The Mysterious and Abandoned Hashima Island


WordsSolenn Cordroc'h

Around 20 kilometres from Nagasaki, the abandoned island of Hashima, also known as Gunkanjima, enjoyed a heyday before suffering a dramatic decline. It is now totally uninhabited but, since 2015, tourists have been able to visit part of the island, which imperceptibly tells the story of its dark past. Once a glorious example of a prosperous mining town, unique in the world, Hashima has been abandoned since 1974, with nature having reclaimed its rights.

Following the discovery of a coal deposit on this insular area of land that’s 480 metres long and 160 metres wide, Mitsubishi bought the site in 1980 and developed a town to accommodate its workforce. Solid concrete was used to strengthen and protect apartment buildings, a school, hospital and other infrastructure against adverse weather conditions. At its peak, Hashima Island housed no fewer than 5259 residents, becoming at that time the most densely populated place in the world.

Over the years, resources began to run out, which led to a decline in activity and the mass departure of islanders, until the very last resident left in 1974. Over the course of a 100 years, the concrete fortress had become dilapidated, declining further every time a typhoon hit. Considered dangerous by the authorities, access to the island was forbidden until 2009.

In 2015, however, this paradise for urban explorers became a tourist attraction. Made popular by Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Sam Mendes’s Skyfall, the island experienced a resurgence of interest. But the majority of the island remains inaccessible. Just one tiny managed area is open to visitors keen to discover a little bit of history which, for better or worse, is still standing.