top of page

World Heritage Gunkanjima, Kyushu Trip Part.7 Nagasaki

Hashima Coal Mine General Office Ruins
Hashima Coal Mine General Office Ruins

(11) Feel the life of people on Gunkanjima

The general office can be seen from the second observation area. Only a portion of this brick wall remains, so it is supported. Since it was a facility with many people going in and out, I guess the outer wall was made of stylish brick to show off. If this wall hadn't survived, everything would have been a gray ruin.

This general office had a public bath where miners would bathe after work. There are three large bathtubs, and they entered the first sea bath with their clothes on. Their whole body is covered by black coal powder, so miners probably took off clothes in the water. Only the third bath was a bathtub using fresh water.

As Gunkanjima grows in size, so does its infrastructure. Originally, fresh water was carried to the island by a water supply boat, but a water supply pipe was laid under the sea, and a hole was made under the breakwater for that purpose. At first, power was supplied only by generators, but later a power line was laid from nearby Takashima.

Gunkanjima No.30 Apartment
The apartment No.30 can be seen in the back.

Closest to the living quarters is the third observation area. I can see inside the room through the broken wall. Abandoned household items like the ones I saw in TV documentaries are too far away to see. The apartment complex of the miners and their families was called the Tidal Town (Shio Furi Machi) because the waves hit the buildings when the waves were high. In order to protect the important coal mining equipment, people purposely built the apartment on this side of the island where the wind and waves hit harder. Because these apartments were the first in Japan to be made of reinforced concrete, they still exist as ruins.

Japan's oldest reinforced concrete high-rise apartment
Japan's oldest reinforced concrete high-rise apartment

In recent years, manual labor has an image that it is hard, dirty, dangerous, and cheap pay. But Gunkanjima was not. Average miner's salary was three to four times that of the average new graduate office worker on the mainland. In today's terms, that equates to a monthly income of about 700,000 yen.

People don't leave the island on a regular basis, and the pay is good. Then, it is natural to want to improve the living environment. At that time, Gunkanjima had the highest ownership rate of the three sacred treasures (TV, refrigerator, and washing machine) in Japan. The ownership rate of TV was 100%. The market was full of food items every day and was regularly visited by peddlers bringing various items.

Gunkanjima / Tide town
Gunkanjima / Tide town (Tours cannot come to this location)

It has most of the functions necessary for a city. There were hospitals, police, schools, post offices, temples, shrines, public baths, barbershops, pachinko parlors, movie theaters, senior citizens' clubs, and even isolation wards.

The Shinto shrine's main altor is still here. There was a grand festival called Yamagami Matsuri, and portable shrines were run around the residential area. The wooden temple was completely destroyed by the decay, and it is now impossible to see the remnants of it. Was the fire department the only thing I can think of which was not built here? Perhaps miners were trained somewhat similar to firefighters so they didn't need it.

It is said that most of the police work involved taking care of drunken men and arbitrating fights. It feels like a little Japan was here. However, there was one thing that could not be built on this island. What is it? On the way back, the onboard announcement told me the answer.

Gunkanjima resembles the battleship "Tosa"
Gunkanjima resembles the battleship "Tosa"

After finishing the island tour and returning to the ship, the ship will slowly go around the island. You can shoot from a position where Gunkanjima looks like a real battleship. There weren't many guests on this cruise, so it was great to be able to move around freely on the ship's deck.

On the way back to Nagasaki Port, I heard an announcement on the ship that I found something that wasn't on the island. It's a crematorium and a cemetery. Nakanoshima, an island right next to Gunkanjima, played that role. After landing on Gunkanjima, I can understand why. Unless a high chimney is built, the smoke from the cremation will reach the living quarters in the small Gunkanjima. In the long history of Gunkanjima, there were people who finished their lives here.

Hashima and Nakanoshima
Hashima and Nakanoshima

When you return to Nagasaki Port and disembark, you will receive a cool Gunkanjima Landing Certificate issued by Yamasa Kaiun. I recommend this Gunkanjima cruise. If you like history and ruins, please visit.

Well, it's still about 11:30am. From now on, I will walk from the port to the reproduced version of Dejima (Portuguese and Dutch trading post), which I discovered last night.

>>> Continued to Part.8 (Coming soon)

Battleship Island Gunkanjima Cruise Gallery

>>> Continued to Part.8 (Coming soon)

Please visit my glass jewelry shop from the link below.



bottom of page