safety, provides the first glimpse of the island’s decaying structures. From here, you can see the towering apartment blocks and other remnants of the mining community, setting the tone for the rest of your visit.

2. The Seawall and Perimeter Walk

Encircling the island is a concrete seawall built to protect the island from typhoons. Walking along the seawall offers panoramic views of the abandoned buildings and the ocean. This walk is a powerful reminder of the island’s isolation and the challenges faced by its former inhabitants.

3. Apartment Blocks

One of the most striking features of Gunkanjima is its high-rise apartment blocks. These buildings, some of Japan‘s first concrete high-rises, housed the island’s residents. Now, their empty windows and crumbling facades create an eerie atmosphere, illustrating the rapid decay that set in after the island was abandoned.

4. The School

Gunkanjima once had a school for the children of the miners. Visiting the school site, you can imagine the echoes of children’s laughter and the daily routines of a once vibrant community. The deteriorated classrooms and hallways evoke a sense of nostalgia and melancholy.

5. The Coal Mining Facilities

The heart of Gunkanjima was its coal mining operations. The remains of the mining facilities, including the towering shaft and the industrial equipment, tell the story of the island’s primary industry. These structures are a testament to the hard labor and ingenuity that fueled Japan’s economy during the industrial era.

6. Observation Decks

There are several observation decks strategically placed around the island, providing visitors with safe vantage points to view the decaying structures up close. These decks are essential for capturing photographs and appreciating the scale of the island’s abandonment.

Gunkanjima Island
3D view of Gunkanjima Island via Google Earth

Tips for Visiting Gunkanjima Island

The following are the things to consider while visiting Gunkanjima Island:

AspectDetails
Guided ToursThe only way to visit Gunkanjima is through guided tours, which are regulated for safety reasons. These tours provide valuable historical context and ensure visitors’ safety while exploring the island.
Weather ConsiderationsTours can be canceled due to rough sea conditions, so it’s best to check the weather forecast and tour availability in advance.
PhotographyGunkanjima is a photographer’s dream, but remember to follow tour guidelines and respect restricted areas to ensure your safety.
Respect the SiteAs a site of historical significance and a former home to many, it’s important to treat Gunkanjima with respect, preserving its integrity for future generations.
Tips for Visiting Gunkanjima Island

FAQs

Why is it called Battleship Island?

The island’s silhouette, with its dense clusters of concrete buildings and surrounding seawall, resembles a battleship, earning it the nickname “Gunkanjima,” which means “Battleship Island” in Japanese.

How can I visit Gunkanjima Island?

The only way to visit Gunkanjima is through guided tours. These tours are strictly regulated to ensure visitor safety and to preserve the site. Various tour operators in Nagasaki offer trips to the island.

Why are guided tours required?

Guided tours are required for safety reasons due to the island’s deteriorating structures and potential hazards. The tours provide historical context and ensure that visitors stay within safe areas.

How long do tours of Gunkanjima last?

Tours typically last around 2 to 3 hours, including the boat trip to and from the island. The time spent on the island itself is usually about an hour.

What should I wear when visiting Gunkanjima?

It’s recommended to wear comfortable walking shoes and weather-appropriate clothing. The island can be windy and exposed to the elements, so bringing a hat and sunscreen is also advisable.

Are there any facilities on the island?

There are no facilities such as restrooms or food outlets on the island. Visitors should prepare accordingly before the tour departs.

Conclusion

  • Gunkanjima Island offers a rare and poignant glimpse into a bygone era.
  • Its haunting ruins and compelling history make it a must-visit destination for those interested in Japan’s industrial past.
  • Whether you’re a history buff, an urban explorer, or simply a curious traveler, Gunkanjima will leave an indelible impression.
  • So, set sail for Battleship Island and embark on a journey through time, exploring the echoes of a once-thriving community now reclaimed by nature.

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