There are few more fascinating places on this planet than Hashima Island, which lies alone and abandoned about 15km off the coast of Nagasaki. The tiny cluster of rocks was settled in 1887 as coal mining colony, with more than 5000 people crushed into an area the size of a few football fields. Battling typhoons and tsunamis, the islanders built up a community under the worst conditions possible. Then, almost overnight, it was all gone.
The mine closed in 1974 and everyone moved out, leaving the island empty, like abgreat carcass in a silver sea. Since then the harsh weather has wreaked havoc on the skeleton of the city, leaving a battered and beaten memorial to the past. Known as Battleship Island due to its resemblance to a hulking warship, Hashima is an eerie look at what happens when nature reclaims settlements. These days it’s most famous for appearing in the James Bond film Skyfall, but one thing’s for sure – I definitely had to explore it.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as hopping on a ferry and heading out there to have a poke around. The only way to get to Hashima is on a tour, and they fill up quickly. With grey skies rolling in I was horded onto a boat with about 150 excited Japanese tourists and off we went. It was pleasant enough as we slid through the harbour, but when we made it out to the open water, the waves came in and the boat started rocking and a few people started chucking up over the side.
Then the rain came started pounding us. It was like someone had thrown a massive bucket of water all over the boat, and I was soaked through in seconds. I managed to get under cover as the downpour continued, catching the odd glimpse of Hashima through the windows as we encircled it. When the rain eased off I climbed back on top of the boat, enjoying the view and becoming increasingly excited about exploring the place on foot. And then the boat turned around and headed back to Nagasaki.
Being the only non-Jap on the boat, I didn’t have a clue what was going on, and can only assume that the waves were too rough for us to land. Unless the boat’s captain is a complete fucking idiot and doesn’t know how to read conditions, he would’ve known that before we even headed off, and I can only assume he took us out there for our shitty little cruise so he wouldn’t have to refund our money. What a bust, I would’ve been better watching some videos of Hashima on fuckin’ YouTube! Here’s some photos of people who did get to enjoy the island.
With disappointment weighing me down like a fat girl on a scooter, I headed off into the city to find something to cheer myself up. I’ve been a huge fan of SEGA video games for the majority of my life (half the reason I’m in Japan is to visit Yokosuka, where my favourite game Shenmue is set – form an orderly line, ladies) so when I happened across a bright, shiny SEGA World I was bloody stoked. The SEGA World that used to be in Sydney was the best thing ever, full of rollercoasters and fun stuff, but the Nagasaki version had nothing but grabby-machines and Mario Kart arcade cabinets. There wasn’t even a Daytona USA. What a shame!
Having your heart broken and your dreams crushed is thirsty work, so I ended another long day with a nightcap. Beer is really expensive in Japan, so I’ve been drinking this unusual brew called Chu-hai Strong, which is a sort of alcopop that comes in all sorts of zany flavours such as lemon, lime, and lemon and lime. It goes down easier than my ex-girlfriend and, beautest of all, it has a glorious ABV of nine percent, making it only slightly less potent than an atomic bomb. Three or four half-litre cans of this stuff is enough to get a very bloody good buzz going, but the hangover it gives you is so rotton that the maker should be tried for crimes against humanity. But it’s cheap, so fuck it.