The abandoned, ramshackle buildings of Hashima Island provided an ideal backdrop for Skyfall’s villain, Raoul Silva. Cue evil laugh and eerie background music. Though I’m not evil nor in search of a hideout, I am allured by dilapidated and deserted destinations. On Christmas Day, my boyfriend and I bundled up and toured this tiny, mysterious island just outside of Nagasaki, Japan.
From Nagasaki Harbor, we took a 30 minute boat ride to Hashima Island. While listening to information about the surrounding area on headsets, we boated under Megami Bridge and through an industrialized area with enormous Mitsubishi shipyards and machinery.
As we circled the island, choppy waters rocked the boat. Waves crashed into Hashima’s high sea walls, and it became clear why Hashima is nicknamed Gunkanjima or Battleship Island; its silhouette became a battleship cruising through the sea.
During the industrialization of Japan, the production at Hashima’s seabed coal mine (developed in 1890) surged. A nine-story apartment, the first substantial concrete building built in Japan, was built on the island to house the proliferation of miners and their families.
While walking around the remnants, it’s hard to imagine the island as a functional community complete with a school, hospital, hairdresser, pachinko parlor, movie theatre, and population of over 5,000. I loved that the residents planted vegetable gardens on the rooftops and watched the waves from up there too.
Eventually the demand for coal fell, and the mine closed in January of 1974. By April, the island was abandoned, and it has been ever since.
The island may be in ruins, but it’s getting a lot of attention. It has appeared in a Thai horror movie, in Japanese movies and music videos, and in James Bond Skyfall. Additionally, it’s a possible UNESCO World Heritage Site candidate.
Tours were started on the island in 2009, but they’re tame; you won’t have free rein of the ruins (as you might have in other Asian countries), and, unfortunately, there’s no stepping over rubble and other dangerous shards of things. There’s a walkway for tour groups since the deteriorating buildings could collapse at any moment.
Hashima was one of our ‘must-see’ destinations in Japan, so we spent a few days in Nagasaki. Hashima is an easy day trip from Nagasaki, it’s an important player in Japan’s history, and, come on, it’s an abandoned island.
We toured with Gunkanjima Concierge Company whose morning and afternoon tours leave from Tokiwa Terminal at Nagasaki Harbor. The adult price for the 3 hour tour is 3,600¥ (about $30 dollars). Totally worth it! We had a fun, informative tour with attentive staff. (We also thought Hotel Monterey was the bee’s knees- it was outside the city center, but it was only a 2 minute walk to the spot where tours depart from.)
Still curious about Hashima? Here’s an awesomely eerie and informative website where you can virtually tour the island.