Rokko Island photo story by Andy Donohoe
Photography: Andy Donohoe

‘Roaming around Rokkō Island is a strange experience,’ says photographer Andy Donohoe. ‘It feels almost dream-like: as if you’re not meant to be there.’

The 5 sq km, man-made islet was built off the coast of Kobe in Japan between 1972-1992 as a new urban ‘utopia’ into which the city’s inhabitants and thriving businesses could expand. But the concrete had barely set on Rokkō Island’s towering high-rises before it was struck by two devastating blows.

First came the impact of Japan’s economic woes in the early 1990s, which ricocheted across the island community – planned as a government/private sector partnership. Many of the huge, new multi-storey commercial buildings were left vacant as the country endured its ‘lost decade’.

The second, devastating blow came in January 1995 when the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake struck Kobe, shaking Rokkō Island with a particularly deadly force. Nearly 6,500 people were killed by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake while 20% of buildings were severely damaged..

Rokko Island by Andy Donohoe
Photography: Andy Donohoe

Today among its vast malls, hotels and public spaces, a modest but established community calls Rokkō Island home. Donohoe explored its quiet streets with his camera in hand.

‘There’s a community living on the island, but it’s a very small, sleepy one, occupying a space that is far too big for that amount of people,’ he says. ‘It feels quite surreal.’

Andy Donohoe’s Rokko Island is available as a limited edition book

Next: Explore the concrete curves of Tadao Ando’s Sayamaike Museum

Latest Stories


Share Tweet

Privacy Preference Center

Required Cookies & Technologies

Some of the technologies we use are necessary for critical functions like security and site integrity, account authentication, security and privacy preferences, internal site usage and maintenance data, and to make the site work correctly for browsing and transactions.

gdpr, woocommerce_cart_hash, woocommerce_items_in_cart, _wp_wocommerce_session, sucuri_cloudproxy_uuid_*

Site Customisation

Cookies and similar technologies are used to improve your experience, to do things like:

- remember your login, general, and regional preferences
- personalize content, search, recommendations, and offers

Without these technologies, things like personalised recommendations, your account preferences, or localisation may not work correctly.


Personalised Advertising

These technologies are used for things like:

- personalised ads
- to limit how many times you see an ad
- to understand usage via Google Analytics
- to understand how you got to our web properties
- to ensure that we understand the audience and can provide relevant ads

We do this with social media, marketing, and analytics partners (who may have their own information they’ve collected). Saying no will not stop you from seeing our ads, but it may make them less relevant or more repetitive.

_ga, _gid, gat,_gads,_fbp