Around a World Heritage Site: The Gunkanjima Guide [Complete Edition] » The history of Gunkanjima » The late period: The decline phase

The late period: The decline phase

Hashima Island(Gunkanjima) from the postwar period to the late Showa period

Gunkanjima, where the population density increased to become the highest in the world

The population density on Gunkanjima
Photo courtesy of the Gunkanjima Digital Museum

After World War II, Gunkanjima enjoyed great prosperity as labor standards improved due to the formation of a Hashima Coalmine labor union and the enactment of labor laws. The wages rose as a result of union strikes, and the population grew rapidly, too.

As the wages increased, the mine utilization rate fell, and the laborers’ leisure hours grew. In the 1960s, the population density became the world’s highest (about nine times that of Tokyo at the time). This is the absolute record in the world that has not been broken yet.

One of the reasons for the population growth was the supply of reconstruction funds was stepped up by the October 1945 guidelines for emergency measures for coal production. In addition, some of the factors that the population kept growing were the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers issued special rations to promote coal production for sugar imports, the fact that laborers had returned home from the war, etc.

1960s: Reduction in the scale of the coalmine

Photo courtesy of the Gunkanjima Digital Museum

As coal, the main energy source, gave way to oil during the energy revolution of the 1950s, Gunkanjima continued its steady decline due to the decrease in coal output. In addition, flooding in the deepest areas, along with the liberalization of the import of crude oil in 1962 and a spontaneous combustion incident in a level nine gallery located within the Uji Formation in 1964, caused much damage, and the size of the mine was reduced.

Because Gunkanjima had no other industry except coalmining, its population dropped sharply. Coalmines that had lost their working faces were dug further in search of new coal seams, but produced only coal waste (remaining soil other than coal).

However, the Hashima Coalmine saw a new mine developed in the Mitsuse area in 1965 and temporarily recovered. Although the population had declined, mechanization and rationalization brought production to near-wartime levels. In particular, when the submarine water supply pipeline went into service in 1957, fresh-water baths could be taken at any time. In addition, the housing situation improved dramatically, such that two vacant rooms were converted into one.

The closure of the mine

The Dolphin Pier
Photo courtesy of the Gunkanjima Digital Museum

However, it did not survive the times, and mining ended in 1972. On January 15, 1974, Gunkanjima was closed. This was mainly due to a shift in the national energy policy after the 1970s and a decline in profits due to working faces becoming remote. In April of the same year, about 2,000 islanders who had survived the closure of the mine departed all at once, and Gunkanjima became a desert Island. The mining activities, which had lasted for 100 years, came to an end.

The history of Gunkanjima
Continue to The present time: In the limelight again

In many cases, it is impossible to land due to sea conditions and bad weather. However, with the cooperation of the Gunkanjima Concierge, which boasts a high landing rate of 94.7% (*), we present a report on the landing tour that we participated in. We will acquaint you with all the charms of Gunkanjima, not to mention the highlights of the tour!

※Landing results from 2011 to 2018