Islands of Japan

Japan’s four main islands — Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido — comprise 97% of it’s total land area, as well as most of the people, but there are actually about 6,800 islands in Japan, though approximately 430 of these are inhabited. You may not have ever heard of them, but many actually have quite an interesting history.

hashima01

Gunkanjima Island, also known as “Hashima” or “Battleship Island”, has been entirely abandoned and now is a ghost town that has been completely uninhabited for over forty years, left to crumble and fade away, even if it’s at just an hour sail from Nagasaki. At the start of the 1900s the Mitsubishi Corporation discovered that the island was sitting on an underwater coal deposit, and therefore built a mine that for a very long time worked greatly. By 1941, 400000 tonnes of coal were produced. Though the ones working there like slaves were from Korea.

Ten-storey apartments were built to accommodate the miners working there, as well as schools, restaurants and gaming houses. In 1955, it was considered the place with highest population density, with nearly 6 thousand people living there. When the coal ran out, there was no point in staying there, so practically in just one night everyone left and the island was abandoned.

Since 1974 it was illegal to visit Hashima because the place wasn’t safe. If you were caught there, the punishment would be 30 days in prison followed by immediate deportation for us tourists, but in 2009 the island re-opened and tours were organised.

Miyakejima

Miyakejima in one of Japan’s Izu Islands just south of Tokyo. It is situated upon an active volcanic chain that has already erupted six times in the last century. Apart from this, another danger is the concentration of poisonous gases that comes out through the ground, mostly sulphur. In the year 2000, all the habitants of the island were asked to evacuate due to these gases after eruptions from Oyama-san (the main volcano of the island), but they were allowed to return to their home after eight years with the condition that they had to carry a gas mask with them at all times, once the high levels of sulphur lowered.

Miyakejima might not seem like a very attractive place to visit, but it is open to tourists and visitors and you can easily buy a gas mask at one of the shops upon arrival. They say the scuba diving is great and you can swim with dolphins there.

miwajima

February 11 of 1933 was the day 21 year old Kiyoko Matsumoto started the “trend” of committing suicide by throwing herself into Mount Mihara’s crater, the volcano of the island Izu Oshima. She did this because she had fallen in love with another girl, Masako Tomita, and lesbian relationships were taboo at the time. People started to travel to Mount Mihara to suicide themselves (or commit shinjuu – Japanese word for couple suicide) or simply to see people jump. In 1993, 944 people jumped into the crater. Luckily this has ended, since Mount Mihara now has enhanced security and you cannot travel to the island with a one-way ticket.

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