On the Move

Beauty in Decay: A Mysterious Abandoned Island in Nagasaki

Gunkanjima has become well-known in Japan over the years not only as a creepy backdrop for filming but also as a travel destination for photographers. The island’s actual name is Hashima, but due to its close resemblance to a battleship it is commonly referred to as Battleship Island.

This small, abandoned island lies just off the coast from Nagasaki, and is noted for its numerous concrete housing blocks and extensive sea wall. Its development was spurred on mainly from the coal mining industry, which thrived there from the tail end of the 19th century all the way up to the 1970s. Throughout that time there were extensive operations to extract coal from undersea mines, but with the rise of petroleum use in Japan it gradually became impractical to continue operations there.

Since the official closure of the coal mines in 1974, the island has been uninhabited and the buildings, for the most part, left as they were. Over the past few decades some of the structures have collapsed while others continue to degrade under the harsh elements of their marine environment.

However, as interest grew in the island and its haunted-looking architectural relics, part of the island was opened up in 2009 for tour groups. Also since its re-opening, several film crews have visited, documenting these modern ruins for TV shows, music videos, and even featuring parts of the island in the 007 film, Skyfall.

Google has also gotten in on the action and has captured panoramic “street view” images, allowing one to take a virtual tour of the island and its dense collection of concrete structures.

For those who prefer something a bit more adventurous, Gunkanjima has proved irresistible for many urban explorers who want to see what can be found hidden away in the depths of the buildings. Their endeavors reveal just how truly fascinating and creepy the place is.

Without a doubt, Gunkanjima is an excellent destination for anyone in Japan seeking a somewhat off-the-beaten-path excursion.