The Truth and Dark Secrets of Hashima Island

About 15 km from the city of Nagasaki is an abandoned island, uninhabited but steeped in mystery. Hashima Island, once a mecca for coal mining at sea, is a vivid representation of Japan’s rapid industrialization.

In fact, the island is also known as Gunkanjima (meaning Warship Island), the reason it got its name is because the shape of the island is very similar to Japanese warships. Historically, Hashima Island officially operated as a coal mining facility from 1887 to 1974.

However, when coal reserves began to dry up and oil began to replace coal, the island was forced to close and the people left.

After that, Hashima Island was neglected for nearly three decades. But as the abandoned concrete walls gradually crumble over time and flora thrives, this crumbling island has caught the attention of those interested in the historical site’s integrity.

The dark truth and secrets of the island of Hashima - a remote island of Japan - Photo 1.

Coal was first discovered on the island around 1810, and the island was continuously inhabited from 1887 to 1974 as a seabed coal mining facility. Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha bought the island in 1890 and began extracting coal from undersea mines, while seawalls and reclamation (which was three times the size of the island) carried out construction practices.

However, Hashima Island’s past was not that simple.

During World War II, Japan brought Korean civilians and Chinese prisoners of war here to do forced labor. As far as we know today, during the period of time the island was considered hell on earth, an estimated 1,300 workers died on the island between the 1930s and the end of the war due to unsafe working conditions, malnutrition and exhaustion.

The dark truth and secrets of the island of Hashima - a remote island of Japan - Photo 2.

Four main mines (up to 1 km deep) were built, with one connecting Hashima to a neighboring island. Between 1891 and 1974, about 15.7 million tons of coal was mined in the mines at 30 degrees Celsius and 95% humidity.

Coal was first discovered on this 16-hectare island in the early 1800s. In an attempt to catch up with Western colonial powers, Japan began a period of rapid industrial development in the mid-1980s. The 1800s and the island of Hashima were used to try to realize this endeavor.

After Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890, the company built and developed a breakwater and started coal mining as Japan’s first major underwater coal mining operation.

The dark truth and secrets of the island of Hashima - a remote island of Japan - Photo 3.

In 1916, the company built Japan’s first large reinforced concrete building (a 7-story apartment block for the miners), to accommodate their growing workforce. Concrete is used specifically to protect against damage from tropical storms. Over the next 55 years, many buildings were built, including apartment blocks, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, town halls, and community centers. To serve the entertainment needs, clubs, cinemas, community baths, swimming pools, rooftop gardens, shops and pachinko rooms were built for the miners and their families.

In 1916, a seven-story apartment building (Japan’s first large reinforced concrete building) was built for the miners on the island. In line with that, other facilities such as schools and hospitals are also being built in stages so that coal mining can be more stable.

The dark truth and secrets of the island of Hashima - a remote island of Japan - Photo 4.

Map showing Hashima Island.

Over time, the island grew rapidly and became one of Japan’s most important coal mining facilities in the past, in 1959 the island’s population reached 5,259.

In the 1960s, coal mines across Japan began to close as oil became the number one alternative. In January 1974, Mitsubishi closed the mine on Hashima Island.

Of course, when activities stop working, people have to leave too. In just three months, the island was wiped out of all activity. Thus, the architectural masterpiece after the island was abandoned also gradually collapsed and became ruins over time.

The dark truth and secrets of the island of Hashima - a remote island of Japan - Photo 5.

Beginning in the 1930s and until the end of World War II, Korean enlisted civilians and Chinese prisoners of war were forced to work under extremely harsh conditions and brutal treatment at Mitsubishi facilities as forced labor under Japan’s wartime mobilization policies. During this time, an estimated 1,300 enlisted workers died on the island from various hazards, including underground accidents, exhaustion, and malnutrition.

Even after the population shrank to zero, Mitsubishi retained ownership of the island until 2002, when they voluntarily moved the island to the city of Takashima. Today, the city of Nagasaki, which annexed the city of Takashima in 2005, has full jurisdiction over the island.

The dark truth and secrets of the island of Hashima - a remote island of Japan - Photo 6.

In the past, thousands of women, men and children lived and worked on this island, exploiting the coal mines under the sea, contributing to Japan’s rapid industrial growth in the late 2000s. , a site shaped like a naval frigate.

The dark truth and secrets of the island of Hashima - a remote island in Japan - Photo 7.

The area is only 6.3 hectares, but Gunkanjima has 71 buildings, buildings, coal mine tracks. At its peak in 1959, the island was once the most crowded in the world, so narrow that more than 5,000 people were crammed into a building measuring about 0.16 square kilometers. This island was also the inspiration for the film Hell Island which was produced by Korea in 2017.

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