Gunkanjima – literally ‘Battleship Island’ – is the epithet given to the island of Hashima, the former site of a coal-mining community near the port of Nagasaki. Long-since abandoned, it is now a fascinating place to explore. The Japanese even have a word for this – haikyo – the exploration of forgotten urban ruins.
The island was inhabited for nearly 90 years by the mine workers and their families, with the building of seawalls, reclamation of land, and layer upon layer of residential construction creating a concrete behemoth that no longer resembled the Hashima they first settled upon. Once coal was replaced with petroleum across Japan the island closed down, but its artificial and distinctive silhouette – more akin to a battleship than an island – made it a place of fascination for those sailing by. It is now possible to cruise around Gunkanjima yourself, and in good weather, even walk around its evocative ruins. Recently used in the James Bond film Skyfall as the evil lair of its villainous antagonist, it does – appropriately – have a sinister and ghostly feel to it.
Whether you are a curious photographer, or simply wish to get up close to an eerie relic of Japan’s industrial past, this is an unmissable experience.