Gunkanjima: Hashima Island

Gunkanjima is an abandoned island located in Nagasaki Prefecture. The island got famous thanks to its ghostly appearance: surrounded by a sea wall, you will find an entire abandoned metropolis. The real name of the island is Hashima but from its resemblance to a battleship the nickname of Gunkanjima is born.

It started in 1810 when coal was found on the little island of Hashima. Mitsubishi bought the island for only 100,000Y in 1890 and started to operate immediately. Required infrastructures (like housing) were built and workers were asked to come and live here along with their family. In 1959, Hashima became a real megalopolis with 5,300 inhabitants. At this time,the island had the world-highest density of population with (100,000 per km2) for the residential district. The land was completely urbanized with apartment buildings, schools, a hospital, a gymnasium, a movie theater, numerous shops, a shrine, a pachinko parlor, bath houses, many bars and even a brothel. The high quality coal of Gunkanjima helped Japan to sustain the war effort and its economical growth.  Then petroleum started to replace coal as it was cheaper and easier to produce. The mine eventually had to close in 1974.

The island was abandoned and not visited for many years until an exponentially growing interest started in the 2000’s. The island was photographed, used in music videos and even appeared in movies. In 2009, the city of Nagasaki started an official tour to visit the place which let you have a tour on a tiny portion of the island. It was also around this time that I decided to visit the other side of the island. Since that first visit, I went back a few times more to fully experience it. I can now take you for a special tour going through all my favorite places on the island.

Don’t miss the story of my adventures on Gunkanjima on:
Gunkanjima

I keep my best collection of photos of Gunkanjima here:
Gunkanjima on Meow.fr

Please also have a look at the fantastic Pictures of Yuji Saga taken in 1974.

FACTS

  • 1890-1974
  • Nihon No Haikyo #177

GUNKANJIMA

  • Fredcritter

    Beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing them!

  • Swingingrock

    I’ve just become your biggest fan. Urban exploration has been something I’ve been intrigued by for a year or so now, but I think it’s about time I grabbed my DSLR and ventured out. Gunkanjima was one of the first deserted places I heard about and it’s an ambition to go there one day.

    • Thanks a lot, that’s super sweet 😀 Where are you from? There are many interesting spot to visit around you already. If you like those photos, you should check this page: www.meow.fr/gunkanjima-hashima-island. There are much more, with all the adventure explained 🙂

  • Great photos.
    I just went there this month.
    I’m just wondering how you got your shots, because it looks like you went beyond the restricted areas?
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Thanks! Yeah that’s beyond the restricted areas and obviously I had to sneak in. Not good, not good, but this is for the thrills and the pictures :p

      • Bad boy, but awesome photos! So cool!
        I went with a tour, so I couldn’t sneak in ;P

      • Hi Jordy, are there actually security guards since the buildings are restricted? Did you find many tourists going there and is it easy to sneak in without being noticed? Cheers!

  • Judedude99

    I am very interested in philisophical archaeology and this is a site i want to look into you more but i heard it is becoming/already is a tourist area and they have tourist trips, so im assuming alot of the artifacts are taken by tourists and alot of un naturally damaged items

    • There aren’t many artifacts on the island, but there are still a few (dolls, TVs, etc). What kind of artifacts are you looking for exactly? Don’t worry though: the tourists don’t have access to the island, just to two areas which are on the side. They cannot even approach the buildings and of course, can’t get inside at all.

  • Tsu

    Très belles photos comme d’habitude
    T’as de la chance d’avoir pu y retourner pour la deuxième fois x)
    L’ambiance doit-être des plus planante *.*

  • Dr.Freeman

    Я бы съездил, люблю подобные места. =)

  • waysbcn

    superb shots!! congrats

  • Giorgio

    Incredible pictures. From the content, the angle and the photographic quality. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Giorgio! I am sure we can do better but the weather was fantastic, and of course it:s an amazing spot! I will make more soon and add them here (there are a few areas not covered here yet.

  • Kerensa Morrison

    Hey! I also live in Japan and I’m curious about how you were able to get there and go inside. If possible, could we speak via email? I live in Kumamoto, and my coworkers and I were curious about going here but didn’t like the idea of a guided tour.

    • Unfortunately, this is no easy way to access it anymore, and it is still getting harder and harder as the time goes by. I went twice but each time was a lot of struggle… I am sorry but really can’t help (and if I could, you can imagine the numbers of emails I would receive everyday).

    • RMac
      • I am pretty sure this is a guided tour. If you have to take one, pick the tour with Doutoku-san, he lived on the island so it might be more interesting.

  • E-Rob

    Incredible composition and masterful use of ambient light (except where flash was obviously used on those apartment block night shots). Nice wides…maybe an 18 or 22mm W. Great job.

    • Thanks Rob! Indeed, I shoot a lot at 14mm, I love it! Especially here, on Gunkanjima. I regret not to have more close-up maybe, but when your time is limited you don’t want to change your lenses all the time 🙂

  • Klaus Lipinski

    Very enjoyable! Different photographic styles, a great location – the right components for a first-class-report.

    • Hey Klaus! Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you are still around, I was wondering about you recently 🙂 Did you check my posts about Gunkanjima on Totoro Times?

  • sam

    truely amazing, have always loved this island, but i dont think ive even seen such great pics of it before. very jealous you got to explore where you did, what an adventure for you!

  • Slog

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the work you’ve done documenting these stunning places. In my 41 years on this planet I’ve been dreaming of such places in my sleep. Now I know they really exist.

    • Thanks Slog 🙂 Have you been reading the articles on Gunkanjima on Totoro Times as well? You would love them I am sure!

  • Urban

    Mind Blowing!

  • Angelika

    Would be interesting for prisoners of Guantanamo? A Project of resozialisation?????

  • Monroe

    Feeling some sort of silence…Welcome to China and you will find more amazing

    • Something more amazing than Gunkanjima ? It’s the #1 amazing location for me, so please indicate me something better 🙂

  • Maruli

    I forgot how I stumble upon article on ruins, which eventually leads into haikyo and then your wonderful site. Gunkanjima is one which captivates me right away! Reading your articles while looking at your pictures made me feel as if I am there. So I read up a lot about this island and realise Google has made a Street View of it. Even though it’s just a preview of the outer island, I think that’s enough consolation for us who don’t have a chance to visit this mysterious haikyo. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/kxlkg87

  • Serena

    Your photos are very exciting, really compliments!!

  • Lots of Great Shots!

  • Constance007

    Absolument incroyable, et merci pour les risques pris, mais ça valait le coup. Question: comment as-tu pu passer à travers les mailles du filet… Je rêve d’y aller mais je manque de courage, j’avoue. Heureusement tu existes !! (Merci)

    • Haha, merci 🙂 Non c’est très difficile et j’ai eu la chance d’y être invité… la première fois par contre j’y suis allé avec un autre ami et nous avons trouvé un pêcheur, mais notre temps était super limité et toutes mes photos ratées. Pas évident ! Avec les autorisations par contre c’est possible, j’en ai d’ailleurs obtenu une mais je n’y suis pas encore retourné à cause de la météo mais ça ne vas pas tarder.

  • Constance007

    J’ajoute, oui les photos sont sublimes, mais surtout elles sont uniques. On voit toujours les sempiternelles mêmes vues de GunkanJima island, souvent dans le sensationnel, voire mystérieux, if not ghostly (bien qu’on n’ait jamais parlé de fantômes sur l’île)… Mais des photos comme celles-ci, cadrées dans leur jus c’est rare… je suis aussi devenue une grande admiratrice: a quand une expo à Paris ??

    • J’adorerais ! Mais vivant au Japon ce n’est pas facile de faire un expo sur Paris. Ça ne me dérange pas de déléguer, si tu te sens de faire une exposition avec mes photos, c’est possible, haha 🙂 Sinon tu sais que j’ai un livre sur le sujet ?

  • OtakuTom1992

    Did it ever feel creepy? Like you had disturbed any spirits or anything like that…like you were been watched? Especially when it got darker I could imagine hahah I’d be terrified going through it in daylight O_o

  • Lovely photos ♥

    Love from Slovakia ~ I wish you a Happy Easter ~

    ℓα ℒιcσrηe – ℒa vie est ℓa petite ℓicorne.

    ❀ G I V E A W A Y

  • Great photos as always. Which equipment did you use for the shots at night?

  • Tayla Van Heurck

    Im heading over to Japan in November this year and would love to do a tour of this place. Are you still offering tours here? Cheers.

  • épavart

    Saludos !!

    Ça faisait longtemps !

    Toujours aussi génial ces photos, dommage que ce ne soit plus la même présentation que avant.

    Tu le sait peu être déjà, mais on peu visiter l’ile sur Google Earth.

    Je me suis baladé une heure sur l’ile, pas mal !!!

    https://www.google.com/maps/@32.6272763,129.7374702,3a,90y,12.48h,73.47t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s8IDkScO2YE0CGRFGFHLDFQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    @++Laurent/épavart

    • En effet, ça fait super longtemps 🙂 La même présentation ? Le site n’a pas vraiment changé, sauf quelques toutes petites améliorations… mais c’est toujours le même. Tu ne parles pas de Totoro Times ? 🙂

  • Ash

    I am really keen to explore this island but not with the tour. Is there any way to do so apart from asking fishermen to escort you there at 5am in the morning?

  • John Hernlund

    Amazing location and great shots! I am also very fascinated by photographing decaying old buildings and such in Japan (some of my family and friends believe I am quite strange…but you know). Gunkanjima looks like a dream location! How do you get there?

  • Impressive pictures. I plan to go back to Kyushu next year so I’ll definitely take the tour.

    • Watch out though, you will not see any of this on the tour… unfortunately 🙁

      • Yes, I’m aware of that. I don’t want to take risks going into a prohibited area. I’ll see but the public area should be impressive enough.

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