Explore Japan's 'Battleship Island,' the isolated ocean city that's sat untouched since 1974

Hashima Island, also known as “Battleship Island” due to its shape when seen from a distance, is an island off the coast of Nagasaki that’s full of history. Nine miles from the coast, Hashima Island became occupied in 1887, when an underwater coal mine was built and began operating there.

Because of its distance from shore, the island became a permanent home for the mine’s workers and their families. Hashima became a self-contained town, with homes, stores, and streets. Much of the architecture above ground was dedicated to large concrete apartment buildings to house the island’s inhabitants.

In 1974, the coal mine was closed and all the residents left quickly after, leaving the island completely uninhabited. It has sat untouched ever since.

French photographer and explorer Sebastien Tixier visited the island in 2008 and brought back amazing images of the eerie, decaying, and utterly singular place. “It is a quite unique place in the world: an entire city, on a totally urbanized island, completely abandoned,” he tells Business Insider.

Tixier shared a selection of photos of the island with us. He has also compiled his photos in to a book, which you can get a copy of here.

Tixier first became interested in Hashima Island as a joke. He was having a beer with a few friends and urban explorers, lamenting the fact that there didn't seem to be much left to explore. One person, in jest, suggested the island of Hashima. Initially they laughed, but then Tixier began to think about it seriously.

Tixier decided he had to go. He and some partners did research and then set out to Japan to try to gain access. When they arrived, Tixier says they discovered that 'we were clearly not so prepared! None of us spoke Japanese and we had no idea how to get (onto the island). Yet, it was amazingly easy to do.'

Tixier visited Hashima Island twice, a year before commercial tours of the area became available in 2009.

Tixier says his initial arrival on the island floored him. 'When the boat reaches the wall running around the island and you grab the access ladder and begin to climb up, the adrenaline is amazing! And once you reach the top of the wall and the island's buildings appear in front of you, it's even more mind-blowing,' he tells Business Insider.

'It was amazing thinking about the historical pictures of the streets, overcrowded with people, and then seeing the empty, decaying streets in front of me. (I began) trying to imagine how it could have been then,' Texier says.

Hashima Island's population reached its apex in 1959, with a population of 5,259. The island is only 16 acres, which would equal roughly 216,264 people per square mile.

After the coal mine and island closed down, it's reported that all inhabitants left in just a few days, leaving behind lots of possessions.

'... You always have a TV left in some apartment, and newspapers of course, as if the inhabitants had just left for the grocery store. Only the dust can tell you how long it's actually been,' Tixier says.

To capture this photo, Tixier had to climb to the ledge of a tall (and crumbling) building. This sight is one tourists never get to see, as they are not allowed to the top for safety reasons.

Tixier says you have to be careful in all abandoned places, but Hashima was especially treacherous. 'A lot of the construction was made of wood, which can easily break,' he explains.

One of the things that make Hashima Island so unique, as far as urban exploring goes, is that it is virtually untouched by vandals, due to its difficulty to access.

'(I was surprised by) the absence of graffiti, thanks to its difficult access. You don't find this very often in abandoned places,' Tixier says.

Tixier was also intrigued by some of the buildings' more uncommon architectural features, saying that 'the X-shaped stairways are quite unique, I think.'

The island is of specific interest to historians and engineers, who note the rapid decay of the concrete buildings after only 41 years.

Tixier says that before he left the island, he walked its deserted streets without taking any pictures, 'to just contemplate this piece of history.'

Want to check out more off-limits places?

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