5,300 people lived there in the high-growth 1960s with the No. 1 population density in the world
Coal was discovered around 1810 on the island of Hashima, some 30 minutes away from Nagasaki Harbor by boat, and some 80 years later in 1890, Mitsubishi bought the rights for the mining areas for the entire island and began coal mining in earnest. The island was called Gunkanjima because its shape resembled that of a battleship. More than half the island was rich in ore, and the remainder was filled with hospitals, schools, temples, shrines, police boxes, movie theaters, barber shops, etc. so it functioned as a complete city. During the high-growth 1960s, 5,300 people lived there with a population density that was No. 1 in the world and more than 9 times that of Tokyo. Utilizing cutting-edge technology, it was a near-future city channeling modern metropolises with Japan’s first high-rise reinforced concrete apartment buildings, an undersea water supply first invented by Japan, the nation’s first roof gardens, etc. But with the switch of the country’s main source of energy from coal to oil, there was a course of decline. In January 1974, the mine was closed and in April, all of the residents left the island, leaving Gunkanjima a deserted island. Since then, people had been prohibited from going onto the island, but from 2009, tourism and field trips were allowed. Despite the presence of abandoned buildings, household appliances starting with TV sets and other traces of life have been left there as they were, with the island as a whole being left as it was during its prosperity, and one can feel what Japan was like during the period of high growth. There are some tour companies, and high-speed ships leave from Nagasaki Harbor. Due to the extreme danger from the concentration of decrepit reinforced concrete buildings on Gunkanjima, visits are performed by going around the island once by ship. Then, tourists go onto the island and with a guide, they can tour for about 1 hour. Since there are guides who can speak English, inquiry is necessary beforehand.