There’s no longer electricity or running water on Hashima Island.
There’s no longer electricity or running water on Hashima Island.

Sunday March 9th, 2014

Reporter: PJ Madam

This tiny island was once the most crowded place on the planet, until suddenly in 1974 every inhabitant disappeared.

For the past 30 years, Hashima Island, off Japan’s south coast, has been off limits, with public denied access to any part except the landing stage.

Little bigger than the MCG, this mysterious place was home to more than 5,000 coal miners and their families for over 80 years.

They were well paid, every square metre of the island filled with towering apartment blocks.

This speck in the South China Sea was the home to doctors, teachers and shopkeepers – then it was abandoned.

Closed to the outside world for decades, the island is a snapshot in time; everything is as it was when the last boat left.

Two years ago part of the island was used for the James Bond movie Skyfall, and now Sunday Night has been given exclusive access to all parts of this island of ghosts.

The vision captured is eerie, captivating and extraordinary.

WATCH: JAPAN'S LOST GHOST ISLAND



17 things you didn't know about Hashima


  • Hashima is small. Really small. It’s about 480 metres long and roughly 150 metres wide. Armed with tripod, cameras, slider, jib and drone - we could cover the Island several times a day. There was lots of walking.

  • There’s no electricity or running water. Nothing works anymore on Hashima. Think, toilet breaks on a private patch of grass. It really is a Ghost Island.

  • If you thought it looked like something out of the Navy, you’d be right. Many Japanese call it ‘Gunkanjima’, which meas ‘Battleship' in Japanese.
The island of Hashima is still called 'Gunkanjima'in Japan, which means 'Battleship'. Source: Supplied

  • Be prepared to make friends with rats. BIG rats. The Hashima-variety are bold and fearless and will eat your lunch scraps as we discovered.

  • Because of Hashima’s size, they had to build up. This resulted in the first concrete apartment block to ever be built in Japan, in 1916.

  • The apartments are tiny. Whole families would be crammed into a space the size of a modern studio.

  • It’s colder than you think. Because of its position off sea, we were constantly rugging up from the wind even when the sun was out.

  • It’s dangerous! Glass and rust is everywhere. Touch something and it immediately breaks. It’s one of the reasons why it was closed it to the public for decades. Often we'd hear the clang of poles or the crash of a wooden beam falling several storeys to the ground.
Apartment buildings are old and dilapidated on the ialdn of Hashima. Source: Supplied

  • Today, only part of the island is open to tourists. You can visit Hashima through an official tour company.

  • And no you can’t stay overnight, nor would you want to! There are many unexplained noises on the island. It’s too eerie. Yes, hair stands on the back of your neck.

  • Everything on Hashima is a miniature society except for one thing: grave yards. We never found one! Our fixer told us that people were either cremated or their bodies dropped out to sea.

  • Mother nature is winning this battle. We found plants growing in the most unusual places … in old fridges inside apartments, in covered over toilet blocks, and among concrete buildings.

  • It’s covered in debris which means you’re prone to accidents just walking around the Island. With every step, our balance was tested and so too our ankles. There’s a lot to duck and weave from.

  • The Stairway to Hell is over 100 steps high. It’s bloody unsafe to walk up but at least we all came back with toned bums.
Source: Supplied

  • Skyfall wasn’t actually filmed on the Island. It was deemed too dangerous for a movie shoot. The exteriors were shot there and with the help of CGI, modified to look more deserted.

  • Every morning around 4am, our crew would set out in the darkness to travel to Hashima with an old fishing trawler. We’d drop a bunch of fishermen on tiny rocks in the middle of the ocean where they’d sit and fish all day.

  • Our Japanese talent were very passionate about having Hashima listed as the World Heritage site. It was a privilege and a pleasure to spend time with them on their old ‘home’.

More from Sunday Night

This is the interview that touched a nerve, as Bee Gee Barry Gibb went far beyond the usual celebrity anecdotes to share his grief with reporter Rahni Sadler.