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Gunkanjima (R͓) is a small island located about 20 kilometers from Nagasaki Port. Until 1974, the island served as a coal mine, and more than 5000 residents called the 480 meter long, 150 meter wide island home, resulting in the highest population density in history recorded worldwide.

To accommodate so many people in such a small area, every piece of land was built up so that the island came to resemble a massive battleship. In fact, "Gunkanjima" is a nickname that means "battleship island" in Japanese. The island's formal name is Hashima.

Coal was first discovered on Gunkanjima in 1810 by the feudal lord of Saga. Industrial mining began in the late 1800s, and soon after, the island was purchased by the Mitsubishi Corporation. As production increased, the island was expanded, and large residential and industrial buildings and high sea walls were constructed.

Managers, workers and their families all called the little island home. The residents of the island were able to live out a more or less typical life. Half of the island was devoted to the workings of the mine, the other to residential space, schools, restaurants, shops, a public bath and a hospital.

In April 1974, the mine was closed, and its residents had to leave Gunkanjima, abandoning the island with all its buildings. Over the years since then, direct exposure to typhoons has caused the residences and mining facilities to deteriorate, giving the island an eerie and haunting atmosphere. Due to the danger of collapsing structures, Gunkanjima was closed to the public, and for many years could only be seen from sightseeing cruises that circled the island.

In April 2009, however, a newly constructed boat dock made it possible for sightseeing tour boats to land on Gunkanjima. Tour participants are taken to three observation decks in a small part on the southern end of the island and spend about 45 minutes on the island with Japanese speaking tour guides. Tours do not involve getting too close to the buildings because of the risk of collapse.

The boat ride between Nagasaki and Gunkanjima is also enjoyable. Boats take about 50 minutes one way, and pass large Mitsubishi ship building factories and other islands along the way. The ride also allows for some nice views of the city of Nagasaki and its port from the water.

For those unable to get to Gunkanjima, an alternative is the Gunkanjima Digital Museum near the Oura Church in Nagasaki. This modern museum boasts an impressive amount of information about the island, including a simulated journey down a working mineshaft and a digital installation that recounts aspects of living through testimonials and photographs. Visitors can also take augmented reality tours of certain areas of the island as they exist today.

Getting there and around

Tour boats to Gunkanjima are operated by multiple companies and depart from various locations in Nagasaki Port, including the Nagasaki Port Ferry Terminal near the Ohato tram stop (3 minutes by tram line 1 from Nagasaki Station) and the Tokiwa Terminal near the Ourakaikandori tram stop (15 minutes by tram line 1 and 5 from Nagasaki Station).

The Gunkanjima Digital Museum is located a short walk from the Oura Church and the Ouratenshudo tram stop on tram line number 5.

How to get to and around Nagasaki

Hours and Fees

Multiple companies operate boat tours to Gunkanjima. Tours typically take about three hours, including close to an hour spent on the island itself, and cost around 3910-4810 yen per person. Note that in case of bad weather or high waves, landing on the island may not be possible or boats may not operate at all. Advance reservations are recommended especially on weekends and during holidays.

The Gunkanjima Digital Museum is open from 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30) with a small number of irregular closing days. Admission costs 1800 yen. The museum takes 45-90 minutes to explore and has a moderate level of English, which is contributed to by English headsets that follow the digital installation.

Hotels around Nagasaki

Top rated in Nagasaki
Budget:
    • ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel
      Budget-friendly
      ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel is set in Nagasaki, 3.1 km from Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and 3.7 km from Peace Park. Among the facilities at this property are a shared kitchen and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hostel features family rooms. Some rooms come with a kitchen with a stovetop. At the hostel all rooms are equipped with bed linen and towels. The area is popular for cycling, and bike hire is available at ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Nagasaki Museum of History, 26 Martyrs Museum and Fukusaiji Temple. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 40 km from ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel.
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    • i + Land Nagasaki
      Luxury
      Renovated in April 2018, i + Land Nagasaki is 18.5 km or a 40-minute drive from Nagasaki Station. A hot spring bath, sauna, garden and kids area are available for guests. The property provides a 24-hour front desk. An Asian breakfast is served daily at the property. Guests can make use of the sauna. Cycling is among the activities that guests can enjoy near the resort. Nagasaki Museum of History is 11 km from i + Land Nagasaki, while Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is 11 km from the property. Nagasaki Airport is 27 km away.
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    • Dormy Inn Nagasaki Ekimae
      Luxury
      Set in Nagasaki, within 1.1 km of Nagasaki Museum of History and 3 km of Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Dormy Inn Nagasaki Ekimae offers a spa and wellness centre. Boasting a 24-hour front desk, this property also provides guests with a restaurant. Free WiFi is available and private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. At the hotel, the rooms are equipped with a desk. All guest rooms will provide guests with air conditioning, a safety deposit box and a flat-screen TV. A buffet breakfast is available every morning at Dormy Inn Nagasaki Ekimae. At the accommodation guests are welcome to take advantage of a sauna. Popular points of interest near Dormy Inn Nagasaki Ekimae include Fukusaiji Temple, 26 Martyrs Museum and Megane Bridge. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 37 km from the hotel.
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    • Garden Terrace Nagasaki Hotel & Resort
      Luxury
      Located in Mount Inasa, boasting skyline view of Nagasaki city, Garden Terrace Nagasaki Hotel & Resort in Nagasaki has a number of amenities including a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and a bar. With free WiFi, this hotel offers free shuttle service and a 24-hour front desk. Nagasaki Station is a 10-minute drive away, while the property is a 15-minute drive from Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. All air-conditioned units at the hotel come with a flat-screen TV with cable channels and Blu-ray player, a coffee machine and a fridge. All rooms has an ocean view with a terrace. The private bathroom with includes a bathrobe, hairdryer and free toiletries. This hotel offers guests a relaxing experience with on-site spa services at "SPA RICH". This hotel offers a Japanese-style cuisine and tempura restaurant "Akizuki", French restaurant "Restaurant Forest", Sushi restaurant "Tenku" and Teppanyaki-grill restaurant "Chikusai". Guests can choose from Japanese-style or Western-style breakfast every morning at this hotel. Popular points of interest near Garden Terrace Nagasaki include a 15-minute drive to Peace Park and 20-minute drive to Glover Garden.
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    • Nagasaki Kagamiya
      Budget-friendly
      Nagasaki Kagamiya offers dorm beds and private Japanese rooms, a 5-minute walk from Hotarujaya Tram Station. It features a garden and a cosy shared lounge with free WiFi and a free-use internet pc. Ladiesf kimono rentals are available. Private rooms have a tatami (woven-straw) floor, on which guests sleep in traditional futon bedding. Shared dormitory rooms come with bunk beds. Toilets and bathrooms are shared.
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    • GRAND BASE Nagasaki Chukagai
      Mid-range
      Located in Nagasaki, near Nagasaki Museum of History, Oura Catholic Church and Glover Garden, GRAND BASE Nagasaki Chukagai features free WiFi. Accommodation is fitted with air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen with a dining area, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bidet, slippers and a hairdryer. A microwave and fridge are also provided, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Minato Park, Nagasaki Dejima and Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 20 km from GRAND BASE Nagasaki Chukagai.
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    • GRAND BASE Nagasaki Ekimae
      Mid-range
      Set in Nagasaki, near Nagasaki Museum of History, 26 Martyrs Museum and Fukusaiji Temple, GRAND BASE Nagasaki Ekimae features free WiFi. Accommodation is fitted with air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bidet, slippers and a hairdryer. A microwave, a fridge and stovetop are also offered, as well as a kettle. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is 3.1 km from the aparthotel, while Peace Park is 3.7 km from the property. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 39 km from GRAND BASE Nagasaki Ekimae.
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    • GRAND BASE Nagasaki
      Mid-range
      Situated 1.9 km from Nagasaki Museum of History in Nagasaki, GRAND BASE Nagasaki features accommodation with air conditioning and free WiFi. All units come with a seating area, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with slippers, bidet and shower. A microwave, a fridge and stovetop are also offered, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Oura Catholic Church, Glover Garden and Minato Park. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 37 km from GRAND BASE Nagasaki.
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    • Luke Plaza Hotel
      Luxury
      Located on Inasa Mountain, Luke Plaza Hotel features spectacular views from its comfortable rooms, restaurant and bar. It provides a free shuttle service that takes 7 minutes to/from JR Nagasaki Station. Free Wifi is available throughout the property, and free parking is available. Spacious, carpeted rooms feature a seating area with tranquil garden views, or lively views of the city or harbour lights. Amenities include a flat-screen TV, a minibar and a bathrobe. Complimentary green tea is provided. The front desk at Hotel Luke Plaza is staffed 24 hours, and it offers fax and photocopying services. Drinks can be purchased throughout the day at vending machines. The restaurant features a breakfast buffet with a wide variety of Japanese and Western food. A relaxing tea time can be enjoyed at the bright cafe on the ground floor. Luke Plaza Hotel is a 5-minute drive from the top of Inasa Mountain, which is famous for its night views. It's a 10-minute walk from the Inasa Goshin-ji Temple.
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    • Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown
      Luxury
      Set in Nagasaki, within 1.5 km of Nagasaki Museum of History and 4 km of Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown provides accommodation with a spa and wellness centre. With a restaurant, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk and luggage storage space for guests. The units in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. At Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown all rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy a buffet breakfast. Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown offers 4-star accommodation with a sauna and hot tub. Popular points of interest near the hotel include Oura Catholic Church, Glover Garden and Nagasaki Dejima. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 37 km from Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown.
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