Located 19 km Southwest of Nagasaki harbor, Hashima Island was home to Mitsubishi’s coal mine workers.
The coal was first discovered on Gunkanjima in 1810, and the full-scale seabed coal mining operations started 80 years later, in 1890, by Mitsubishi Limited Partnership.
The distance from Mitsubishi Mining Company’s as the main coal mine on the island of Takashima to Hashima island is approximately 2.5 km.
The expansion of Hashima Island (Gunkanjima)
Gunkanjima was just a small aqueous rock at the beginning, but it was expanded due to the development of mining techniques.
The current size of Gunkanjima is three times more than its origin, after six times constructing the dams.
Coal mine work on Hashima Island (Gunkanjima)
Approximately 15.7 million tons of coal was mined during 1891 and 1974.
Mining the seabed coal reserves of Gunkanjima took the miners to places more than 1000 meters under sea level.
The working condition was terrible with a temperature of 30 Celsius degrees and 95% humid. The miners had to work in a dangerous environment with the risk of a gas explosion.
The buildings on Hashima Island (Gunkanjima)
The population in Gunkanjima grew as a result of the increase in the amount of excavated coal. In 1916, the first apartment building was built on this battleship island.
What buildings are in Gunkanjima?
The list of buildings includes Employee housing, Mine manager’s residence, Employee dormitories, Employee clubhouses, Communal bath, Town housing, Police dispatch post, Community center, Miner’s training camp, Quarantine ward, Shops, Hashima hospital, Hashima school, gymnasium.
Besides shops and schools, the island had a cinema and pachinko hall for leisure activities.
There was a shrine on the island as well. On the 3rd of April every year, celebrations took place to celebrate the Yamagami festival. Nowadays, only a small part of the shrine remains.
This bridge building was the center of the mine. In the General Office, there was a large communal bath area for the miners. Most of the buildings surrounding the General Office have collapsed.
Built in 1916, the No.30 apartment, or formerly known as “Glover House,” served as housing for the miners on Gunkanjima island.
This one is the oldest 7-story concrete apartment building in Japan.
The remains of Jetty
Although the mine facilities are mostly in ruins, the steps leading to the jetty is still here.
Life on Hashima Island
During its peak, Hashima island was home to 5300 people, which was five times more than Tokyo in the same period.
Electricity and Water
At first, the electricity was supplied by a generator, but later by the undersea cable from Takashima island from 1918.
There were vegetable gardens on the roofs of apartment buildings, and flowers and vegetables were grown there. It was believed that those are the first rooftop vegetable gardens in Japan.
Due to its location, Hashima island suffered from large waves, and it got even worse during hurricanes.
However, the Islanders also got used to them and developed the habit of watching high waves from the rooftops.
Why was Hashima island abandoned?
Due to the Energy Revolution, people started to use oil power instead, and it led to the decline of coal demand. Therefore, the production of mine reduced along with the population of the island.
The coal mine on Hashima island was closed in January 1974 with the following abandon four months later in April.
The buildings on Gunkanjima island at the time were preserved, becoming ruins that looked from afar the island looked like a battleship – Gunkan – so the island was later named.
Visit this island, time seems to be stopping, and the surrounding landscape vividly recreates the old days.
Hashima Island nowadays
After the mine was closed, Gunkanjima was left abandoned for many years until 2009 when Gunkanjima got considered as industrial heritage sites in Kyushu island.
You can now visit Gunkanjima island by taking tours from Nagasaki port.
Is Gunkanjima battleship island safe to visit?
Yes, it’s safe to visit part of Gunkanjima island. However, when visiting Gunkanjima, you should follow safety protocols.
How much does it cost to go to Gunkanjima?
The cost of Gunkanjima trip includes the boat tour service and battleship island entrance fee.
Boat tour fee:
Weekday: 4,000 Yen
Weekend, National Holiday and Vacations: 4,500 Yen
English audio guide (optional)
Insurance provided by the operator
Not Inclusive Of:
Nagasaki City facility fee (adults: JPY300 and children: JPY150)
Other personal expenses
Tips and gratuities (optional)
Battleship island entrance fee:
Besides paying for the boat tour, each visitors have to pay an entrance fee to Hashima island: 300 Yen/adult, 150 Yen/child
Book tour to Gunkanjima
Gunkanjima Concierge Company offers two trips daily:
Morning tour: 9:40 am to 1:15 pm
Afternoon tour: 12:50 pm to 4:20 pm
Here is the agenda of 2 cruises. You can depart either from Nagasaki pier or from Iojima island.
9:40 am meet up at Gunkanjima Concierge office
10:30 am depart from the pier
10:50 am arrive at Iojima
10:55 am depart from Iojima
11:15 am take a cruise around Battleship Island
11:30 am explore Battleship Island
12:20 pm leave from Battleship Island
12:40 pm arrive at Iojima
12:45 pm depart from Iojima
1:15 pm back to the pier
12:50 pm meet up at Gunkanjima Concierge office
1:40 pm leave from the dock
2:00 pm arrive at Iojima
2:05 pm depart from Iojima
2:25 pm cruise around Battleship Island
2:35 pm explore Battleship Island
3:25 pm leave from Battleship Island
3:45 pm arrive at Iojima
3:50 pm leave from Iojima
4:20 pm back to the pier
How to book tour to Gunkanjima?
You can book Gunkanjima tour easily with Klook, a reliable and efficient online travel company. I’ve used Klook for several activities, so I recommend it.
The booking procedure is effortless.
Just by choosing the date and course then paying by credit card, you will receive the confirmation through email and get ready for your trip.
Please note that you will receive confirmation of your booking’s availability through your email within 2 business days.
As we wanted to visit the Nagasaki museum in the morning, we opted in for the afternoon tour.
After having lunch at Chinatown, we walked to the port at the meeting time stated in the email.
I was surprised that there was already a line of people waiting for the tour in front of the lounge. We had to fill in some papers about safety protocol and paid extra for the entrance ticket to the island.
We got in the boat around 1:25 pm, and it departed shortly after that.
The ship went through the Venus Wing Bridge, and we could see Takashima Island from a far distance.
Finally, Battleship Island appears.
We got to cruise around the island and see it from different angles. It was terrific and overwhelmed to see the ruins in person.
We finally reached the Dolphin pier in Gunkanjima around 2:50 pm.
During the field trip, our guide explained lots of details about the buildings and life on the island. It was interesting to know that he used to live on this island as a kid.
Before the tour, I imagined that we could enter the island deeper, but we just got to see a small part of the island because of safety reasons.
On the Observation area 1, we got to see the coal storage conveyor belt. The coal was transferred to the storage facility via this conveyor belt, and the braces of belt still survive today.
Back to Nagasaki
After 40 minutes, we got back to our ship to get back Nagasaki.
On our way back, we got a chance to see some documentary about the island. It was interesting to see how life was on the battleship island and compared to the field trip that I just had.
And here is Nagasaki harbor.
My thoughts on the tour
I felt like we spent most of the time on the cruise itself, not the island. It would be better if visitors were allowed to enter inside the buildings; however, I understood that it might be dangerous to do so.
The field trip was quite rushed, especially if you wanted to take lots of pictures and listened to the stories at the same time.
However, it was a fantastic experience that I’ve ever had. Seeing how nature affected man-built architecture through time was priceless.
Places to stay in Nagasaki
I would recommend staying in Nagasaki during your trip because there are lots of things to do in this prefecture.
Note: We paid for our trip to Gunkanjima island, and the review above is based on our experience. As we have full rights for these images, it’s strictly prohibited to use the pictures in any circumstance.
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