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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
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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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    • Hilton Nagasaki
      Luxury
      Located 400 metres from Nagasaki Station, Hilton Nagasaki offers 5-star accommodation in Nagasaki and features a fitness centre, a restaurant and a bar. This 5-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service. The property is non-smoking and is set 1.4 km from Nagasaki Museum of History. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a desk, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a TV and a private bathroom with a shower. All units include a wardrobe. Guests at Hilton Nagasaki can enjoy a buffet breakfast. The accommodation offers 5-star accommodation with a spa centre. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is 2.8 km from Hilton Nagasaki, while Peace Park is 3.4 km away. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 39 km from the hotel.
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    • ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring 2-star accommodation, ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel is located in Nagasaki, less than 1 km from Nagasaki Museum of History and 3.1 km from Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. This 2-star hostel offers a shared kitchen, luggage storage space and free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is set 300 metres from Nagasaki Station. 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 this 2-star hostel. Peace Park is 3.7 km from ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel, while Oura Catholic Church is 2.5 km away. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 39 km from the accommodation.
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    • Dormy Inn Premium Nagasaki Ekimae
      Luxury
      Featuring 4-star accommodation, Dormy Inn Premium Nagasaki Ekimae is set in Nagasaki, 400 metres from Nagasaki Station and less than 1 km from Nagasaki Museum of History. With a restaurant, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi. Private parking is available on site. At the hotel, every room is equipped with a desk and a flat-screen TV. At Dormy Inn Premium Nagasaki Ekimae the rooms are equipped with bed linen and towels. A buffet breakfast is available every morning at the accommodation. Dormy Inn Premium Nagasaki Ekimae offers 4-star accommodation with a sauna and spa centre. Languages spoken at the reception include English and Japanese. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is 3 km from the hotel, while Peace Park is 3.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 38 km from Dormy Inn Premium Nagasaki Ekimae.
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    • GRAND BASE Nagasaki Chukagai
      Mid-range
      Located in Nagasaki, near Nagasaki Station, Nagasaki Museum of History and Oura Catholic Church, 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, free toiletries and a hairdryer. A fridge and microwave are also provided, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Glover Garden, Minato Park and Nagasaki Dejima. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 38 km from GRAND BASE Nagasaki Chukagai.
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    • GRAND BASE Nagasaki
      Mid-range
      Situated within 1.8 km of Nagasaki Station and 1.9 km of Nagasaki Museum of History in Nagasaki, GRAND BASE Nagasaki features accommodation with free WiFi and seating area. Every unit has a private bathroom and bidet, air conditioning, a flat-screen TV and a fridge. There is also a microwave, stovetop and a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Oura Catholic Church, Glover Garden and Minato Park. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 38 km from GRAND BASE Nagasaki.
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    • hotel H2 TRIP&BUSINESS NAGASAKI
      Mid-range
      Located in Nagasaki and with Nagasaki Museum of History reachable within 1.3 km, hotel H2 TRIP&BUSINESS NAGASAKI provides concierge services, non-smoking rooms, a shared lounge, free WiFi throughout the property and a terrace. Featuring a 24-hour front desk, this property also provides guests with a restaurant. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is 3.9 km from the hotel and Peace Park is 4.6 km away. Guest rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a bidet, free toiletries and a desk. The units include a safety deposit box. Breakfast is available daily, and includes buffet, continental and American options. Popular points of interest near the hotel include Nagasaki Station, Oura Catholic Church and Glover Garden. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 38 km from hotel H2 TRIP&BUSINESS NAGASAKI.
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    • Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown
      Luxury
      Featuring 4-star accommodation, Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown is located in Nagasaki, 1.6 km from Nagasaki Museum of History and 4 km from Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Featuring a restaurant, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property is non-smoking and is set 1.5 km from Nagasaki Station. 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, hot tub and spa centre. Around-the-clock information is available at the reception, where staff speak English, Japanese and Korean. Popular points of interest near the hotel include Oura Catholic Church, Glover Garden and Nagasaki Dejima. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 38 km from Candeo Hotels Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown.
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    • THE GLOBAL VIEW Nagasaki
      Luxury
      Featuring massage services, 3 restaurants and a concierge, THE GLOBAL VIEW Nagasaki is situated right outside Takaramachi Tram Station, which is the 2nd station from Nagasaki Station. WiFi is accessible in all areas of the hotel and rooms include a private bathroom and a flat-screen TV. Guests at THE GLOBAL VIEW Nagasaki stay in contemporary rooms with a fridge and safe with complimentary green and black teas. The private bathroom has a bathtub and toiletries, while pajamas are provided. JR Nagasaki Train Station is an 8-minute walk away. Guests can also take a sight-seeing bus from the front side of this hotel. Nagasaki Peace Park and Urakami Cathedral are 10-minutes away via car, while Nagasaki Airport is a 50-minute ride away on the express bus service. The Kitchen boasts 15th floor views of Nagasaki City and serves a sumptuous Japanese and Western breakfast buffet comprised from over 40 different dishes. Coffee and snacks are served at Cafe de Bijoux.
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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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