Battleship Island

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

For those of you who enjoyed the oscar-winning James Bond movie "Skyfall" (Ok, only the song won, but still…) you might have been fascinated by the villain's island, from where Javier Bardem's character secretly ran his operations.  You might not know, however, that the island is real!  And it is in Japan!  And the story of the island is truly fascinating.

Hashima (Edge) Island (端島) is also known as Gunkanjima (軍艦島; meaning Battleship Island), is about 9 miles from Nagasaki.  It was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. The island was owned by the Mitsubishi corporation and had a residential district so dense that the density was almost 140,000 people per square kilometer, making it one of the most densely populated places on earth.  However, once the mine closed in 1974 there was no reason to continue supporting the island, and it was completely abandoned almost immediately.   The corporation offered the inhabitants jobs on the mainland, first-come, first-served.  People abandoned the island so quickly that they left coffee cups on tables, bicycles leaning against walls, and writing still on the blackboards in schools.  The island has remained totally deserted since then.

If you are interested in visiting the island, it is currently off-limits.  However, Nagasaki has begun to explore limited tourism to the island and it is pending designation as a UNESCO world heritage site.  Don't try to sneak in, though!  The punishment for being caught visiting is 30 days in jail followed by immediate deportation.