Gunkanjima is an abandoned island located in Nagasaki. The island got famous thanks to its unbelievable appearance: surrounded by a sea wall, it is an entire abandoned city with huge concrete buildings. The original name is actually Hashima but it is also called the Battleship Island (translation of Gunkanjima). It became even more famous after its fake appearance in the James Bond movie Skyfall. I had the chance to visit Gunkanjima a few times during the last years. Here is how it looks when you are about to get on the island.
Official Tour & Unofficial Tour
There is an official tour (Gunkanjima Tour for example) but you will be restricted to the area in purple below. For an access, you will need a permission from the ward office of Nagasaki (and a specific project, written in Japanese). It’s not easy to get nowadays but, of course, it worth it.
I wrote a few articles about Gunkanjima in separate articles and this present article is a summary. Don’t miss my night walk and the interview of a former inhabitant of Gunkanjima
What is Gunkanjima
Gunkanjima was a coal mining facility located on an island. In 1890, Mitsubishi bought the island from a feudal lord. Mine shafts were installed, a village was constructed and some land was reclaimed; the island grew in size. The first building (Block 30) was built in 1916 and it is the first reinforced concrete building in Japan. The village quickly became a city that looks like a monstrous maze made of concrete. In 1959, it was the most densely populated place on earth: 5,259 people were living on this small island (7,301 people/km2)! Soon after that, oil started to replace coal and miners and inhabitants started to leave. The island definitely closed in 1974. Mitsubishi gave the island to Nagasaki in 2001 and since 2009 it is opened for public tours. In 2015, Nagasaki announced that the main buildings of Gunkanjima will be maintained. The island is still looking to be recognized as an UNESCO heritage.
I first visited the island in 2010. It was only one hour, that’s only what I was able to negotiate for at that time. I took advantage of it and run all over the island. The result is not pretty but was a lot of fun. To make it more interesting I added some history with it. Here it is: An One Hour Adventure on Gunkanjima.
It seems Gunkanjima got especially popular for this huge concrete apartments block called the Block 65. Do you recognize one of the scene of the Skyfall movie? I will take you to explore those apartments here: The Block 65.
The school is one of my favorite place on the island. It’s also the first one you can discover when you get to the forbidden area. Discover the school here: The School of Gunkanjima.
I met and explored Gunkanjima with a former inhabitant called Doutoku Sakamoto. He loves this island with all his heart and he is actually one of the official guides. I asked him to tag along with me and my friends and he was really nice to take us discover the places he loves. Discover this interview here: The Memories of Doutoku Sakamoto.
Everything could be found in that abandoned city: two schools, many shops, a hospital, a prison, a swimming-pool, a cinema, a gymnasium. All this is tightly squeezed in an optimized way in a very confined space. More about it here : A Maze of Streets & Hellish Staircases
Gunkanjima is not a place loved by everyone. It has a lot of painful stories but also happy moments. Let’s explore those contrasts here: Gunkanjima: Between Hell & Paradise.
One of my favorite moment was my stroll on the island by night, only warmed up by some sake. Follow my walk here: Gunkanjima by night.
The Shrine, The Mine, The Hospital
I still need to write about those three special places and I will soon. I am just trying my best to find interesting and surprising details To avoid missing any new posts, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.
I hope you enjoyed my special tour of Gunkanjima.
I also have a collection of photos here: http://www.meow.fr/Gunkanjima.