One of us was lucky enough to visit legendary “Gunkanjima” a few years ago. Hashima Island, known locally as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)- is situated off the coast of Japan near Nagasaki. Mitsubishi purchased the island in 1890 and began the project of extracting coal from undersea mines. They built Japan’s first large concrete building (9 stories high) in 1916 to accommodate the burgeoning ranks of workers. Concrete was specifically used to protect against typhoon destruction. In 1959, the 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island’s population reached its peak of 5,259, with a population density of 835 people per hectare for the whole island. As petroleum replaced coal in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima’s mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closure of the mines in 1974, with the local workers/inhabitants having to vacate their island fortress immediately.
Gunkanjima is increasingly gaining international attention, not only for its modern regional heritage, but also for the undisturbed housing complex remnants representative of the period. In the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall, the island served as an inspiration for the lair of villain Raoul Silva, but filming did not take place on the island itself. One section was recreated at Pinewood Studios in England and the rest via CGI. In 2013, Google sent an employee to the island with a Street View backpack to capture its condition in panoramic 360-degree views and allow users to take a virtual walk across the island. Google also used its Business Photos technology to let users look inside the abandoned buildings, complete with old black-and-white TVs and discarded soda bottles.