Gunkanjima, Once The World’s Most Densely Populated Place, Now An Abandoned Ghost Town.

Image Credit: espinas3

Gunkanjima, once the most densely populated place in the world, now stands as a ghost town. Its tiny, fortress-like island lies off the coast of Nagasaki, surrounded by a seawall and tightly packed buildings. Completely abandoned for over forty years, the island has a history as odd and poignant as few places in the world.

In the early 1900s, the Mitsubishi Corporation developed Gunkanjima, capitalizing on its rich submarine coal deposit. For nearly a century, the mine extended deeper and longer under the seabed, fueling Japan’s industrial expansion with its coal production. By 1941, the island, less than one square kilometer in area, was producing a staggering 400,000 tonnes of coal per year, and unfortunately, much of this labor force consisted of forced laborers from Korea.

Beyond the remarkable mine, a city had flourished around it. Ten-story apartment complexes housed the miners, forming a high-rise maze interconnected by courtyards, corridors, and stairs. The city featured schools, restaurants, and gaming houses, all encircled by the protective seawall. It earned the moniker “Midori nashi Shima,” the island without green, due to its heavily industrialized nature.

Remarkably, in the mid-1950s, Gunkanjima accommodated nearly six thousand people, boasting the highest population density the world had ever seen. However, the prosperity came to an end when the coal reserves were depleted. Mitsubishi shut down the mine, and the island become abandoned.

The once-thriving apartments began to crumble, and for the first time, greenery started to grow in the barren courtyards. Broken glass and old newspapers scattered over the streets while the sea-breeze whistled through the windows.

Now, fifty years later, Gunkanjima remains frozen in time, exactly as it was just after Mitsubishi’s departure. A ghost town standing in the middle of the sea, a poignant reminder of its vibrant past and the impact of its rapid decline.


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