Hashima is a tiny island located 19 km south-west of Nagasaki harbour. Hashima is also known as ‘Gunkan-jima’ (Battleship Island) due to its unique shape, as from a bird’s eye view it resembles a battleship. Gunkan-jima flourished as a coral mining community in 1890. In 1916, Japan’s first reinforced concrete apartment building (7 storey-high) was constructed to accommodate the miners and their families. At its peak the population of the island was around 5,300 making it 9 times more densely populated than Tokyo at the time making it far and away the most densely populated location in the history of the planet. In 1974 when the coral mine closed, the inhabitants of the island left en-masse, leaving the island and all its buildings completely abandoned. With no-one left on the island to repair or look after any of the buildings, the typhoons and other extreme types of weather have worn down many of the buildings leaving the island with a spooky atmosphere which made it the perfect setting for a movie. In James Bond’s ‘Skyfall’, the island was featured as the ‘Dead City’ and has subsequently gained worldwide attention. Additionally, it is a World Heritage site due to the role it played in Meiji Japan’s Industrial Revolution.
While the island was unable to be visited for many years due to fears of collapsing buildings being dangerous, since 2009 a new port was built on the island which allowed for tourists to visit three observation decks on the island which make for some intriguing views. Tours to the island last for around 45 minutes, however visitors are not allowed to get too close to the buildings as there is concern that some of the buildings might collapse. The ferry journey across to this island also makes for great views of Nagasaki city itself.