2 years after it became a World Heritage Site a Japanese WW2 slave labor camp has become a tourist destination

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tags: Japan, WWII, Hashima, slave labor camp



Two years have gone by since the Hashima Island’s abandoned coal mine was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Popularly known as Gunkanjima (“Battleship Island”), the site located 19 kilometres southwest of Nagasaki harbor has been visited by over half a million people since the July 2015 World Heritage approval. The question needs to be raised: does Hashima / “Gunkanjima” World Heritage site accurately reflect the mining island’s history, a place where Japanese workers and their families lived in a Mitsubishi company town, but also where Korean and Chinese forced laborers were used during World War II? Or has this site become not much more than an urban ruins tourist attraction and a profitable operation for local Nagasaki tour boat operators, promoted and overseen by the Japanese national government as part of its “neo-nationalist policy to suppress the forced labor story”?

Nagasaki’s Gunkanjima tourist boom – cashing in on haikyo (ruins) popular culture?

Hashima was one of 11 sites, with 23 components in “8 discrete areas” that constituted Japan’s “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” submission. These are sites where Japan’s modern iron and steel shipbuilding, mechanized coal mining, and modern iron and steel production originated. The sites also include company and government buildings related to these industries. Tourism in Nagasaki has long been a major part of the city’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park each year, as well as over a million to the Glover House and surrounding buildings and gardens of the former foreign settlement district. The Gunkanjima boat tours now compete with these other attractions, having gone from less than 60,000 annual visitors in 2009 to over 300,000 by 2015.

Read entire article at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus


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