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Christmas Gift Guide

Three-hour tour

Nagasaki harbor

Gas

Mitsubishi shipyards

Rescue?

Hazy distance

Gunkanjima!

New dock

Apartments

Bridge and shrine

Hospital

Looking south

Inception?

Shrine

Wherever they fit

Weather

Battleship!

Neighbors

Rooms with a view

Nature finds a way

Wood

Southeast

Lighthouse

Entering the island

Mining equipment and coal storage

Conveyor belt

Grass

Entranceway

Not all green

Viewing area 1

Greenery

Walkabout

General office

Hugging the seawall

Open area

Closely knit

Stairs

Oldest

The tour begins with a boat. There are several companies that conduct tours to the island. All are in Japanese. I went with Gunkanjima Concierge as they have a prerecorded audio tour in English.

For the full story behind the tour, check out The haunting decay of Gunkanjima: "Battleship Island."

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Nagasaki has a huge harbor, and on your way to Gunkanjima you get to take in the view of the mountains, bridges, and the huge shipyards.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Speaking of huge, here's the Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Osaka Gas's LNG Mars. It holds 155,000 cubic meters of liquid natural gas. Cool looking ship.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

These gantry cranes are massive. Look close at the size of the ships under them, or the cruise ship just behind.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Not sure what was happening here. Looks like someone getting rescued (or a drill practicing the same).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Gunkanjima sort of peeks out from behind another small island. It doesn't look real through the haze and distance.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

It's real! It was truly incredible being in the real location of something I'd seen in pictures for so long. I almost wish I had come on some rainy night, because seeing it in the sunshine is almost weird.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

You can see one of the other tour ships docked. Each boat takes a turn, while the others that are waiting go around the island so you can see the other parts. The Gunkanjima Concierge seemed to be a larger boat than some of the others, and they might have been able to get a little closer to the island. Not sure, to be honest, I was understandibly distracted.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Most of the intact buildings were apartments. The buildings that housed the mining equipment are gone (as is the equipment).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The big building on the right was built in 1945 and was mostly housing, with a kindergarten on the roof. You can see the Hashima shrine up on the left.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The lower building is the island's hospital and quarantine ward, built in 1958. It makes sense to have something like this, given how rapidly a disease like the flu would spread.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This is the north end of the island, but because of its "battleship" shape, this looks like the stern. The building on the left was the island's school, elementary through junior high. It also had the island's only elevator (other than in the mines, of course).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The western side is where most of the housing was located. Most of these are apartments, though down at the end were a community center and a cinema. This side faced the East China Sea, and bore the brunt of the harsh weather.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A better shot of the shrine. The basements of many of the apartment buildings had shops.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To give you a sense of size, the smaller buildings in the front had 17 apartments. The large "U" shaped building (the tallest building in the back middle and left) had 317.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The winters are pretty bad here, and you can see how much the wind and weather have taken their toll on the concrete over the past 40 years.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

At this point, the boat moves away from the island a bit to get the full view of the battleship likeness. I wish I had done the tour in the afternoon and gotten the sun behind me for a better photo. Next time.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

We retrace our route. Notice the big hole in the lower left of the building? That was actually a waste chute for the mine, with apartments all around. I'm guessing there was some noise.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Not surprisingly, the apartments up top with the best view were a lot nicer, with their own baths. These were for manangement.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

You can see two aspects of nature. One, the destructive power of weather,;the other in how, given the chance, plants will take over just about anywhere.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The wooden shrine remains, amazingly, but the adjacent hall is gone.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Southeast of the island, looking northwest. Interestingly, the city limits of Nagasaki (which now is in charge of the island) end at the seawall. So fisherman come to the island, sit on the seawall, and fish from the end, off the "bow" of the ship.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The lighthouse is definitely new. I believe the building to the right was a cistern.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The shiny new dock.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This area was once filled with mining equipment and stored the coal waiting for pickup.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The supports once held up a long conveyor belt that carried coal from the mine to the storage area. That's the school in the distance, at the other end of the island.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Nature has returned, and with the regular rains, plants have plenty of water to grow.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The concrete tunnel on the right includes a lockable gate, though this seems rather perfunctory given how easy it would be to climb over any wall to get access to the island.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

There were still plenty of areas covered in rubble.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

At each viewing area, the tour guides gave a long description of the history of the place. Unfortunately, I don't speak Japanese.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The buildings here were the entrance to the second mine shaft. There were two main shafts and two auxiliary shafts. These, of course, broke into different tunnels that stretched out far beyond (and below) Hashima.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

As much as I'd love to come back here and just wander around, certain areas, like this (and those stairs) I probably wouldn't tread on.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This former building was the general office for the mine. There was a communal bath the miners used when they returned to the surface. I can't imagine the water was blue.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The new path works its way along the seawall to disturb the site as little as possible. As much as I wanted to get into the thick of it all, this makes a lot of sense. These buildings aren't getting any more stable.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This end of the island was relatively open, though many of the buildings that were once here have collapsed. This area also held a swimming pool.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

There could be upwards of six families per apartment in some cases. At least the miners were better paid than at other mines.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

All these multistory apartment buildings, and no elevators.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This is the oldest concrete apartment building in Japan, built in 1916.

This was the end of the tour. I hung back and got a few shots of as we left for the boat and then headed back to Nagasaki.

I paid Gunkanjima Concierge 4,000 yen (about $40) and found it money well spent. But then, I've wanted to do this for years.

For the full story behind the tour, check out The haunting decay of Gunkanjima: "Battleship Island."

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
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