Before being completely abandoned in the mid-1970s, Hashima Island (often called “Gunkanjima,” or “Battleship Island”) was one of the most densely populated places in the world.
Spanning 16 acres, the island sits on top of an undersea coal mine. During its prime, 5,000 people lived and worked there, helping to fuel Japan's industrialization. But prior to the island’s boom, during World War II, the Japanese government forced hundreds of Chinese and Korean laborers to work the mines. Treated as slaves, the men were tortured, starved, humiliated and murdered. According to one survivor, who was 14 years old when brought to the island, some laborers sealed their own fates by committing suicide.
When the mines dried up and closed in 1974, Battleship Island was left to rot.
Today, the island’s eerie skyline consists of buckling high-rises full of smashed windows. Overturned desks and shelves full of dusty books indicate where a school used to be, while twisted, rusted rods of metal jut out from piles of concrete boulders.
Interestingly, and to the dismay of many of the Chinese and Korean survivors who suffered on the island, Hashima was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.