Gunkanjima is the nickname for Hashima, a tiny island off the coast of Nagasaki, which was once the most densely-populated place on Earth. Crammed with towering apartment buildings, the 4-kilometre rock was mined for coal until the mine was decommissioned in 2001. Since becoming a ghost-town, Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) has become a popular destination for urban explorers and photographers of modern ruins, drawn by its eerie and unsettling atmosphere. That atmosphere is set to be livened-up by Gansho-Kun, the island’s new mascot.
A brown and misshapen blob with concrete buildings for a hat, Gansho-kun is intended to resemble the brown rock of the island. In fact, he looks more like a lump of poo with incongruously seductive red lips. A regrettable Tinder date.
The Jabba the Hutt lookalike was unleashed on a bemused public at a special event held on the island last month, and has subsequently appeared in a series of short Youtube cartoons.
Since Gunkanjima appeared as a location in the James Bond film, Skyfall, in 2012, and was approved as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015, it has become a tourist attraction. Gansho-kun is tasked with making the spooky place more appealing to children. Whether or not he can pull this off while looking like a sour-faced pair of testicles remains to be seen.
Gansho-kun has only been around for a few weeks but he is already a controversial figure. His very existence is ruffling feathers in Korea and China. In the 1930s, thousands of Korean conscripts and Chinese prisoners of war were forced to work in the mines of Hashima under brutal treatment and harsh, dangerous conditions. The presence of a jolly mascot prancing about in such a notorious place is considered by many to be distasteful. It seems that Gansho-kun’s reign as Gunkanjima’s mascot may prove to be short-lived.