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Off the Nagasaki coast lies the ghost island of Gunkanjima. From 1887 to 1974, this compact island was home to a lively mining community with a school, hospital and apartments. Now the 'Alcatraz' of Nagasaki draws thousands of visitors a year after it became world famous as a setting in the James Bond film Skyfall.
Originally the island was named Hasjima, but it soon acquired the nickname ‘Gunkanjima’. ‘Gunkan’ is Japanese for ‘battleship’: from a distance the island and its many buildings resemble a warship. Japanese car multinational Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 to mine coal from undersea mines. Over the course of time, the island became a thriving community.
Gunkanjima was once home to hundreds of mining families. Over time, coal production increased significantly: in 1941 the island produced 400,000 tons a year. Gunkanjima was booming. In addition to apartment complexes, the island also housed a hospital, a restaurant and 2 swimming pools. With almost 6,000 people living in a few square km, Gunkanjima was the most densely populated area in the world in the 1960s. Mitsubishi seemed to have struck gold, but when oil became a more popular fuel, the demand for coal fell drastically. In 1974, Gunkanjima was closed. Within a few weeks the bustling, thriving island became a ghost town.
For years, the island remained abandoned. The impact of several hurricanes only hastened the island’s decay. Nature slowly began to take over the island. This all changed in 2009: a jetty was built so that curious visitors could take a look. Gunkanjima became really popular again after the release of Skyfall, the 2012 Bond movie. It served as the inspiration for the movie’s Dead City, the hide-out of villain Raoul Silva. A replica of the island was built in a studio, but some scenes were actually filmed on Gunkanjima.
“Google maps has mapped the entire island, even the parts that are off-limits to visitors.”
Gunkanjima is only accessible by an organised boat tour - individual visitors are not allowed. The Gunkanjima Concierge Company offers 2 excursions a day to the island. Along the way you will pass the Mitsubishi shipyards and sail underneath the Megami Ohashi Bridge. On the island you will enjoy a 45-minute guided tour of those sections that are open to the public.