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All about the forgotten world of Hashima Island
Posted on 29/06/2019

CultureJapan

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This island, which has been abandoned for over 40 years, is one of the strangest places on the planet. Come with us as we find out more about its history and why it has been left deserted!

A 'dark tourism' hotspot

A 'dark tourism' hotspot
Akeluk Chaipun/123RF

Hashima Island, also known as Battleship Island, is located just off the far west coast of Japan, and forms part of the Nagasaki region. The island has been completely abandoned for around 45 years, giving it an incredibly eerie, chilling atmosphere. Tourists can pay to visit the island, but can only walk around a small portion of it as the entire area is protected by UNESCO and some areas are considerably dangerous due to wear and tear from harsh typhoon seasons over the years. If the pictures are not enough to give you the heebie-jeebies, keep reading to find out more about the dark history of this strange place.

In the beginning

In the beginning
Leung Cho Pan/123RF

Hashima Island was originally used as a site for seabed coal mining, and the first people settled there in the mid-late 19th century. In 1890, the island was bought by the Mitsubishi Group and soon the island began to build, with multi storey buildings popping up fast due to a boom of industrialisation in Japan, known as the Meiji Restoration. The island is a symbol of Japan's industrial revolution, where you'll find some of the country's first ever reinforced concrete buildings and the remains of the coal mines and tunnels. In its prime, Hashima Island was one of the world's most densely populated places. But it's not all good news.

A dark past

Before and during World War II, Hashima Island was heavily populated by Korean and Chinese residents, many of whom were prisoners of war held there against their will. These people were subjected to forced labour and horrific conditions, as well as violent punishment. Mitsubishi still owned the island and were therefore responsible for the deaths of over 1,000 labourers, from various causes including starvation and exhaustion. After the Japanese government proposed the site to be put on the UNESCO World Heritage list, South Korean authorities were angered that there would be no mention of the terrible conditions that their people were put through on the island, and of course the deaths caused by forced labour. After much debate, the Japanese government agreed to acknowledge this treatment of Korean and Chinese workers and the site was awarded UNESCO protection.

Hashima Island today

Hashima Island today
Mathias Rhode/123RF

Today, since the island has been abandoned for over four decades, it's overgrown with foliage and trees, its buildings are crumbling and its atmosphere is creepy, making it a popular place for the media. Google was sent to the island in 2013 to take footage for Street View, so that anyone can take a tour of the island and see the remains of human life, such as old fridges and televisions, as well as items like shoes and plastic bottles. The island has been featured in several films and television series, most notably as the villain's home in the James Bond film Skyfall. Last year, a Netflix series called Dark Tourist visited Hashima Island in one of its episodes, touring the haunting, deserted streets. This idea of dark tourism seems to sum up the area's popularity perfectly.

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