hoboro island top

You’ve probably heard of Battleship Island before, the small abandoned island off of Nagasaki that looks like a battleship from afar and a zombie wasteland up close. It’s on its way to becoming a UNESCO world heritage site, which will bring in more tourists and help with its preservation.

But while Battleship Island gets its moment in the limelight, other abandoned islands around Japan are having a pretty tough time. Take Hoboro Island off the coast of Hiroshima for instance. It was once a decent-sized island known for pearls and oysters, but now it spends its days mainly being eaten away by millions of bugs and slowly sinking into the sea.

Back in 1725, the circumference of Hoboro Island was a respectable 364 meters. By 1825, however, it had shrunk to 220 meters. Then in 1883, it split into two smaller islands, and now it’s barely a 90-meter collection of rocks.

Here’s a video of the island, presumably taken during high tide, showing how little of the island’s former glory remains:

So what caused this shrinkage? The answer is these guys:

They go by the easy-to-pronounce name of Nanatsubakotsubumushi in Japanese, but considering they’re related to wood lice (that go by the ridiculous names pill bugs or roly polies in English), we’re just going to call them Island Eating Bugs.

▼ “Mmm, delicious island-rock!”


Okay, to be fair, the Island Eating Bugs don’t actually eat the island itself, but they do make their homes inside it by boring out small holes with their strong chins. They basically turn the soft rock into Swiss cheese, making it easier for it to break off or be washed away.

▼ You and I might just see a rock, but the bugs see a nice, quiet neighborhood – a great place to raise the kids. (100-yen coin for size comparison.)

island bug holesNakamura Desu!!

Hoboro Island is apparently a perfect habitat for the Island Eating Bugs, since their main sources of food – plankton and shellfish excrement – are plentiful in the area. It’s estimated that there’s over 10 million of them inhabiting in the island, so they’re not going anywhere soon.

Estimates say that Hoboro Island will be completely gone in about 100 years, but if anything should or could be done about it is a question. There’s no real historical or cultural value to the island, and its oysters and pearls have long been taken over by the Island Eater Bugs.

But perhaps that’s reason enough to protect Hoboro Island. Once it disappears, the bugs are going to have to move on to a new, fresh island to drill into, and we know what that means.

▼ “There’s a nice big island over there. The natives seem to call it ‘mainland Japan.’ It looks like an even better place to raise kids.”


Source: Higashihiroshima City Website via Naver Matome
Featured/top image: YouTube (tmv400san no channeru)