Activities & Attractions

Battleship Island: An Abandoned Mining Island Where The Attack On Titan Live-action Movie Was Filmed

Battleship Island in Nagasaki

Japan’s Battleship Island, also known as Gunkanjima, has a creepy yet beautiful atmosphere created by ruined buildings that formerly housed miners and their families. A deserted island with remnants of civilization, the once-prosperous Battleship Island bears a dark history, yet it has found second life as a popular urban exploration destination.

Eerily beautiful abandoned island

Image credit: kntrty

Gunkanjima is an abandoned mining island located within Nagasaki Prefecture, and it was designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. “Gunkan” means “battleship” and “jima” means “island” in Japanese.

Hashima island viewed from afar
Image credit: @papio_favorite

Japanese battleship Tosa
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Although the island is commonly referred to as “Battleship Island” or “Gunkanjima”, its actual name is “Hashima Island”. When viewed from afar, Hashima Island looks just like the Japanese battleship Tosa, which explains its popular moniker.

Image credit: @gunkanjima_con_gdm

Notable features of the island include its imposing but dilapidated concrete buildings, as well as a tall sea wall that surrounds the entire island. The latter vaguely resembles the walls surrounding cities in the popular anime series Attack on Titan.

Image credit: IMDb

Interestingly enough, the Attack on Titan live-action movie was filmed on this island. It’s no doubt a fitting location for a show that takes place in a dystopian world filled with ruined buildings.

The only way safe and legal to visit Battleship Island is through one of the few tour group ferry ride services available.

Video credit: 軍艦島アーカイブス

But don’t fret if you can’t visit any time soon. In 2014, Nishinippon Shimbun uploaded a video of Hashima Island in 4K – honestly a feat considering the technology back then – depicting inaccessible areas of the island and all of its beauty. Give the video a watch if you want to take a mini virtual tour.

Controversies surrounding Hashima island

Image credit: 軍艦島アーカイブス

Once a mining island with a school, hospital, and even its own town hall, Hashima island is now an abandoned monolith that serves as a symbol of Japan’s rapid industrialisation during the Meiji period.

Image credit: @gunkanjima_con_gdm

On the flipside, the island also serves as a grim reminder of the war crimes that the Japanese committed during World War 2. Many Korean civilians and Chinese prisoners of war were forced to work on the island under harsh conditions and abuse, leading to many casualties.

Image credit: @gunkanjima_con_gdm

This dark history sparked controversies and conversations surrounding Hashima Island’s designation as a UNESCO site back in 2015, since a UNESCO site is supposed to be a place that has an “outstanding universal value” to humanity.

Image credit: @gunkanjima_con_gdm

Even though Japan’s achievement in industrialisation during the Meiji period on Hashima island warrants merit, it was overshadowed by the war crimes that took place here.

Eventually, Hashima Island was designated as a UNESCO site after Japan compromised and agreed to educate visitors to the site about both the positive and negative history of the island.

Visiting Battleship Island in Japan

Explore the historically rich Battleship Island by taking a ferry from tour group services such as Yamasa Kaiun, Gunkanjima Concierge, or Gunkanjima Cruise. Be sure to check out their schedules and make reservations in advance.

Address: Hashima Island, Takashimamachi, 851-1315 Nagasaki

For more places to visit in Japan, check out:

Cover image adapted from: @shinichiro.urata and @espinas3


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