Gunkanjima is located about 20km ofshore from Nagasaki. Its prosperity began when coal was discovered in 1810 and Mitsubishi developed coal mining on the island in 1890. Miners lived in dormitories on the island and the population reached oveer 5200 in 1960. The mines closed in 1974 and the island was subsequently abandoned. Today, visitors can only reach the island via escorted local tour, although they give English pamphlets to non-Japanese speakers.
At a pit stop island, the guide explained the various buildings on a scale model of the island. It was fairly self-contained, with schools, a hospital, worker housing, temple, and cinema.
There was also a museum with artifacts from the mining era.
Shortly after, the abandoned island came into view. Gunkanjima stretched 480m long and 160m wide. It was not a huge island by any means.
Visitors can only land at one pier, and walk along 3 observation areas in a defined path. Nobody can actually venture into the abandoned site for safety reasons. In the distance are the elementary and junior high schools.
After stopping at each viewing area with the guide explaining stuff in Japanese, we were hushed back to the boat for the return journey.
It's an expensive trip, but offers an interesting insight into life on this mining island. Notice the thick walls along the coast. It's open ocean here, so they need all the protection possible during the monsoon season.