Hashima Island lies about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city of Nagasaki, in southern Japan. Coal was discovered in 1810, and the island was habited continuously from 1887, and abandoned in 1974. Arriving at Dolphin Pier, all that meets you is a concrete wasteland.
The Post Office
Below the water, a network of deep undersea mines were dug, following the seams of coal snaking out from the island. Above the water, the island tripled in size through land reclamation and the construction of the sea wall.
Ruined Swimming Pool
In 1916, the mine owners Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha built Japan's first large reinforced concrete building to accommodate the growing ranks of island workers. The concrete building was designed to resist the strong typhoons that sweep over Hashima.
Over the next 55 years, more buildings were constructed for the resident workers. Leisure centers, schools, nurseries, a hospital, a swimming pool, and this rooftop shrine, with its stunning view across the bay.
This rooftop garden offers a respite from the dust and darkness. It would have been a welcome place of calm for the miners and their families, crammed together on the tiny island.
From the 1930s until 1945, conscripted Korean civilians and Chinese prisoners of war were forced to work on the island under increasingly harsh conditions.
Hizen Hashima Lighthouse
During this period, it is estimated that about 1,300 of those conscripted laborers died on the island due to various dangers, including underground accidents, exhaustion, and malnutrition.
As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down across the country. Hashima's mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially closed the mine in January 1974, and the island was cleared of inhabitants by April that year.
Across the island, you can find remnants of the many lives lived here. At times, it feels as though they have only just left, somehow expecting to return.
Coal Processing Area
Take a tour of the rest of this strangely beautiful island, and explore the remnants of the coal processing plants.