Hashima Island - The Traveller


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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hashima Island


Origin of the Name Hashima Island

Hashima Island is nicknamed “Gunkanjima” or “Battleship” island because of the shape of the island and unique silhouette. It is situated around 15 kilometers (approx. 9 miles) from the city of Nagasaki, in southern Japan. The island's most prominent characteristics are the derelict historical concrete buildings, untouched except by nature, and the surrounding sea wall. The sea-walls earlier protected the local residents from Typhoons coming in from the sea.

History of Hashima Island

The Hashima island was well known for its undersea coal mines set up in 1887 i.e. during Japan’s industrialization and was home to a huge coal mining operation run by Mitsubishi, with 5,259 people living there resulting in an astounding 83,500 people per square kilometre, making it one of the most thickly populated places in history. Until the end of the Second World War; Chinese prisoners of war and Korean civilians worked under Mitsubishi as slave labourers with strict supervision of work and very harsh conditions. The treatment meted out to the workers was very brutal. During the World War II era, the island was purportedly called the "Jail Island" or "Hell Island" among Korean forced laborers.

When coal was replaced by petroleum in the 1960s, the mines on the Hashima island closed down and the island is now unpopulated with empty buildings. Mitsubishi officially declared the closure of the mines in 1974. Mitsubishi owned the Hashima island till 2002. The island has been included as part of Nagasaki city since the merger with the former town of Takashima in 2005.

Recent recognition of Hashima Island

Since the Hashima island has been gaining attention internationally for its modern regional heritage, and also for the intact housing complex remnants showcasing the period from the Taishō period to the Shōwa period, some of the walls in the exterior of the island have been refurbished with concrete. It has become the recurrent theme of debate among enthusiasts for ruins.

During the prosperity years of Japan around 1960; the island had 50 apartment buildings which housed a population of more than 5000, but that was 30 years ago. Now it is completely deserted. The complex of the mine was closed in 1974. The desolate place was open to tourists about 4 years ago with limited access. The island was opened for public visits as of April 22, 2009.

Japan’s request in 2009 to include Hashima Island as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was strongly opposed by South Korean authorities on the premise that Korean and Chinese forced labors were used in the mines on the island prior to and during World War II. North Korea also disapproved of the World Heritage bid citing the same reason.

However, in July 2015 South Korea withdrew its opposition after Japan's acknowledged this concern as part of the island’s history, particularly taking into account that there were huge hoards of Koreans who were brought against their will and made to work under cruel circumstances in the 1940s and that Japan was ready to include suitable procedures into the interpretive strategy to remember the victims such as the establishment of information center. Hashima Island was included on the UNESCO Heritage list as of July 5, 2015.

Popular showcases of Hashima Island

The Hashima island was broadcast in History Channel's ‘Life After People’ in 2009, first season episode "The Bodies Left Behind" as an example of the decay of concrete buildings. The island also featured in 2011 in an episode of a 3D production, ‘Forgotten Planet’ emphasizing the island's present condition, history and unlawful photos shot by urban tourists. In 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall, the island served as an inspiration for the lair of villain Raoul Silva. A Japanese rock band also shot their music video there.

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