Roots in an island that had the
world's highest population density
Roots in an island that had the
world's highest population


The Hashima coal mine, on the island of the same name off the coast of Kyushu, near Nagasaki, was acquired by Mitsubishi in 1890, and helped to compensate for the decrease in coal output at the nearby Takashima coal mine. Because of its shape, Hashima Island was also known as Gunkanjima—“Battleship Island”—with the coal mine here operating for 85 years until its closing in 1974.

Just 160 meters wide and 480 meters long, the 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island is quite small, but at its peak, 5,267 people lived here at one time, giving it a population density nine times that of Tokyo and the highest in the world at the time. The facilities on the island, including a hospital, schools, a shrine, police station, movie theater and barber shops, allowed it to function as a completely self-contained city. It even had its own pachinko parlor. It’s hard to connect the fact that this was a coal mine on a remote island with the advanced urban life here. The buildings are tightly packed together and that seemed to bring people together as the whole island was like a family.

However, as prosperous a city-island it was, as the main energy source of Japan moved from coal to oil, the island went into decline. While many efforts were made to avoid closing the mine, in April 1974 the last inhabitants left the island, and Hashima became an uninhabited island.
In recent years, though, tours of the island have begun, and Hashima was named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2015—so the island remains popular, if in a different way from the past.

Related link: VISIT NAGASAKI Official Tourism Website for Nagasaki City
Photo courtesy: Nagasaki Prefecture Convention and Tourism Association