Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hashima Island, Japan - October's Virtual Paint Out

Our VPO administrator decided to choose a creepy, eerie destination this month to celebrate Halloween. He made a good choice!

Hasima Island, Japan

Nine miles off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan, sits the desolate, uninhabited island of Hashima (also called Gunkanjima, or battleship, because of its shape).

This 16 acre island with its massive, encircling sea wall was once a thriving undersea coal mining community. It is now home to decaying concrete buildings, collapsed mine shafts, rusting machinery and discarded items. While the island is a symbol of Japanese industry, it is also a reminder of its dark past.

Coal was discovered on the island around 1810. Mining began, the seawall was constructed and the island enlarged with debris from the mine tunnels.

In 1916 the island's first concrete building was constructed, a seven floor apartment complex to house the growing number of workers and their families. Although the living conditions were harsh, the quarters cramped and austere and the work dangerous, the offer of good wages and free housing attracted many.

Then in the 1930s and throughout WWII the Japanese men were needed elsewhere, so the families returned to the mainland. Miners were replaced by Korean and Chinese conscripted civilians and prisoners of war. They were forced to work under very harsh conditions and brutal treatment under Japanese wartime policies. It is estimated that about 1,300 men died from disease, mining accidents, exhaustion and malnutrition.

After WWII, the Japanese miners and their families returned to the island. More concrete buildings were constructed including large apartment complexes, a school, a hospital and a community center, a cinema, communal baths, a swimming pool, rooftop gardens, shops and a brothel. Sunday excursions to the mainland were available. Conditions were much improved. By 1959 this 16 acre island was home to 5,259 people, making it the most densely populated area in the world.

Coal supplies dwindled and the mines were closed in January 1974. The residents departed, leaving the island totally abandoned - except for rats, feral cats and ghosts.

Interest in the island has resurfaced. Government controlled tourist travel to Hashima began in 2009. Restoration on the ruined buildings has begun but at this time only a very small portion of the island is deemed safe.

Hashima was named a UNESCO World Heritage Historical Site in 2015.

Hashima Island, 9x12, oil

Reference Photo and B&W Underpainting

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Thanks for visiting and Happy Halloween.