Kyushu Trip 2014 Pt III: Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)

Ever since I saw some haikyo websites a fair few years ago giving details about this island I have wanted to go there and see it for myself. That dream finally came true in Nagasaki on the first day of this month when I treated my girlfriend to a trip to Gunkanjima a.k.a. Battleship Island as its appearance resembles the warship Tosa due to its surrounding sea walls and multi-storey concrete buildings.

P1040636 P1040631

This place was brought to the mass attention of the public when it featured in the most recent 007 film ‘Skyfall‘ (2012) but as Tokyo Fox explained in this article from last year it was sadly all faked on a set back at Pinewood Studios. Other than a few movie posters on the boat there was no other mention of the 23rd James Bond movie being set (kind of) on Gunkanjima which was formerly known as Hashima.

IMG_4489 P1040623

However, it still whetted my appetite for seeing the real thing so on our first morning in Nagasaki we stumped up a fairly pricey 4000 yen to go on a sightseeing boat that goes to the island. It should be noted that the ticket used to access Gunkanjima (included in the 4000 yen price) only costs 300 yen so I wonder if it’s possible to find a cheaper way of getting to this small island which is located about 20 kilometers from Nagasaki Ferry Terminal.

P1040627 P1040625

Beforehand, my expectations were quite low as I knew it wasn’t a situation where we could wander off and explore the island how we see fit. Of course, there’s the small matter of safety concerns which is why tourist boats are restricted to just three areas on the western side of the island which have had walkways and viewing platforms constructed and that is the only work that has been done on the island in the name of tourism.

IMG_4490 P1040545

The island is only 480m long and 150m wide but with 5300 residents once living there it had the worlds highest population density which meant that in typical Japanese fashion that every piece of land was built up and so it came to look like a massive battleship.

P1040550 P1040576 P1040556 P1040567

Mistubishi company bought the Hashima mine at the end of the 19th century and that was the catalyst for the islands development. The southern half of the island was for the workings of the mine and the northern half  was devoted to residential space, a school, restaurants, shops, a swimming pool, a shrine and a hospital which the workers and their families called home.

P1040565 P1040559

However, in April 1974 the mine was closed and these residents had to leave Gunkanjima, abandoning the island with all its buildings. Today, the only people you might see (other than tour group-related people)  are a few fishermen dipping their tackle in to see what bites!

P1040560 P1040568 P1040570 P1040571

Following the exodus, severe weather conditions such as typhoons caused the buildings to deteriorate and as these structures started to erode away and collapse, Gunkanjima was closed to the public, and for many years could only be seen from sightseeing cruises that circled the island.

P1040574 P1040577 P1040593 P1040594 P1040595 P1040596

In the last few years though the place has been open to the public and now there are two boats a day (9am and 1pm) which transport tourists to and from the island.

IMG_4494 P1040586 P1040598 P1040599 P1040600 P1040601

There are tour guides at each of the three observation areas who give short presentations about the history and background of the place. They’re only conducted in Japanese but having done my research on this place in the past I wasn’t too fussed about that. Besides, I was given a very nice and informative English guide pamphlet (when I purchased our tickets) which was more than satisfactory for me.

P1040603 P1040604 P1040607 P1040608

We were probably on the island for around an hour which I thought was long enough. There were always a couple of guards at the back of the group but they never hurried you along or anything and even took photos for those who wanted them. On leaving the island we then circled the island which I was very happy about as I wanted to see it from as many angles as possible, particularly the backside which is rarely shown in any pictures of the place.

P1040638 P1040639 P1040641 P1040645 P1040646 P1040647

The boat left Nagasaki Ferry Terminal (which is a 10-15 minute walk from Nagasaki Ekimae station) at exactly 9am and arrived back at about 11.30am where on disembarkation we were even presented with a stamped and dated certificate. I was and still am utterly fascinated by Gunkanjima and was more than pleased with the relatively high cost of the tour. It offered a thoroughly interesting insight into the island life and a sense of how isolated the islanders must have been.

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
This entry was posted in James Bond, Japan Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Kyushu Trip 2014 Pt III: Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)

  1. Pingback: London Filming Locations: Skyfall (2012) | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

  2. Pingback: TF Film Review: Skyfall (2012) | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

  3. Pingback: Gunkanjima In Skyfall: Real Or Fake? | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

  4. Pingback: Usami Kannon-Ji Temple | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

  5. Pingback: Usami Kannon-Ji Temple | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s