Monday, April 26, 2010
Gunkanjima (Battleship island) is the nickname of Hashima, a very small uninhabited island about 15k from Nagasaki. Why that is its nickname should be obvious from this first photo.
Originally much smaller than its current size, at the end of the 19th Century coal was discovered under the island and Mitsubishi began mining. As rock was brought up from the tunnel digging it was used to expand the island and protect it with a big sea wall.
At the mine's peak in the late 1950's the island had a population of 5,300 people, which translates to a density of 216,264 people per square mile, certainly among the highest in the world.
In 1974 the mine closed and all the people moved off, and the buidings began to crumble. Incidentally, Japans first large concrete building, a 9 storey apartment block was built here.
There are regular tour boats from Nagasaki that circle the island, and since 2009 there have been tours that actually visit the island, though only a small section, fenced off, is currently accessible, but the plan is to extend the accessible sections. Photos from on the island tomorrow.