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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 3600-4500 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:
    • Mezame Hostel
      Budget-friendly
      Mezame Hostel is located in Nagasaki, 2.8 km from Nagasaki Museum of History and 2.3 km from Urakami Cathedral. With a bar, the 1-star hostel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen, a shared lounge and luggage storage for guests. At the hostel, every room is fitted with a desk. Popular points of interest near Mezame Hostel include Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park and 26 Martyrs Museum. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 17 km from the accommodation.
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    • HafH Nagasaki SAI
      Budget-friendly
      Boasting a shared lounge, terrace and views of city, HafH Nagasaki SAI is set in Nagasaki, 1.3 km from Nagasaki Museum of History. With a bar, the 2-star hostel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi. The hostel has family rooms. Continental and Full English/Irish breakfast options are available every morning at the hostel. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is 4 km from HafH Nagasaki SAI, while Peace Park is 5 km from the property. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 19 km from the accommodation.
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    • Nisshokan Bettei Koyotei
      Luxury
      Nisshokan Bettei Koyotei is located in the Nagasaki Area, a 10-minute drive from Nagasaki Peace Park. Featuring views of the beautiful Nagasaki, it offers a public bath and free parking. Bettei Koyotei Nisshokan is a 15-minute drive from Glover Garden. JR Nagasaki Train Station is a 5-minute drive from the hotel, and a free shuttle is provided. The Japanese-style guestrooms offer both air-conditioning and heating facilities, and an en suite bathroom. Each room is equipped with a fridge, tea/coffee making facilities and a TV with cable channels. Guests can take a relaxing bath while enjoying the views of Nagasaki. There is a gift shop on-site. A Japanese breakfast set can be enjoyed in rooms. Drinks can be purchased from the vending machine on-site.
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    • 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. The units will provide guests with a microwave. Popular points of interest near the hostel include Nagasaki Museum of History, 26 Martyrs Museum and Fukusaiji Temple. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 18 km from ROUTE - Cafe and Petit Hostel.
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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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    • GRAND BASE Nagasaki City
      Mid-range
      Set within 300 metres of Nagasaki Museum of History and 3.5 km of Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki, GRAND BASE Nagasaki City offers accommodation with free WiFi and seating area. Accommodation is fitted with air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bidet, a hairdryer and free toiletries. A microwave, a fridge and stovetop are also offered, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Fukusaiji Temple, Megane Bridge and Suwa Shrine. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 18 km from GRAND BASE Nagasaki City.
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    • Hotel Forza Nagasaki
      Mid-range
      Opened in September 2014, Hotel Forza Nagasaki is non-smoking hotel located in the centre of Nagasaki, a 3-minute stroll from Shianbashi area and China Town. The hotel offers free WiFi access and all rooms are equipped with an iPad. Rooms at Nagasaki Forza Hotel come with a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator and a trouser press. Private bathroom includes a shower, a bath and free toiletries. At Hotel Forza Nagasaki you will find a 24-hour front desk and luggage storage service. Guests are able to dine at the on-site restaurant or shop at the mall on the lower levels of the building. The hotel is a minute walk from Kanko Dori Dentei Stop on Nagasaki Dentetsu. It is a 5-minute drive to Nagasaki Museum of History and to Nagasaki Train Station. Nagasaki Airport is a 45-minute drive away.
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    • JR Kyushu Hotel Nagasaki
      Mid-range
      Conveniently located to JR Nagasaki Station and Amu Plaza Nagasaki Shopping Mall, JR Kyushu Hotel Nagasaki features modern rooms with a flat-screen TV, electric kettle and bathroom with bath, shower and free toiletries. Free Wi-Fi is available at all areas. A relaxing massage can be arranged at an additional fee. Other guest facilities include a coin launderette and a beverage vending machine. Suwa Shrine and Heiwa Park are a 10-minute drive from JR Kyushu Hotel Nagasaki. A 45-minute drive leads to Nagasaki Airport. The hotel is located above Amu Plaza Nagasaki Shopping Mall, which offers various restaurant options.
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    • Ambiera Doza
      Mid-range
      Located in Nagasaki, near Nagasaki Museum of History, Oura Catholic Church and Glover Garden, Ambiera Doza features free WiFi. All units here are air-conditioned and feature a flat-screen TV, a living room, a well-equipped kitchen with a dining area, and a private bathroom with bidet, a hairdryer and free toiletries. A microwave, a fridge and stovetop are also provided, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Minato Park, Nagasaki Dejima and Sofukuji Temple. The nearest airport is Nagasaki Airport, 20 km from Ambiera Doza.
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    • Hotel New Nagasaki
      Luxury
      A 3-minute walk from JR Nagasaki Train Station and Amu Plaza, Hotel New Nagasaki features air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. Guests can enjoy international cuisines at one of the 3 on-site restaurants. Free WiFi is available throughout the property, including guestrooms. All rooms come with a TV, work desk, an electric kettle and a tea set. Wired internet is available in the hotel rooms and is free of charge. The on-site beauty salon provides beauty treatment services. Guests can relax also relax with a massage. The computers in the lobby can be used for free. Nishikisabo Restaurant serves Japanese cuisine and Torin Restaurant offers Chinese dishes. Restaurant Hydrangea offers Western cuisine. A Western and Japanese-style breakfast buffet is served on the 13th floor, which features a great view. Drinks are served at the Moon Light bar. Hotel New Nagasaki is a 50-minute drive from Nagasaki Airport. The ferry terminal is a 15-minute walk away. Guests can enjoy panoramic night views of the city from the observation deck on the Nagasaki Ropeway, which is a 10-minute ride away on the free shuttle.
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