Hashima Island (Japan)
If you’ve seen the new James Bond film Skyfall, then you were probably impressed by Javier Bardem’s portrayal of the villain, Raoul Silva. He’s a bad dude, and his evil island lair seems a fitting place for him — a rotting heap of buildings sitting out in the middle of the ocean, populated with derelict buildings. It’s so creepy that you think it can’t be real.
But, here’s the thing. The island is real. The island is known as Hashima, or alternatively as Gunkanjima (“Battleship”) Island, and it sits about nine miles off the Japanese coast in the East China Sea. In the late 1880s, coal was found on the sea floor beneath the island. In the early days, Japan’s Mitsubishi company, which was mining the coal, would ferry miners from Nagasaki to the work site. Then, the company decided it would be easier to just build houses for the workers and their families on Hashima itself. Giant, multi-story concrete apartment blocks went up. Schools, bath houses, temples, restaurants, markets, and even a graveyard were built, all on a space the size of a football field.
Once they reached 5,000 people or more out there, it was recognized as the most densely populated place on earth, ever. However, in 1974 the coal ran out and the Mistubishi Company told the people that they would have some work for them on the mainland, provided on a first come, first served basis. That’s why people left so quickly. They left coffee cups on the tables and bicycles leaning against the walls.
A few years ago, actor Daniel Craig, who plays Bond, “discovered” the island and suggested it as a location for his next 007 movie. Skyfall only features external shots of Hashima. The scenes on the island were actually shot in a studio. That’s because Japanese officials don’t allow anyone to set foot on the island itself. Lately, interest in Hashima as a grisly tourist site has grown. A boardwalk has been built around half of the island, but that’s about as close as you can get.