Recently I’ve been looking into urban exploring again and focusing on my dreams of places I want to visit before I die and mostly before they die. After purchasing the book: ‘the ruins of Detroit’ by Marchand and Meffre I have always kept a close eye on there website and looking for any new work. My birthdays just passed and my mum is sending me to Paris for a weekend and this is the perfect opportunity for me to see their work exhibited, which I am really excited about. However, they have also done a book and series of exhibitions based on Gunkanjima.
This is an island of the south coast of China. During the wave of industrialisation in the nineteenth century, a coal seam was disovered on the tiny island. It was first opened in 1890 by Mitsubishi Corporation. For decades coal production sustained Japans modernisation and helped establish its position as an industrialised nation and imperial power. Workers settled on the island and the population increased causing them to build further apartment blocks, a school, hospital and even retail stores and restaurants. The island eventually became the most densely populated place in the world per square metre with other 5,000 inhabitants in the 1950’s.
The concrete wall separated the land and the water, to protect the island from sea damage, giving it the appearance of a battleship riding the harsh waves. Its silhouette earned it the nickname of Gunkanjima. Gunkanjima’s fortune began to decline in the late 1960’s when the rest of Japans economy soured and petroleum replaced coal. The mine eventually closed in January of 1974, six months later transportation from the island decreased and all inhabitants were forced to leave. Since then the island has become an abandoned ghost town.
‘Gunkanjima thus seems to be the ultimate expression of the relation between architecture, culture of labor and the principle of industrial modernity, which aims not only at innovation and growth, but also at the abandonment of any obsolete form of activity.’ Marchand and Meffre.
For some reason I’ve become really interested in travelling there. But during my time in China, I did attempt to contact a few explorers to ask how to get there but they discouraged me and said it was far to dangerous. But with all my travelling recently I’ve had time to search online about new explorers and I’ve come across a guy called Steve from Boston, who made this awesome video about Gunkanjima, and he was nice enough to message me back allowing me to write about him on my blog. Be sure to watch the whole video, there’s some awesome footage.
Seeing people travel there recently makes me think it might be possible to travel there myself. Although I have been told its very dangerous. I see online they do short tours which the Japanese government control, which might be my only option because I can see from various sights that they predict it could deteriorate very soon. But I’m still on a mission to get there in my lifetime.