Written By: JEH
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
About nine miles from the city of Nagasaki sits an island abandoned by people but rich in history. Also known as “Gunkanjima” or “Battleship Island”, Hashima functioned as a coal facility from 1887 until 1974. The island eventually became the center for undersea coal mining, aiding Japan’s rapid industrialization.
After the depletion of the coal reserves and the rise of petroleum, the mines shut down and residents abandoned the island. Three decades later, the island began to attract those who seek adventures in the undisturbed historic ruins.
In 2015, the coal mine of the island was formally approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, there is more to this island than interesting ruins.
The History of Hashima Island
In the early 1800s, coal was discovered on the 16-acre island. It is believed that to catch up with western colonial powers, Japan utilized the island for rapid industrial development.
Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha then bought the island in 1890 and consequently developed seawalls. This was also when they began extracting coal from undersea mines. The previously uninhabited island was transformed with modern buildings and conveniences, including apartments, schools, and hospitals. Places for entertainment, including cinema, shops, and pachinko parlor, were also built for the residents. By the 1950s, the population had swelled to as many as 5,000 people.
However, the island was not heaven for all of its inhabitants.
The Dark Secret of Hashima Island
During the Second World War, conscripted Korean civilians and Chinese prisoners of war were forced to work under very harsh conditions and brutal treatment at the Mitsubishi facility. As per reports, at least 1,300 forced laborers died on the island. Official records show that 1,162 Japanese, 122 Koreans, and 15 Chinese were cremated between 1925 and 1945. However, historians believe that the actual number of deaths may be higher. According to an unofficial record, around 722 Chinese workers and 1,442 Korean laborers died on the island by the end of the Second World War.
Why Did the Hashima Island Residents Leave?
In the 1960s, coal mines across the country began closing as petroleum became its number one replacement. Hashima Island was also affected and Mitsubishi officially closed the mine in January 1974. With the mining operation ceased, the residents left the island. By April 20 1974, the island was cleared of inhabitants.
From Abandoned Island to Tourist Attraction
In 2002, Mitsubishi transferred the ownership of the island to Takashima Town, which was absorbed by the city of Nagasaki in 2005.
Nagasaki City slowly restored the collapsed walls of the abandoned buildings and they officially opened the island to tourists in 2009. Tourists adored the island not only for its modern regional heritage, but also for the undisturbed housing complex remnants. People in charge of the island maintenance continue to find ways to save the crumbling buildings without changing the structure that visitors enjoy.
Is Hashima Island Haunted?
It is said that being in Hashima Island is like entering a land frozen in time. A place so beautiful and mysterious, but also symbolic and horrifying.
Not much ghost story is born from the island, but its dark history is enough to give visitors the creeps. Also, the weather making it difficult to reach the island seems like an ominous sign that something is against the flourishing tourism on the island.
Hashima Island in Popular Culture
Hashima Island has inspired numerous films and even video games, including:
• Hashima, Japan, 2002 – In 2002, Swedish filmmaker Thomas Nordanstad visited the island and documented his trip.
• Killer7 – The 2005 video game features a fictionalized version of Hashima named “Battleship Island” as the location of its final chapter.
• Skyfall – 2012 James Bond film.
• Attack on Titan – 2015 live-action adaptation of the well-known manga.
• Hashima Project – 2013 Thai horror film.
• The Battleship Island – 2017 South Korean World War II film.
• Dark Tourist – 2018 Netflix series featuring locations for dark tourism.
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