You've seen it in Skyfall and all over the media. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hashima Island -- also known as Gunkanjima ("Battleship Island") -- has attracted attention for its post-apocalyptic, modern ruins. Here's everything you need to know before visiting this Nagasaki prefecture destination. Jump to: Where is Gunkanjima? What happened on Hashima Island? Things to know before visiting Battleship Island Gunkanjima tour companies Getting to Nagasaki Making sure you have the right island in mind Where is Gunkanjima? Hashima Island (aka Gunkanjima) is located 12 miles (19 km) off the coast of Nagasaki. Nagasaki is located on the east coast of the island of Ky\u016bsh\u016b, the southernmost of Japan's four major islands. What happened on Hashima Island? As a world-class undersea mining operation, the island was once a symbol of Japan's rapid industrialization. Mitsubishi bought the then uninhabited island in 1890, and soon it was transformed with modern buildings and conveniences. These included early examples of concrete apartment blocks and electric lighting. By the 1950s, the population had swelled to as many as 5,000 people, attracted by solid wages and a unique mining culture. However, as coal power gave way to gasoline, coal prices fell, and many mines, including Hashima, were permanently closed. By 1975 the island was completely evacuated. An abandoned Japanese island with a shady past Hashima Island's increase in popularity and status as a World Heritage Site, though, has not been without controversy. What many don't know is that the island has a history of forced labor, both before and during World War II. The terrible conditions and unsafe environment led to untold suffering -- along with as many as a thousand unrecorded deaths. Tour companies are often reluctant to talk about this, leading to suggestions that those in power are attempting to obscure the island's history. At the time of writing, Gunkanjima had no memorials to the victims of forced labor. Japan has pledged to set up a memorial and an information center in the years to come. From local eyesore to world-famous attraction Thanks to a total ban on visitors, Hashima Island was left to be reclaimed by what little nature remained -- and remained practically untouched for decades. The eerie atmosphere of an industrial town where people seemingly disappeared mid-lunch eventually caught the public eye. Slowly but surely, brave individuals started returning to the island, exploring and taking photos. However, the crumbling ruins -- not to mention abandoned mines -- meant that unregulated visits were an accident waiting to happen. Perhaps to combat this danger, official guided tours were eventually introduced. Since the Japanese government lifted the ban in 2009, the island has become a popular destination for visitors to Nagasaki and Fukuoka. To cater to demand, several companies have begun offering guided tours, departing from Nagasaki Port. Prices range from about to per person. Important things to know before visiting Battleship Island If you want to visit Hashima Island (aka Gunkanjima aka Battleship Island), here are some things to know beforehand. 1. You can't visit Hashima Island on your own Safety first is the key principle here! Even though Hashima Island is one of Nagasaki's top attractions, the buildings on the island really are at risk of crumbling. And since no one knows when they might crumble, the government has mandated that tourists can only visit as part of an official tour group. Unless you're in journalism or media in general, sorry, that solo trip just isn't happening. 2. Nagasaki weather gets pretty rough Gunkanjima is surrounded by treacherous waters. The sea is harsh, and even a slightly rainy, cloudy, and\/or windy day is enough to set off the waves and impede visibility. Consequently, cruise companies reserve the right to cancel tours due to bad weather -- even on the day of the tour itself or while you're aboard the ferry. In the case that the tour is canceled outright before it starts, you should be eligible for a refund. Sometimes tours depart Nagasaki only for conditions to worsen mid-journey. If it becomes no longer possible to dock at Hashima Island after you've departed, the tour will likely pivot to a cruise around the island instead -- and you'll be refunded the difference in cost. In any case, just keep in mind that there's always the risk of the tour not pushing through for reasons beyond human control. For reference, Yamasa Shipping's website mentions that on average, the number of days in a year that tours successfully push through is around 100. 3. Gunkanjima is not for the faint of heart See the above point on Gunkanjima's waters. More than the cost, the major obstacles to visiting Hashima Island are inclement weather and health.\u00a0 If you're prone to seasickness and motion sickness, this probably isn't the tour for you. On a particularly rough day, even those who don't easily suffer from those conditions may also feel unwell. I don't get motion sickness easily, but there were several times when I felt like throwing up, and I finally did during the ride back. Having anticipated that guests might feel uncomfortable on the journey, the staff distributed towels, candy, vomit bags, and even a wristband that's supposed to help combat motion sickness, but those still weren't enough for me. (They don't sell anti-motion sickness medicine, though, so bring your own just in case.) If these don't discourage you, then good for you! But just remember that your health is more important than any tour, however awesome it may be. In my case, it was a short but memorable experience, but would I do it again? I don't think so, because of the bumpy ride! Editor's note: Motion sickness medicine in Japan is called yoidome (\u9154\u3044\u6b62\u3081) and it can be purchased at any major drug store chain. 4. You may be refused admittance based on your physical condition This isn't because of discrimination; again, it's for safety reasons. The tour companies we list don't reject reservations from pregnant women, as well as people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. However, harsh weather conditions and other unforeseen circumstances could still lead to pregnant women suddenly being barred from joining a tour. Unfortunately the ferries are not wheelchair accessible, and Gunkanjima isn't a wheelchair-friendly location, either. Those with serious chronic illnesses are also discouraged from joining. It's best to inform the tour companies beforehand about any physical conditions you have, just so you have an idea of whether you can go ahead with that reservation. 5. Babies and pets are not allowed We're not sure why anyone would think of bringing a baby or a pet on a tour like this, but if you're thinking about it, don't. No tour operators allow kids under 3, and they really prefer kids to be in elementary school and up. Some will let you book for preschoolers, but others won't. Part of this is because of Nagasaki law, which says children under 6 can't be on the deck of the boat. So if you're traveling with a child aged 3\u20136, you'll have to remain seated with them inside the boat at all times -- rather than crowding on the deck with everyone else trying to get photos. And there is still a chance the captain can decide it is too unsafe for a preschooler to disembark. 6. You have to sign a safety contract You have to agree to follow their rules, which are basically common sense anyway: don't join the tour intoxicated; don't go off on your own upon disembarkation (yes, following the guide is really important; they need a license to conduct those tours so they know better) -- things like that. Pro-tip: Read more about\u00a0haikyo (Japanese for "ruins" but usually referring to modern ones) as an exploration of Japan, past and present 7. There's an additional fee on top of the tour cost It's a fee set by the local government and it goes to the preservation of Gunkanjima. You pay this to the tour company, with some including it in the price and some charging seperately. For children the fee is . 8. The Hashima Island tour is 60 minutes long -- max Again, this is a government-mandated thing, and it's for everyone's safety. You'll follow a guide down a prescribed route and stop for photo ops here and there. You won't really see much of the island, but you'll at least get a glimpse of the urban decay. And no, you can't get close to, let alone explore, the ruins. Safety first, remember? Yes, the round trip to the island takes longer (as just going one-way can take up to an hour, depending on conditions), and while this may be a letdown for some, keep in mind that there's no other way you can see Gunkanjima. It's not like it's some tourist spot in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka that's easy to get to. And, hey, it's better than nothing! 9. Skyfall wasn't actually filmed there The island was famously featured in Skyfall as the lair of Raoul Silva (a former MI6 agent gone rogue). In reality, the abandoned island just inspired the eventual design of the film, which was actually shot in Macau. So while the reputation for villainy stands out for tourists, only external shots were ever shown in the film. The island was, however, used as a filming location for the less-acclaimed Attack on Titan film, back in 2015. Tours to Hashima Island Depending on the company, you might see tours listed for "Battleship Island", "Abandoned Japanese Island, "Skyfall Island," or "Ghost Island." But when it comes to what you see on Hashima Island, all tours are the same. Only a small section of the island is open to visitors, and you'll be joining a guided tour (with probably 15\u201330 other people) along a prescribed route. The time you get on the island is also the same across tours: about 45 minutes -- or an hour at max (depending on the ferry crossing conditions). All tours require advanced reservations, which can be done online. Gunkanjima tour guidelines Dress appropriately: Be sure to wear trainers\/sneakers (and definitely not heels! but also: no sandals) and some kind of sun protection, as there is little shade on the island; also be warned that it can be very windy, especially in winter. Rain doesn't necessarily mean tours won't run. Note that umbrellas (and parasols) are not allowed on Hashima Island, so bring a rain jacket if the sky looks questionable. Operators will probably also have plastic ponchos for sale\/rent\/or maybe for free. There are no toilets on the island, and only one or two likely on the boat, so plan accordingly! You can take photos and videos on the island and during the journey over (though some operators may ask that you don't film the guides), but absolutely no drones. Hashima Island tour companies All of these are operators licensed, so don't worry -- you're in good hands. Note that all of the tours below leave from different locations, but all can be easily reached from Nagasaki Station, either by tram or on foot. Be sure to arrive 30\u201345 minutes before departure time (following the instructions for the operator) to complete the check-in process. Yamasa Shipping Co. Ltd. 9 a.m. and 1 p.m daily per adult Yamasa Shipping Co. Ltd. tours are the priciest on our list but they do come with a considerable perk: guides who speak English or Chinese. English guides are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, while Chinese guides are available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays (let's hope you don't have a mixed group of friends!). If you book online in advance, you can often score a 5\u201310% discount. Tickets are also a few hundred yen cheaper for junior high and high school students; meanwhile children 6\u201312 can join for half the adult fare. Tours last around 2.5 hours, about two-thirds of which is spent on the boat -- but that's pretty standard. Remember, there's lots to see from the ferry as well! Additional details Booking link 095-822-5002 Nagasaki Port (meet at window no. 7, Nagasaki Port Terminal Bldg.) Tram line 1 to Ohato or a 15-minute walk from Nagasaki Station Gunkanjima Concierge 9 a.m. and noon (or abouts) daily to per adult (includes entry to Gunkanjima Digital Museum) Gunkanjima Concierge tours include admission to the Gunkanjima Digital Museum, which is value of (for an adult ticket). So if you're keen to do both then this tour is the best value for money. The museum is pretty cool and includes VR experiences, projection mapping, and interviews with people from the island along with items, photos, and a short film. Tours depart from the museum. If you opt for the morning tour, meet up time at the museum is between 9 and 10 a.m. -- which means you can visit the museum then, or afterwards. For the afternoon tour, check-in time is between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., which gives you plenty of time at the museum. The tours have audio guides for foreigners as the tours are conducted in Japanese. They boast an impressive 94% landing rate and a 91% departure rate. Gunkanjima Concierge ticket classes This cruise is a little different from the others in that there are different ticket classes. Ticket class determines your ferry experience -- not the island tour, which is the same for everyone. Super Premium: Reserved window seat above deck; priority boarding and disembarking; access to a second floor deck for photo-ops Premium: Reserved center seat above deck; priority boarding and disembarking; access to a second floor deck for photo-ops Standard: Unreserved seat below deck Gunkanjima Concierge ticket prices Ticket tier Weekdays Weekends & Peak Standard Premium Super premium Peak days are defined by the operator as national holidays, Golden Week, summer vacation, and winter vacation. But since you're booking ahead there shouldn't be any suprirses. There are concessions for junior and highschoolers ( discount) and also elementary school kids ( discount for super premium and premium class or discount for standard class). Preschoolers (\/ weekdays\/weekends) can only ride standard class, as they must stay below deck for the duration of the trip. Additional details Booking options: Direct via the operator or via 095-895-9300 Tokiwa Port (meet at the Gunkanjima Digital Museum) Tram line 5 to O-Urakaigandori (30 min from Nagasaki Station + 1 transfer) Note: Klook does not seem to have the same refund policy as the operator should cruises be canceled. Gunkanjima Cruise 9:10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily per adult Gunkanjima Cruise is the cheapest option, costing just for adults (and for children 12 and under). No tiered pricing or add ons -- just a simple flat price. Tours last a little over 3 hours, and actually visit two islands: Takashima and Hashima. First you'll sail 40 minutes (ish) to Takashima, where you'll have 30 minutes to visit the island's Coal Museum. The highlight here is a scale model of Gunkanjima; there are also some artefacts that shed some light on the life of the miners. Then it's a 15-minute ride to Hashima Island, where you'll have 45 minutes or so of guided viewing of the island. There is one major downside: no English-language tour guidance. So you'll be following a tour led in Japanese (you can't just go off on your own, even if you don't understand). Cruises depart from Motofuna Pier, which is a short walk from the Ohato tram stop. Be sure to arrive at least 20 minutes before departure for pre-departure procedures such as registration and payment. Additional details Booking link 095-827-2470 Motofune Pier (11-22 Motofunamachi, Nagasaki City) Tram line 1 to Ohato or a 15-minute walk from Nagasaki Station Getting to Nagasaki Visiting Gunkanjima requires first getting to Nagasaki, which is in Ky\u016bsh\u016b. There are international flights to Nagasaki Airport from Shanghai and Hong Kong. Otherwise your only option is to come from elsewhere in Japan. Fortunately, Nagasaki is a major city served by frequent domestic flights, trains, and buses. Flying to Nagasaki There are domestic flights to Nagasaki Airport from Tokyo (both Narita and Haneda), Kansai International, Osaka Itami, Kobe, Nagoya Chubu, and Naha. Both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have discounted fares for foreigners who can show proof of residence outside Japan and a ticket back home. If you're eligible, the fare is for one-way for flights to Nagasaki. If you want cheaper than that, look into Japan's low-cost carriers. For example, Peach Air flies to Nagasaki from Osaka's Kansai International Airport for as little as one-way. The journey is just over an hour. Alternatively, you can fly to Fukuoka from Kansai (about 1 hour, also for around one-way for Peach) or Tokyo (about 2 hours, starting at around one-way), then take a 2-hour bus (for about ) to Nagasaki. Unfortunately, getting from Nagasaki Airport to Nagasaki isn't super convenient, requiring an hour-long bus journey or a pricey taxi ride. The New Nishikyushu Shinkansen Trains are an option, especially now that Nagasaki has a Shinkansen station. If you're traveling with a JR Pass, getting to Nagasaki from anywhere in Japan won't cost you any extra. Since September 2022, the the brand new West Ky\u016bsh\u016b Shinkansen began service between Takeo Onsen and Nagasaki. Unfortunately, the line isn't linked up the rest of the Shinkansen network (because of some drama), so you have to take a Ltd. Express train between Takeo Onsen and Fukuoka. It's annoying extra transfer, though the new Shinkansen does make the trip 30 minutes quicker. There are also overnight buses from various areas in Kansai. Make sure you have the right island We've seen quite a few mis-spellings online for Hashima. The most common is "Nashima". Presumably people are getting it confused with the famous art island of Naoshima, which believe us could not be more different. While we do our best to ensure it's correct, information is subject to change. This post was first published in March, 2015. Last updated in April 2023.