Hashima Island goes by various names. Some call it Gunkanjima, which translates to Battleship Island, and some even refer to the desolate piece of land as Ghost Island. It sits approximately 15 kilometer’s from Nagasaki City, it’s spooky and carries with it a dark history. We will reveal how you can visit here with different Hashima Island tours, what to expect, and uncover its history.
- About Hashima Island and its history
- How to get there
- Hashima Island tours
About Hashima Island and its history
For 87 years – 1887 to 1974 – the island was utilized as a coal mine. The Mitsibushi Corporation purchased Hashima in 1890 and built the surrounding seawalls you see today for protection from typhoons.
Reinforced concrete apartment buildings were erected to accommodate workers and their families who relocated to Hashima Island to work in the coal mine. As the population increased, so did the number of structures, and it wasn’t long before the island had a school, hospital, and marketplace.
During its peak, the island was home to just over 5,000 residents who made the 16-hectare piece of land the most densely populated place on earth. The many buildings took up the majority of the landmass, and this makes the island look like an actual battleship. Hence the nickname of Hashima Island.. Gunkanjima – ‘Battleship Island’.
In the years leading up to WWII, thousands of Koreans and Chinese from Japan’s colonies were sent to Hashima Island to work as slaves in dire conditions. It’s estimated that hundreds died in the mines. Interestingly, the nuclear blast in Nagasaki blew out all the windows on the island.
The early 1960s saw Japan begin the transition from coal to petroleum energy. A few years later, in 1974, the coal mine was closed permanently, and the remaining 2,000 inhabitants left the island. Hashima remained unvisited and closed off over the following 34 years, during which the standing structures weakened and deteriorated from neglect and storm damage.
The Japanese government allowed people to visit the island for the first time in decades only as recently as 2008. A new dock and bridge had to be constructed to safely allow people to visit the island and not only has Hashima been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also one of Nagasaki’s top tourist destinations.
When visiting, tourists will only be allowed to explore Hashima Island along a walkway that leads past the best sites. Straying off the path or leaving the tour group to explore on your own is not permitted. Furthermore, visitors are strictly forbidden from entering any buildings since they are severely neglected and are at risk of collapse.
The places you will see on a tour of Hashima island are the spooky-looking apartment blocks, the old mine entrance, and some open space areas. Be sure to bring a camera if you get to go on the trip.
How to get there
Getting to Hashima Island is not easy. It requires traveling by boat for one hour in rough seas, so if you are prone to seasickness, you may want to reconsider. Also, solo travel is strictly forbidden by Japanese authorities for safety reasons unless you are a journalist or work for a media agency. The rest of us will have to go through a registered tour operator. We will list some of them below, but we will first cover the restrictions and the conditions under which a trip to Hashima may get canceled.
Trips may be canceled on account of bad weather: As mentioned, the waters are rough on good days, so imagine the conditions on stormy days. It’s not uncommon for cancellations on account of bad weather or poor visibility.
Furthermore, it is estimated that there are, on average, only 100 days of the year that a tour to the island will push through. So if your stay in Nagasaki City is short and the island is on your travel itinerary, the chances are that you will be disappointed.
Your physical condition: Your physical health may be a deciding factor on whether or not you can join a tour. Unfortunately, those with chronic illnesses and specific physical disabilities might not be able to partake in the tour for safety reasons. Newborn babies and pets are strictly forbidden, while pregnant women are strongly advised not to join.
Be ready to sign a safety contract: Going on a Hashima Island tour is subject to signing a safety contract. The document states what is not allowed and is mostly common sense things.
Hashima Island tour operators
- Gunkanjima Cruise: Gunkanjima Cruises offers both morning and afternoon visits to Battleship Island. It costs $36 per adult and $18 per child. The only downside is that tours are done in Japanese only. Visit them at http://www.gunkanjima-cruise.jp.
- Gunkanjima Concierge: Gunkanjima Concierge offers tours in English, and the best part is that the boat you travel in is pretty comfortable. Prices can cost up to $45 per adult. Get more information from their website at https://www.gunkanjima-concierge.com.
- Gunkanjima Landing & Cruise: Gunkanjima Landing & Cruise offers tours in English. They embark on a morning and afternoon tour daily as long as ocean and weather conditions allow. Visit them at http://www.gunkan-jima.net/ for more information.