UNESCO World Heritage Site #22: Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining

Gunkajima Island

Hashima island, better known as Gunkajima because of its resemblance to a battleship. The island was known for its undersea coal mines which contributed to the industrialization of Japan. Established in 1887, the island produced coal for Mitsubishi until it was closed in 1974 as the coal supplies dwindled. In 1916, Mitsubishi built Japan’s first large concrete building at 9 storeys tall. It reached a peak population of 5,259 in 1959. Workers on the island received higher pay and had a standard of living than the average Japanese. After its closing, the island was left abandoned for threes decades. Typhoons and storms have taken their toll on Gunkajima, much of the island is off-limits due to safety concerns. Opened up to tourism in 2009, the site was awarded UNESCO status in July, 2015.