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Far-call'd our navies melt away—/ On dune and headland sinks the fire—/ Lo, all our pomp of yesterday/ Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
October 3, 2009 4:22 AM   Subscribe

Abandoned in 1974, still littered with the personal effects of its former inhabitants, this island of claustrophobically crowded skyscrapers "was once the most densely populated place on earth".
posted by orthogonality (41 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: totally awesome but seen here a few times before. -- jessamyn



 
previously and previously.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:24 AM on October 3, 2009


And previously.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:25 AM on October 3, 2009


Still looks nicer than Detroit.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:32 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's nothing like a good ruin.
posted by WPW at 4:36 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


New pictures, haterz!
posted by orthogonality at 4:41 AM on October 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Better than leaving that Island was extracting myself from the moral ruins of Vice.
posted by Faze at 4:41 AM on October 3, 2009


Related?
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 4:51 AM on October 3, 2009


Some of the comments took apart the angle of the piece, which wasn't all that well written. Very interesting place though; I'd love to see some professional "landscapes" taken on the island.
posted by flippant at 4:55 AM on October 3, 2009


MetaFilter: the shits of passing seagulls.
posted by Abiezer at 4:59 AM on October 3, 2009


More pictures of abandoned buildings. Metafilter could start a subsite devoted to it. They're all pretty much doubles. What's interesting is seeing what life used to be like there, offering something to contrast to the current state of the place. Five thousand men, women, and children used to live there. Kids playing and going to school, adults going shopping, etc. And I'd like to see pictures of the undersea coal mine, which was the reason for the place. Anyone find some? What was life like for someone who spent the day mining coal under the sea and then returned home to a tiny apartment on a tiny island above the undersea mine? And if you were slave labor mining for Mitsubishi on the island during the war?
posted by pracowity at 5:20 AM on October 3, 2009


The hitherto secret inspiration behind Dinosaur Comics.
posted by sleepcrime at 5:54 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was amazing, and the pictures are haunting. Great post, orthogonality.

Did anyone else get squicked by the weird undercurrent of casual racism in that piece, and in the update linked to at the bottom of the article?
The port of Nagasaki is an international fare where you’re more likely to find granny-laden cruise ships and large oil tankers filling the docks than buck-toothed fisherman willing to break the law for a few extra bob,"

(emphasis mine) and

They’re an intuitive bunch the Japanese
...made me make my WTF face. Just a couple of seagull turds on an otherwise fascinating account of urban exploration.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:17 AM on October 3, 2009


It's interesting how quickly things rot; it's been about 35 years, and it looks practically like a Civil War monument.

I've read somewhere that if the windows stay intact, modern buildings can last quite a long time, but if they're broken, the building will deteriorate very quickly. But even with intact windows, I imagine they'd only last as long as the roof.

AFAIK, clay tile is about the only semi-permanent roofing material. That stuff will last for hundreds of years if it's not disturbed. But the tiles are so heavy that buildings have to be specially constructed to take the load. There are modern fakes made of fiber cement that look almost identical, and are light enough that regular buildings can use them, but they're only rated to 50 years. You'd think cement would last longer, but that's what the manufacturers say.

Shingles on sloped roofs typically don't last more than 40 years, and those are expensive; commercial buildings typically use flat roofs, which very rarely will last longer than 20. (Flat roofs, btw, suck; try never to own one. Think of Battleship Island whenever you see a flat roof. Sloped is much, much better.)
posted by Malor at 6:21 AM on October 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Flat Roofs SUCK!
posted by mikelieman at 6:30 AM on October 3, 2009


Today it is illegal to go anywhere near the place as it’s beyond restoration and totally unsafe. The Japanese Government aren’t keen to draw unwanted attention to this testament to the hardship of the country’s post-war industrial revolution either.

My first thought was that it was the perfect site for the Battle Royale, and lo and behold, Battle Royale II was filmed there in 2003, as have other films. So not only is the place open now, it has been open in the past to film crews.

it was once the most densely populated place on earth, packing over 13,000 people into each square kilometre of its residential high-risers.

pracowity
: Five thousand men, women, and children used to live there.

Wikipedia
: in 1959, its population density was 835 people per hectare (83,500 people/km2) for the whole island, or 1,391 per hectare (139,100 people/km2) for the residential district, the highest population density ever recorded worldwide.

Funny how difficult it is to pin down exactly what the peak population was. Finally I found this:
The population of Hashima reached a peak of 5,259 in 1959.
Saying that the population was 5,259 doesn't sound quite as impressive as "over 13,000 people per square kilometre."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:48 AM on October 3, 2009


Skyskrapers?
posted by effbot at 6:55 AM on October 3, 2009


I can honestly say that was the first time I've read a Vice article all the way through. Great topic, bland article.
posted by dabitch at 6:56 AM on October 3, 2009


I'm kind of surprised that the island was not bombed into oblivion during World War II.
posted by NoMich at 7:03 AM on October 3, 2009


Malor: AFAIK, clay tile is about the only semi-permanent roofing material. That stuff will last for hundreds of years if it's not disturbed. But the tiles are so heavy that buildings have to be specially constructed to take the load. There are modern fakes made of fiber cement that look almost identical, and are light enough that regular buildings can use them, but they're only rated to 50 years. You'd think cement would last longer, but that's what the manufacturers say.

Intesting. What about metal roofs? Not the make-shift corrugated type; I've seen fancy purpose built ones made of copper, brass, steel or aluminum. One of those would last a pretty long time, right?
posted by paisley henosis at 7:07 AM on October 3, 2009


There's some neat footage of the island in one of those Life After People tv shows.
posted by box at 7:25 AM on October 3, 2009


By the way, it's no longer illegal to visit, and it's soon going to become a tourist attraction. They even want to put it on the World Heritage List. So unfortunately (in my opinion), it won't be such an interesting 'deserted' place for long.
posted by greasepig at 7:31 AM on October 3, 2009


It wasn't as good as the Babes of the BNP article linked from that page.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:33 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I didn't read through to the last line of the article...
posted by greasepig at 7:35 AM on October 3, 2009


The photo above the sentence "In some areas the entire façades of buildings..." is very nice to scroll wheel up and down.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:42 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Malor, you're also failing to take into account that up until the last couple of years, Japanese houses/apartment buildings weren't ever built to last more than 20-30 years. The idea was that the housing was temporary, the land was permanent. Ideally what you were supposed to do was knock down your house when it started to fall apart, then build a new one on the same plot of land. This worked fine, for some, but it's incredibly easy to find houses patched with (rusted out, in most cases) corrugated metal panels. Either that, or sideboards rotted away enough to see the innards of the walls.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:51 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The m2 that I'm standing in has a population density of 1 million people per km2!

See I can play with numbers too!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:10 AM on October 3, 2009


Today it is illegal to go anywhere near the place as it’s beyond restoration and totally unsafe. The Japanese Government aren’t keen to draw unwanted attention to this testament to the hardship of the country’s post-war industrial revolution either.

That's utter utter bollocks. The ferry terminal in Nagasaki has a great big model of the island just inside the main entrance, and there are daily boat tours (around it, not to it).

(that photo also demonstrates quite how "previously" a topic Hashima is on MeFi)
posted by cillit bang at 8:27 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Intesting. What about metal roofs? Not the make-shift corrugated type; I've seen fancy purpose built ones made of copper, brass, steel or aluminum. One of those would last a pretty long time, right?

Metal would be subject to more modes of failure than fired clay, I suspect. Ceramics are strong.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:30 AM on October 3, 2009


I guess if anyone wants to know what living in an arcology might be like, this is a good place to start.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:38 AM on October 3, 2009


paisley henosis:Interesting. What about metal roofs? Not the make-shift corrugated type; I've seen fancy purpose built ones made of copper, brass, steel or aluminum. One of those would last a pretty long time, right?

Well, I worked for a couple years for a roofer in the front office, so my directly-learned knowledge is pretty much limited to standard residential and small-building commercial roofing. I'm probably rather out of date, and don't even know it -- I left that place, geeze, fifteen years ago maybe? It's been a long time. Roofing hadn't changed much in the 70s and 80s, but there have been many advances in materials science since.

From what I know of metals, a copper roof should be permanent if it's thick enough. Copper oxidizes and goes green, and that patina forms a protective coat that will allow it to endure nearly forever, as long as nothing scratches thorough the coating. That's why they find those really great copper treasures in ancient shipwrecks all the time; their patina protects them from the seawater, and they just don't change.

I'd think steel, even stainless, would be prone to rusting over time, directly exposed to the elements like that. Stainless still rusts if you push it hard enough.

Brass I just don't know about. A quick google search for "brass roofing" shows copper roofs and brass nails, so I suspect that may be how copper roofing is attached. A copper roofing site mentions that using different metals for fastening can cause corrosion. Brass is part copper, so presumably it's one of the best choices.

Looking up aluminum roofing, that link says that they have customers with 60-year-old roofs that "should last 60 more", so it doesn't sound permanent, just long-lived.

So, yeah, you're right, there's more than clay tile; for sure there's at least tile and copper.
posted by Malor at 8:45 AM on October 3, 2009


Neat photos; poor copy. (A bit too breathless; yeah, we get it, you scoped out an abandoned place and could have gotten hurt. It's par for the course when you're doing UE stuff.)

I look forward to seeing even more of the place now that it's more accessible. Contrary to the tone of the Vice article announcing the island's opening as a tourist attraction, I don't see that as a bad thing. It's an interesting place for reasons beyond just being abandoned, and I'd like to see it documented and preserved.

I'd love to see some photos of it taken in the very early morning or sunset. There are some terrific Japanese landscape/cityscape photographers; I hope one of them will take the place on.

Regarding the deterioration, I wonder if the marine climate isn't playing a major role. The abandoned cities around Chernobyl—which admittedly are about 10 years newer—seem extremely well-preserved by comparison. (And I have been in places, e.g. Tahawus, that were in better shape despite being almost as old.) My suspicion is that the constant humidity probably caused the concrete to fall apart much faster than it would have in a drier location.

Flat roofs really are a disaster if they're not constantly maintained; many of them have internal guttering/drainage systems (rather than letting water drain off the edge as a sloped roof would, they have drains in the middle of the roof and pipes inside the building). If the drains on the roof clog, you get water buildup and leakage or collapse. If the pipes clog or burst, you get water draining directly into the building. I suspect most modern flat-roof-and-curtain-wall buildings wouldn't last more than a few years without maintenance.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:47 AM on October 3, 2009


> I've read somewhere that if the windows stay intact, modern buildings can last quite a long time, but if they're broken, the building will deteriorate very quickly...AFAIK, clay tile is about the only semi-permanent roofing material.

IIRC, in The World Without Us, Alan Weisman claims that two of the human-made items that would survive the longest if we all disappeared would be cast iron and (especially) ceramics (which are molecularly similar to fossils). As for buildings, I think he said the main thing is water coming through the roof...once that starts, it's game over.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:59 AM on October 3, 2009


I was a little worried that the photograph that makes the boat so easily identifiable was going to land its owner in jail. That should have been my first clue that the authors were reinterpreting the facts in order to heighten the sense of drama. Blech. Anyway, cool photos. Even though the sight of any book other than the Yellow Pages decaying causes me pain, that shot was especially artistic.
posted by cowpattybingo at 9:32 AM on October 3, 2009


The casual racism is among the many reasons I can't stomach Vice.
posted by borges at 9:45 AM on October 3, 2009


I think these are the same girls who recently visited the abandoned Japanese faux-Russian village complete with its own woolly mammoth.
posted by scalefree at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2009


Cool!
posted by brundlefly at 11:04 AM on October 3, 2009



The casual racism is among the many reasons I can't stomach Vice.

That and all the gratuitious shits, fucks and pisses.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:23 AM on October 3, 2009


Another factor mentioned in The World Without Us, if I remember correctly, is the state of the urban infrastructure beneath a city. He said that large cities would be the first to crumble due to the extensive underground honeycombing combined with lack of maintenance. As those system collapsed, here and there, the ground would become uneven and buildings would cave in.
posted by MysteriousMan at 11:23 AM on October 3, 2009


From pracowity's link:
In startling closing arguments last September, Mitsubishi issued a blanket denial of historical facts routinely recognized by other Japanese courts, while heaping criticism on the Tokyo Trials and openly questioning whether Japan ever “invaded” China at all. Mitsubishi has ominously warned that a redress award for the elderly Chinese plaintiffs, or even a court finding that forced labor occurred, would saddle Japan with a “mistaken burden of the soul” for hundreds of years.
What the fuck Japan? This is like Audi engaging in holocaust denial.
posted by rodgerd at 11:32 AM on October 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


> What the fuck Japan? This is like Audi engaging in holocaust denial.

Wow. That's a staggering reprehensible level of denial. I can't help but picture a Japanese version of Lionel Hutz standing in front of the court saying "Yeah, but what is truth? If you follow me."
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:33 PM on October 3, 2009


Obviously we don't know how long aluminum roofs would last but it doesn't exactly corrode very much. It used to be worth more the gold, so it wasn't much of a building material. I would imagine that aluminum roofs would last a long time.
posted by delmoi at 1:14 PM on October 3, 2009


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