History of Hashima, the "Battleship Island" (Gunkanjima)
Sights on Battleship Island
Museums on Battleship Island
5 Tours to Battleship Island
Access
Nearby

Hashima, often known as Gunkanjima or "Battleship Island", lies on the southwestern coast of Nagasaki prefecture. The small island, only measuring 6.5 hectares, was nicknamed as such because it resembled a battleship from afar, due to its many concrete and steel buildings. During the early to mid 1900s, Hashima served as one of the hottest spots in Japan for coal mining, and the island even once had the world’s highest population density. Today, only its abandoned ruins remain, and serve as a compelling life-sized artifact of the beginnings and struggles of industrial Japan.

History of Hashima, the "Battleship Island"


Workers going into the mines of Hashima (photo courtesy: Nagasaki Prefecture Tourism Association)

The "Battleship Island" Hashima is located 18 km from the port of Nagasaki. It was in the late 1800s that coal mines were discovered along the coast of Hashima Island, leading to a rapid development of the island.


Everyday life on Gunkanjima (photo courtesy: Nagasaki Prefecture Tourism Association)

Hashima Island, measuring only 160m by 480m in land area, quickly developed alongside the coal mining operation. In 1959, the population reached a total of 5,259, recording history's highest population density to this day. High-rise residences, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, swimming pools, and even shrines were built on Hashima's grounds. Due to the island's silhouette resembling the battleship "Tosa", the island was nicknamed Gunkanjima - "Battleship Island".


There were even barbershops on Gunkanjima (photo courtesy: Nagasaki Prefecture Tourism Association)

Despite the extreme population densities, it is said that the residents of Hashima lived with access to all of their necessary life amenities. That being said, work at the coal mines is known to have been extremely strenuous, and it is also a known fact that foreign prisoners of war were assigned especially rough work.


The ruins of Hashima today

In the 1970s, Japan switched its main energy source from coal to petroleum. The coal-mining industry receded and with that, the population of "Battleship Island" Hashima slowed down too. In spring of 1974 the island was completely shut down, and the entire population made its way to zero.

The island was closed off until 2009, when it opened for tourism. Gunkanjima was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2015, and currently serves as a symbol of Japan’s rapid industrialization.

Sights on the Battleship Island

The Dolphin Pier


Dolphin Pier

There is no permanent dock on Hashima Island, since the waves are too strong to dock a ship for landing. Instead, there is a “dolphin pier”, a type of dock that does not need to be attached to the island. This was the type of dock used in Hashima Island's coal-mining days as well. This is the starting point for most tours of the island.

Apartment Buildings 30 & 31


The apartments on Hashima Island that housed the island's bustling population

Apartment no. 30 was built in 1916, and was the first steel-framed reinforced concrete apartment in Japan. The apartment was built for the coal miners living on the island. As the first successful steel-framed reinforced concrete apartment in Japan, this building has been long-preserved for its architectural significance.

Apartment no. 31 had many facilities such as a hair salon, post office and a payphone for Hashima Island's residents to use.

The Former General Office


General Office

The General Office, built with beautiful red brick, was one of the most important buildings on the island. The office served as a kind of control center for the island and coal mines. Back when it was in operation, it was off-limits to children.

No. 2 Mining Shaft


No. 2 Shaft

These ruins were formerly at the heart of Hashima Island's mining operations. Although the structure is almost completely gone, the framework of it still remains.

Coal Storage Conveyer Belt


The pillars are the ruins of Coal Storage Conveyer Belt

The pillar-like objects once held up a huge conveyer belt that carried coal from the mines. Like the No. 2 Shaft, the framework of the conveyer belt remains to this day.

Hashima Shrine


Hashima Shrine

Hashima Shrine was a place for coal mine laborers to pray for their safety while working in harsh conditions, which were as far down as 600 meters underground. The main prayer halls have crumbled down, but a part of the shrine still remains.

Hashima Elementary and Junior-High School


Hashima Elementary and Junior High School

The 7-story Hashima Elementary and Junior-High School was built in 1958, in the post war period. Due to the high concentration of high-rise apartments, the entirety of Hashima Island suffered from poor sunlight coverage. To compensate, the windows of the school are made quite large. The school also had a courtyard in its premises.

Museums on Battleship Island

Gunkanjima Museum


Gunkanjima Museum

The Gunkanjima Museum, located in Nomozaki on mainland Nagasaki, has an abundance of exhibits that tell about the lives of people in the coal mines, and on Hashima Island. The museum provides videos explaining Japan’s Meiji-period industrial revolution and how it affected Gunkanjima.

Gunkanjima Digital Museum

The Gunkanjima Digital Museum explores Gunkanjima and its history with the use of cutting-edge digital technology. Virtual reality allows visitors to experience what it was like to be a coal mine laborer at the time, and have a full 360-degree perception of Hashima Island.

5 Tours to Battleship Island

Visitors can tour around and on Hashima Island, but only with these five designated tour companies. The waters surrounding Hashima Island are usually rough and harsh, and the ships are prone to heavy swaying, making the journey to the island a bit of an endeavor. For these reasons, the tours are heavily regulated.

These five tour companies are the only official, approved tours of Hashima Island. Most of the tours begin at Nagasaki Port. Only a few provide guidance in Japanese, but here is a guide to all five:

〈1〉Gunkanjima Cruise, Co.

Out of the five tours, Gunkanjima Cruise, Co.’s tour is the most afforadble. The tour guides are extremely knowledgable in the history of Hashima Island. However, it must be noted that tours are only conducted in Japanese.
Learn more about Gunkanjima Cruise, Co..

〈2〉The Gunkanjima Concierge Company

The Gunkanjima Concierge Company’s tour is conducted by former residents of Hashima Island. Although the tour is held entirely in Japanese, English audio guides are available for travelers from overseas.
Learn more about Gunkanjima Cruise, Co..

〈3〉Gunkanjima Landing and Cruise

On the Gunkanjima Landing and Cruise tour, the ship goes all the way around the island. The ship for this tour is the biggest of the five, making the trip the most stable (though still prone to some swaying). Most of the tour is conducted in Japanese, although there are some English explanations.
Learn more about Gunkanjima Cruise, Co..

〈4〉Gunkanjima Tour – 軍艦島ツアー

The Gunkanjima Tour is conducted entirely in Japanese. Participants of the tour will receive a Certificate of Landing, made entirely out of coal.
Learn more about the Gunkanjima Cruise, Co..

〈5〉Ebisumaru Island Ship

The Ebisumaru Island Ship tour may be the most unique out of the five. Rather than a cruise, this tour is more like hopping on a local fishing boat around Gunkanjima. While all of the other tours begin at Nagasaki Port, this one begins at Nomozaki Port (野母崎). The guide of this tour is also a former resident of Hashima Island.
Learn more about the Gunkanjima Cruise, Co..

*For all tours, a ¥300 entry fee to Hashima Island will apply separately
*The seas around Hashima Island are known to have rough waves, and tour operations are halted on approximately 100 days every year. When reserving a tour, make sure to be aware of its terms and conditions.

Access

Nearest port: Many of the Gunkanjima tours depart from Nagasaki Port (長崎港).

Access from Nagasaki Station (長崎駅)

【Nagasaki eki-mae Sta.】Nagasaki Electric Tramway Line 1, bound for Shokakuji-shita
→【Ohato Sta.】
→ about a 5-minute walk

Access from Sasebo Station (佐世保駅)

【Sasebo Sta.】(Bus) Nagasaki ~ Sasebo Line, bound for Chuo-bashi
→【Nagasaki Sta.】walk to Nagasaki eki-mae Sta. (tram)
→【Nagasaki eki-mae Sta.】Nagasaki Electric Tramway Line 1 / for Shokakuji-shita
→【Ohato Sta.】about a 5-minute walk

Access from Nagasaki Airport (長崎空港)

【Nagasaki Airport Sta.】Nagasaki Bus / Nagasaki Airport Liner, bound for for Nagasaki eki-mae
→【Ohato Sta.】about a 5-minute walk

Information

Address
Hashima, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki
Phone
095-829-1314
Hours
Varies by tour
Closed
Varies by tour
Fee
Varies by tour

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