Hashima, an Abandoned Island Formerly a Coal Mining Hub

Hashima, The Rise And Fall Of A Coal Mining Island

Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima (meaning “Battleship Island” in Japanese), is a small, isolated landmass located in the East China Sea, approximately 15 km off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.

This uninhabited and desolate place still retained remnants of its coal mining infrastructure and abandoned buildings from its industrial past.

This island is renowned for its unique and striking landscape, characterized by the densely packed, concrete high-rise buildings that cover a significant portion of the island.

Hashima’s history dates back to the late 19th century when coal was discovered beneath its seabed.

Then, Mitsubishi Corporation capitalized by establishing a coal mining operation.

The island’s population burgeoned, prompting the construction of high-rise apartment buildings for the growing community.

Its shift from a bustling coal mining town to a decaying ghost town reflects the ever-changing course of history influenced by technological progress and evolving energy demands.

Therefore, Hashima was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 as a historical testament to its industrial past.

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The Area Remains Of Coal Mining, Buildings, And The Residents

Hashima is a relatively small island with a land area of approximately 6.3 hectares.

Given its limited size, the island’s space is densely packed with the remnants of its former coal mining community.

There are several high-rise apartment buildings where the coal miners and their families once lived and various industrial structures, such as warehouses, offices, and machinery for coal mining operations.

Besides that, walkways and streets that once bustled with activity but were now overgrown with vegetation.

Despite its limited size, during its heyday as a coal mining community, Hashima was densely populated.

At its peak, over 5,000 workers and residents created one of the world’s highest population densities on the island.

Industrial Prosperity On Hashima

Hashima Island became a symbol of Japan’s rapid industrialization and economic growth during the 20th century.

The mined coal powered Japan’s industrial growth, playing a vital role in energizing factories and infrastructure. It is used to fuel factories, power plants, and various industrial processes, contributing to Japan’s development during that era.

The Mitsubishi Corporation, which owned and operated the island’s coal mine, became one of Japan’s most powerful conglomerates.

However, the prosperity of Hashima was short-lived. With the global shift towards cleaner and more efficient energy sources, the demand for coal dwindled.

In the 1960s, the island’s coal mines became unprofitable, and Mitsubishi shut them down in 1974, prompting a mass departure.

Entering The Era Of Abandonment And Decay

Eventually, Hashima Island was left to the elements and rapidly succumbed to decay and disrepair. It had limited public access to visit the island through guided tours.

The harsh coastal weather, combined with a lack of maintenance, took its toll on the once-thriving island.

Buildings crumbled, vegetation reclaimed the land, and the place became a ghost town, left to deteriorate in isolation.

Efforts were being made to preserve the island’s unique history and heritage through its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, but its structures were still deteriorating.

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Historical Connection To Korea During Wartime

The island, Hashima, was used as a forced labor camp during the war.

Korean and Chinese laborers were among those forced to work in the coal mines on the island under harsh and often inhumane conditions.

This historical aspect of Hashima’s past is a stark reminder of the wartime atrocities and the suffering of forced laborers during that period.

The forced labor issue remains a point of contention between Japan and its neighboring countries, including South Korea.

It has been a subject of diplomatic disputes and efforts to seek redress for the victims and acknowledgment of this dark chapter in history.