Japan's Hashima Island is better known as Gunkanjima, or "Battleship Island," and it's easy to see why. But this decaying city wasn't destroyed in a battle; it's an abandoned mining town that has been left to rot.

Top image from Wikimedia Commons.

We've mentioned Gunkanjima before. It was on our list of the 10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems. That's because Mitsubishi built this artificial island atop a small reef. In 1887, the first residents came to Gunkanjima to work in a nearby undersea coal mining operation. At its height in 1959, the island held 5,259 residents, but those numbers dwindled as petroleum decreased the demand for coal. In 1974, the coal mine near Gunkanjima closed, and within days the island was completely abandoned. Since then, Gunkanjima has been colorfully nicknamed "the most desolate city on Earth."

Up until 2009, Gunkanjima was completely off-limits to tourists, but now boats are permitted to dock there. Walking inside the city walls, however, is still illegal, although handful of urban explorers are up to the task. For an interesting photo tour of the island, including the challenges of getting inside, visit "Gunkanjima: Ruins of a Forbidden Island" at Gakuranman.


The most desolate city on Earth [Daily Mail — Hat tip on both links to KillerKane]

Most of the apartments on the island can only be accessed by this single staircase, dubbed the "Stairway to Hell." [Wikimedia Commons]

Block 65, where most of the workers lived. [Gakuranman]