Between City and Ruin: Explore the Forgotten Architecture of Hashima, an Abandoned Japanese Island

One of the densest places in the world, it had a population of 5,259, more than 80,000 per square kilometer.

Matt Shaw Matt Shaw

Browse the Architizer Jobs Board and apply for architecture and design positions at some of the world's best firms. Click here to sign up for our Jobs Newsletter.

I am writing this article from a wood and leather clad coffee shop inside of a disused textile factory. The massive brick walls are punctuated by an arched entry way, while new fixtures and furniture revamp the space into a beautiful mix of old and new, nostalgia and the contemporary.

But not all post-industrial spaces meet the same fate. Many lay wasted, meant only for illegal events or housing, or nothing at all. In larger cities, something usually finds its way into these vacant places, but what if an entire island remained unused?

Photos by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

That is what happened to Hashima, an island near Nagasaki, Japan, and once home to a huge coal mining operation owned by Mitsubishi. One of the densest places in the world, it had a population of 5,259, more than 80,000 per square kilometer. Today it is one of 505 uninhabited islands off the southwest coast of Japan.

Photos by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

From 1809 to 1974, Mitsubishi mined like crazy, but then suddenly closed the operation. The townsfolk left abruptly for the mainland, and left everything from tricycles to cats as they fled. The island is haunted by its past, in an eerie quiet, somewhere between city and ruin.

Photos by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

Hashima Island: The Forgotten World” is a project by Bryan James that takes the recently released Google Streetview images of Hashima and enhances them with historical facts and guide-like navigation. The ghostly interface is very easy to use, and visitors can navigate manually or by selecting a location from the sidebar.

Screenshots of Hashima.co.uk

You can visit the coal mines, the primary school, and even the “Stairway to Hell.” The stories on the site also enhance the experience of seeing this ruin porn with a slightly more personal touch. The ruins of a mining town live on forever. Who would have thought, in 1869, when coal was discovered there, that an “internet” project would feature the fallout of 100 years of life on the island?

Browse the Architizer Jobs Board and apply for architecture and design positions at some of the world's best firms. Click here to sign up for our Jobs Newsletter.

Screenshots of Hashima.co.uk

Read more articles by Matt

Geometry Lesson: 9 Geometric Luminaires We Love Right Now

From a hypnotic wall sconce to a suspended, animated grid of OLED triangles, we present nine recent lighting products that deftly play with geometry.

© Joao Morgado - Architecture Photography

JA House // Filipe Pina + Maria Inês Costa

Guarda, Portugal

+