HOME > What is Gunkanjima (Hashima)?

What is Gunkanjima (Hashima)?

Hashima is an island that belongs to Nagasaki city (former Takashima-cho) in Nagasaki prefecture and used to have a submarine coal pit. It is located in the sea 18 km southwestward from the Nagasaki port. It was just a stream of bare aqueous rocks. However, from 1897 (Meiji 30) to 1931 (Showa 6), it was expanded by six times of landfill. As a result, it became an island of 6.5 hectares with a circumference of about 1,200 m, extending about 480 m from north to south and about 160 m from east to west. This island is also called "Gunkanjima" because the appearance of the island, which circumference was covered by concrete quay walls and with a row of tall steel-framed apartments, is just like the battleship "Tosa".

Coordinate At latitude 32 degrees 37 minute 40 seconds north, 129 degrees 44 minutes 18 seconds of east longitude
Area 6.5ha
Sea line length 1.2 km
Highest elevation 47.7 m

What is the history?

Around 1810, coal was discovered in Hashima. Around 1870, Saga han was mining coal in a small scale. In 1890, Hashima fell under the management of Mitsubishi company that started coal mining in full swing. Coal mined from the submarine coal pit reaching to the point of about 1,000 m under the sea surface had good quality. Hashima provided about 1,5700,000 tons of coal between 1890 and 1974 until the coal mine was closed. Together with the nearby Takashima coal pit, Hashima contributed to the modernization of Japan in the fields of shipbuilding, iron-making and steel-making by providing fuels and coking coal for iron-making.

How did people live there?

In proportion to the increase of the coal output, the island population increased and house construction became active. After the Japan's first tall steel-framed apartment building No. 30 was constructed in 1916 (Taisho 5), various facilities were constructed. In 1960 in its prime, about 5,300 people lived there and its density population reached 9 times as high as that of the Tokyo’s wards at that time.
There were a number of buildings such as a hospital, a school, shops, a temple, a shrine, a police box, a movie theater, a barber, a pachinco hall, etc. The island functioned as a perfect city so that people were living in great comfort with island facilities.

What happened afterwards?

After the main energy was changed from coal to oil because of the change of the energy policy of Japan, Hashima coal pit was closed in January 1974 (Showa 49). In April in the same year, every people left the island and then the island became a desert island.
In 2009 (Heisei 21), thirty years later, tour facilities were developed. In April 2009, landing tour started, which was the beginning of the new history of Hashima.
Now, many tourists participated in the Gunkanjima landing tour to visit Hashima.
Also, Hashima is getting attention as an asset to constitute "Heritages of Industrial Revolution of Meiji Japan" that is now hoping to be registered on the World Heritage Site of year 2015.

Location of Gunkanjima (Hashima)

Location of Gunkanjima (Hashima) Image

Main buildings remaining in Gunkanjima (Hashima)

You can see photos by clicking the name of each building.

Location of buildings when the coal mine was closed

Building No. 1 Hashima Shrine

Period constructed :Year 1936 (Showa 11)
Structure/number of stories:Wooden one-story building

This is a shrine constructed at the top of the island. There used to be a shrine entrance below the shrine. However, it fell into ruin, so there is only the shrine today.

Building No. 3 Company housing (for senior officials, with a bath)

Period constructed:Year 1959 (Showa 34)
Structure/number of stories:RC four-story building

This was housing for senior officials. Each room had a bath.

Building No. 16, 17, and 18 Miners’ housing (house for those on a daily wage)

Period constructed:Building No. 16, 17, and 18 Building No. 16, 17, and 18 Year 1918 (Taisho 7)
        Building No. 19 and 20 Year 1922 (Taisho 11)
Structure/number of stories:Building No. 16, 17, 18, and 19, RC nine-story building
      Building No. 20, RC seven-story building

This is company housing for miners. Buildings are connected in a comb-like pattern through the corridor on the west side of each building. The roof had the Japan’s first roof farm. This was a valuable place for enjoying plants.

Building No. 23 Company housing (one-story), temple (two-story, Senpukuji)

Period constructed:Year 1921 (Taisho 10)
Structure/number of stories:Wooden two-story building

This was a wooden two-story building. Located on the second floor was the only temple on the island.

Building No. 30 Former housing for miners (housing for subcontractors' workers)

Period constructed:Year 1916 (Taisho 5)
Structure/number of stories:RC seven-story building

Japan's oldest steel-framed multi-story apartment buildings. This building was constructed as housing for miners. The courtyard had a soaring corridor and stairs. There was a shop underground.

Building No. 31 Underground communal bathhouse, post office (first floor), housing for miners

Period constructed:Year 1957 (Showa 32)
Structure/number of stories:RC six-story building

A post office was located on the first floor. This was the only place where information could be exchanged with the outside world before each housing unit had a telephone. A belt conveyor for discharging refuse penetrated the building.

Building No. 50 Movie theater (Showakan)

Period constructed:Year 1927 (Showa 2)
Structure/number of stories:Steel-framed two-story building

This movie theater had about 400 seats including the seats on the second floor. It is said that they tried very hard to get movie films even when regular ferries were canceled because they did not have many opportunities to enjoy entertainment on the island. However, movies became less popular with the spread of television. Just before the site was closed, it was used as a place to play table tennis.

Building No. 65 (North building) housing for miners・(East building) Housing for miners, nursery school located on the roof・(South building) Housing for miners

Period constructed:(North building)Year 1945 (Showa 20) (East building)Year 1949 (Showa 24) (South building)Year 1958 (Showa 33)
Structure/number of stories:(North building)RC nine-story building (East building)RC 10-story building (South building)RC ten-story building

This was the biggest building on Hashima. The building was almost surrounded by a children's playground that took the form of the letter "U." The buildings were constructed in the order of North, East, and South buildings. There was a nursery school on the 10th floor of the East building.

Building No. 67 Dormitory for miners (Bachelor's dormitory)

Period constructed :Year 1950 (Showa 25)
Structure/number of stories:RC four-story building

This is a symbolic building with X-shaped outside staircases at the front. On May day, a banner was suspended from these staircases.

Building No. 69 Hashima Hospital

Period constructed:Year 1958 (Showa 33)
Structure/number of stories:RC four-story building

This hospital protected the health of the people on the island. This hospital had hospitalization equipment and surgical facilities.

Building No. 70 Hashima Elementary and Junior High School

Period constructed:RC seven-story building
Structure/number of stories:RC造7階

The Elementary School was located from the first floor to the fourth floor. The Junior High School was located on the fifth floor and the seventh floor. The sixth floor had a lecture hall, a library, and a music room. The seventh floor also had special rooms including a science laboratory. This building had the only elevator on the island, which was used to convey school lunches.

Building No. 71 Gymnastic hall

Period constructed:Year 1970 (Showa 45)
Structure/number of stories:RC two-story building

This was the last building to be constructed on Hashima. The first floor had a martial arts gym and the second floor had a gymnastic hall.

Swimming pool

Period constructed:Year 1958 (Showa 33)

There was a 25-meter swimming pool. Next to it, there was a shallow swimming pool for small children. Seawater was used for the swimming pools.

Dolphin pier

Period constructed:Year 1962 (Showa 37)年

This artificial island pier was constructed from experience of past destruction caused by two typhoons. Its ability to withstand typhoons was a source of pride. It was in use until the mine was closed. This pier is now the main entrance to Hashima again as the pier serving the Gunkanjima tour.

Amakawa's bank protection

In the Meiji Era people actively constructed protective banks as the island expanded. The protective banks were made by the stone bonding method using a bond called Amakawa, which made use of a mixture of caustic lime and bole. These retaining walls still remain at many places on the island. They help to create the unique scenery of the island.

Jigokudan

The steep steps to the Hashima Shrine at the top of the island from the side of Building No. 16 was called Jigokudan by the island people.

Shiofurimachi

This area was called Shiofurimachi because waves from the Gotonada crashed over the apartment buildings and fell in this area when the sea was rough. Besides, the underground areas of buildings No. 59, 60, and 61 in the vicinity had an underground market where various products could be bought and a communal bathhouse.

Hashima Ginza

Hashima Ginza opened markets consisting of outdoor stalls of fresh food such as vegetables and fruits and everyday sundries such as clothing. It is said that the markets were so popular that every product was sold out in the morning.

Second shaft

The second shaft was opened and coal mining started in 1895. It was used as the main shaft until the coal mine was closed. Even after the opening of the mine, it was still being modified. In 1937, when additional excavation was completed, the depth reached about 600 meters.

Second shaft pier

Most of the coal mine facilities were destroyed. However, a hatchway to the pier constructed to access the second shaft still remains.

General office

This was a central building of the coal mine facilities. There was a big communal bathhouse for miners inside the facility.

Fourth shaft

It was completed in 1925. The depth was about 370 meters. It was usually used for exhausting air. However, it was also used as a replacement for the second shaft when the second shaft had a problem. It was used until Hashima was closed.

Fourth vertical shaft winding machine room

Coal storage

Clean coal (carefully selected coal) was transported by belt conveyor and stored in the coal storage. It was then loaded onto a coal vessel. Only the poles of the belt conveyor remain.

Water storage tank