The Battleship Island is based on true events (although we’re quite sure the prisoners on the island weren’t quite as handsome as Song Joong-ki and So Ji-sub) that happened during World War II. I think it’s a strong contender for movie of the year so if there’s one movie you should catch this year, it’s The Battleship Island.

Battleship Island is just a nickname though – the island’s real name is Hashima Island, and it was a coal mining island. It was dubbed “Battleship Island” (Gunkanjima in Japanese) because a sea wall was erected all around the island to protect the inhabitants from the fierce waves, making it look like Tosa, a real battleship.

The Battleship Island is also educational in a way – it shows you how despite being stuck in prison camp, the prisoners were resourceful enough to procure the strangest of items. Before you head in to catch the film, here are some facts you might not have known about the real Hashima Island.

1. Mitsubishi (yes, that Mitsubishi) originally owned the island

Mitsubishi. Credit: Mitsubishi Motors Facebook Page

Mitsubishi. Credit: Mitsubishi Motors Facebook Page

Hashima Island was bought by Mitsubishi in 1890, then known as Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha (which roughly translates into Mitsubishi Limited Partnership). That’s because coal was discovered on (or rather, in) the island in 1810. Back then, coal was a vital resource because it powered the industrialisation of Japan.

Once they owned the island, they started building more residential buildings so that people could live on the island and work there (thus minimising travelling time), and it soon became a mini town by itself. It had cinemas, a swimming pool, apartment blocks, a town hall, a community centre, shops, and even a kindergarten.

 

2. Hashima Island had a kindergarten

Could this have been a school? Credit: Siaosi Kupu Facebook Profile

Could this have been a school? Credit: Siaosi Kupu Facebook Profile

Let’s run through the implications of having a kindergarten on the island, shall we?

There were schools and a kindergarten on the island. If there was a kindergarten, it means there a sizeable number of toddlers lived there. People don’t usually give birth and then relocate to a coal mining island town, so it means that the residents of Hashima Island were, in fact, breeding.

Remember they had a hospital there, so they were able to give birth safely.

The island was 6.3 hectares in size, which translates to about 0.063 square kilometres. It reached a peak population of 5,259 in 1959, with a population density of 83,500 people per square kilometre (remember that the island is less than a kilometre square in size).

In comparison, Singapore has a population density of 7,797 people per square kilometre. So if you think our island is crowded, you should have seen Hashima Island then.

 

3. Hashima Island was abandoned in 1974

It really looks like a battleship. Credit: Nigel Paquin Facebook Page

It really looks like a battleship. Credit: Nigel Paquin Facebook Page

However, Hashima Island fell out of public consciousness because it was abandoned in 1974. It was a coal mining island but the coal reserves had started to run dry, meaning it was no longer economically viable to have so many people stay on the island when it only produced very little coal.

So by 1974, everyone had left the island since there was no other use for it. They had to build a seawall around the island, so it’s not like it was a great place to live, and it took 50 minutes to get there from the nearest port, which was Port Nagasaki. Nobody bothered to demolish the buildings there (as it wasn’t going to be repurposed for anything else), so it was left as it is.

Like an island trapped in time.

 

4. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2015

It's so real but so empty. Credit: Diana Imars Mahon‎ Facebook Profile

It’s so real but so empty. Credit: Diana Imars Mahon‎ Facebook Profile

Interest in Hashima Island was rekindled in the 2000s because it was literally an untouched island. The buildings had fallen into disrepair, but it was otherwise an accurate reflection of what life was like in the 1970s. People started visiting to see the island that time forgot, and in 2009, travel was officially reopened to tourists. Even some collapsed walls were restored to facilitate sightseeing.

Remember how Hashima Island was a source of coal for Japan’s industrial revolution? Well, it became part of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining under the UNESCO World Heritage list in July 2015, meaning that it’s officially a historic and noteworthy location.

 

5. You can visit it using Google Maps!

In 2013, Google recognised the importance of Hashima Island and sent someone to map it using their Street View technology. So if you’re lazy (like me), you don’t actually have to travel to Hashima Island to see how quaint and timeless it is. You can look at it from the air-conditioned comfort of your couch, and tell your friends you’ve been to Hashima Island!

That’s what I did.

Or you can just watch The Battleship Island. (Which was, by the way, not shot on location but on a sets built from scratch in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province in South Korea.)

 

6. Attack on Titan was shot on Hashima Island

Colossal Titan from Attack on Titan. Credit: Encore Films

Colossal Titan from Attack on Titan. Credit: Encore Films

Attack on Titan, the anime adaptation of a post-apocalyptic where massive human-looking Titans roam the land eating what remains of humanity, was partially shot on Hashima Island to achieve that deserted, wasteland look.

So if you’ve ever wondered why those shots look familiar, this is the reason!

 

7. Skyfall was also shot on Hashima Island

Daniel Craig is James Bond in Skyfall. Credit: James Bond 007 "Daniel Craig" Facebook Page

Daniel Craig is James Bond in Skyfall. Credit: James Bond 007 “Daniel Craig” Facebook Page

Asian films aren’t the only ones to have used Hashima Island as a location – Skyfall also used it for several shots of the evil villain’s lair. It’s pretty fitting, seeing as it looks isolated, protected, and just the sort of place a bad guy would use as a hideout.

The Battleship Island. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Battleship Island. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

 

Experience Hashima Island for yourself in The Battleship Island! This excellent war film depicts the struggle of Korean prisoners to escape their forced labour on Hashima Island. It stars Song Joong-ki and So Ji-sub and has many fan service scenes of them running around half-naked for the flimsiest of reasons (no, really, there’s one scene where Song Joong-ki’s character takes off his shirt while it’s raining and forgets to put it back on, but never catches a cold).

Veteran actor Hwang Jung-min stars alongside Kim Su-an, who plays his onscreen daughter (she also appeared in Train to Busan). Rounding out this star-studded cast is popular actress-singer Lee Jung-hyun.

We are giving away three pairs of tickets to The Battleship Island! To win, all you have to do is 1) like and follow us on our Facebook page; 2) Instagram account (@thepoppingpost); 3) share this article on social media; 4) leave a Facebook comment with your Insta handle AND tag a friend you’d like to bring to the movie. Contest ends at 3pm on Friday, August 18.

 

You should also read:

Why are the Titans from ‘Attack on Titan’ so creepy?

Gong Yoo’s 5 best roles on screen

 

Credits: Mitsubishi Motors Facebook Page, Nigel Paquin Facebook Page, Siaosi Kupu Facebook Profile, Diana Imars Mahon Facebook Profile, Encore FilmsJames Bond 007 “Daniel Craig” Facebook Page, Golden Village Cinemas