There are over 500 uninhabited coastal islands within Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, but only one has played lair to a James Bond supervillain. Hashima made its silver screen debut as Javier Bardem’s hidden retreat in 2012’s Skyfall, although it’s an unusual fit for such a distinct island. Hashima (aka Battleship Island aka Ghost Island) seems a more natural setting for Mad Max, or Day of the Dead.
First populated in 1887, Hashima was integral to South Pacific coal extraction, making it a shining example of Japan’s industrial ascendance. By the 1950s, the population had reached 5000, with towering apartment complexes, schools, commercial districts, and a perimeter of concrete barricades to protect against tidal waves. Few company towns could boast such thriving activity. The good times would never end as long as the coal money kept flowing.
The coal money dried up by the late 1960s. Petroleum was increasingly the fuel of choice, and Hashima’s facilities were completely abandoned by 1974. The mining company offered Hashima’s labour force mainland jobs on a first-comefirst-serve basis. Inhabitants fled, leaving fully furnished apartments and halfeaten meals on restaurant tables. The loose ends of these abandoned lives still remain undisturbed some 40 years later. Nobody has lived there since.
The last class of schoolchildren on the island once stood in formation to spell “Sayonara Hashima” across the schoolyard for passing aircraft. Today that playground is cracked and overgrown. The nearby high-rises collapse in on themselves as all signs of modernity rot and crumble. Wildlife sniffs for morsels throughout the ruin, indifferent to the lives and dreams left behind.
Illustration by Fanqiao Wang