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Return to Hashima Island

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Last month, I was fortunate to be able to return to Hashima Island, the abandoned island on the southern coast of Japan.

I was able to photograph and explore sections of the island that I missed on the first trip, including several approach and exit shots of the island from the ocean.

Hashima Island has been abandoned since the Spring of 1974. Since that time, the island has been beaten by typhoons, a tsunami and general decay.

The island (also know by its nickname "Gunkanjima") was featured in Skyfall, the most recent James Bond film. Shots of the island from the ocean were digitally enhanced to make the island appear larger. No filming was done on the island - everything was recreated on a sound stage.

From Wikipedia: The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. The island's most notable features are the abandoned and undisturbed concrete apartment buildings and the surrounding sea wall. The island has been administered as part of Nagasaki city since the merger of the former town of Takashima in 2005.

It is known for its coal mines and their operation during the industrialization of Japan. Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 and began the project, the aim of which was extracting coal from undersea mines. They built Japan's first large concrete building (9 stories high), a block of apartments in 1916 to accommodate their burgeoning ranks of workers. Concrete was specifically used to protect against typhoon destruction. In 1959, the 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island's population reached its peak of 5,259, with a population density of 835 people per hectare (83,500 people/km2, 216,264 people per square mile) for the whole island, or 1,391 per hectare (139,100 people/km2) for the residential district.

As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima's mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine in 1974, and today it is empty and bare, which is why it is called Ghost Island.