Hashima Island, commonly referred to as Gunkanjima, meaning “Battleship Island” in Japanese, is a former coal mining facility off the coast of south west Japan. At it’s peak in 1959, the island was home to 5,259 people. By 1974, the island’s mine had ceased to be economically viable and and the facility was abandoned.
Though it’s now a ghost island frozen in time, it’s apocalyptic appearance has inspired the production and set designs for films such as Inception*, and more recently Skyfall**. As Stu Maschwitz points out in his DV Rebels Guide, “Reference is God” and as references go, Hashima is proving to be very popular and persuasive source material. Visits to the island are possible, but access is highly restricted so it’s great to find that parts of the island are now covered by Google Streetview.
* Addendum part 1: Limbo city in Inception combined scenes shot on a beach in Tangiers with ones shot inside a housing estate in Addoha, Morrocco. The decaying architecture was added and extended digitally by Double Negative. The crumbling buildings were inspired by collapsing icebergs and decalcomania paintings Europe After The Rain by Max Ernst. (In Dreams, Joe Fordham, Cinefex 123, pp66)
** Addendum part 2: Silva’s island hideaway was constructed as a set on Pinewood studios backlot and is acknowledged as being based on Hashima. The set was constructed over shipping containers and stood three stories high. Double Negative generated set extensions based on photography from Hashima itself. (Joe Fordham, Old Dog, New Tricks, Cinefex 133, pp47)
Thanks to Ilona Gaynor for snapping me out of my complacency an making me re-read my issues of Cinefex.