Coalmining began on Gunkanjima in 1810 after fishermen discovered coal exposed on rocky reefs. However, until the end of the Edo period, fishermen called it seashore mining as a sideline to fishing, and it is said that only exposed coal was mined on a very small scale.
In 1887, Moto Watanabe, whose background was deep mining, opened the “First Shaft” of 36 m deep, the very first shaft on Gunkanjima. At the same time, machinery storage sheds, built with stone walls, archetypal on Gunkanjima, and coal depots that surrounded the eastern beach with dikes were constructed.
After that, in 1890, the Mitsubishi Corporation purchased the Hashima Coalmine from Magorokuro Nabeshima, the former feudal lord of the Nabeshima domain, for ￥100,000, and managed it as a branch of Takashima.
Coalmining began in earnest in 1891. After the transfer, the coal output of the Hashima mine, thanks to digging the second shaft in 1895 and the third shaft in 1896, kept growing until it surpassed that of the Takashima mine. Gunkanjima continued to produce high-quality coal until the mine was closed. The coal mined was used as coking coal at the Yawata Steel Works in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture, and other factories.
During that period, facilities were built for the coalmine, including the launch of the company ship Yugao Maru, installation of water-distilling equipment to accompany the construction of a saltern, and expansion of the Island. From 1897, as the islander population increased, work was underway to gradually reclaim the surrounding area.
In the 1890s, the shed system—where the laborers at the neighboring Takashima mine were housed in dormitories called sheds and engaged in semi-compulsory labor under status restraint supervised daily by the contractor’s shed foremen and assistant foremen—became a social issue. A similar system was set up at the Hashima mine, and labor disputes frequently flared up on Hashima. The shed system was abolished later than on Takashima, but it was gradually phased out and all the laborers were placed under the direct control of Mitsubishi.
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