In the 2012 movie ‘Skyfall’, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is seen cruising on a boat (below) with the exotic-looking Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) to an abandoned island. Bond is taken prisoner by the crew and delivered to the antagonist Raoul Silva, who is a former MI6 officer that has turned to cyberterrorism having orchestrated the attacks on MI6. We’re led to believe this island is off the coast of Macau but in reality it is actually in the south-west of Japan. Or is it?
Gunkanjima (formerly known as Hashima) is a small island located about 20 kilometers from Nagasaki Port which used to serve as a coal mine. The island is only 480m long and 150m wide but with 5000 residents once living there it had the worlds highest population density which meant that in typical Japanese fashion that every piece of land was built up and so it came to resemble a massive battleship hence the nickname “Gunkanjima” which translates as battleship island.
Half of the island was for the workings of the mine. The other was devoted to residential space, schools, restaurants, shops, a public bath and a hospital which the workers and their families called home. However, in April 1974 the mine was closed and these residents had to leave Gunkanjima, abandoning the island with all its buildings.
Since then, severe weather conditions such as typhoons have caused the buildings to deteriorate and as these structures started to erode away and collapse, Gunkanjima was closed to the public, and for many years could only be seen from sightseeing cruises that circled the island.
In the last few years though the place has been open to the public. So you can now walk in the footsteps of James Bond and experience the eerie and haunting atmosphere of the place. Well, not quite.
First of all, sightseeing boats do actually take you on a 4000 yen round trip from Nagasaki Port to the island and yes you do get to actually go onto the land and snap away with your camera but sadly its just from a few restricted viewpoints.
Secondly, the Gunkanjima scenes in the 23rd Bond film were in reality shot back at the famous Pinewood Studios which has been the home of so many 007 films. As for the long shots seen from the boat they were for real though I suspect Daniel Craig and co never went anywhere this tiny deserted outcrop. One assumes the scene with him and Sévérine on the boat was shot elsewhere and a bit of movie magic was used to blend the Gunkanjima long shots with those that you see below which were grabbed from this great ‘Behind the Scenes’ video on YouTube.
‘Skyfall‘ director Sam Mendes said that this location was created using a hybrid of a set and computer-generated images.
Whilst making ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo‘ (2011) in Sweden, Daniel Craig met film-maker Thomas Nordanstad, who produced a short documentary in 2002 called ‘Hashima‘, and took extensive notes about the infamous ‘dead city’ during that meeting. This supposedly played a part in the production team choosing to include the Hashima model.
So, do I still have an interest in visiting this island despite it not actually being used in ‘Skyfall‘? Hell yeah! I saw some amazing photos and stories about this place a couple of years back on some ‘haikyo’ (abandoned ruins) websites which made me want to visit it. It’s inclusion in last years Bond movie, though not real, has actually whetted my appetite for getting myself over to Nagasaki to see that city and its attractions and whilst I’m there a visit to Gunkanjima and its window into a world that once was would be a must.