Battleship Island


In 1890, Mitsubishi acquired Hashima, a coal mine island in the Nagasaki Prefecture. Since then, the fate of the isalnd became interwined with the history of Japan’s early industrialization, colonial expansion, total war, and postwar high-speed growth. Hashima is also known as Gunkanjima or Battleship Island because of its eerie resemblance to a battleship. During its peak in the late 1950s, over 5,000 people lived on the island, making its population density the highest in the world. The 15-acre island was therefore a site for modern Japan’s many modern engineering and architectural experiments, including Japan’s first concrete building and rootop garden. During World War II, among those workers who died on the island were forced laborers from Korea and China. Nonetheless, life improved considerably after the war, and residents were able to enjoy many modern amenities. Some even boasted that the island had everything except a graveyard. In 1974, as coal was increasingly replaced by petroleum as the main source of energy, the mine was closed. As a result, the island has become a vast graveyard and a time capsule of the bygone era of industrial urbanism.