In 2007, the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was inscribed in
the UNESCO World Heritage list as a cultural site. There
are 14 parts that are included under the Iwami Ginzan,
which includes mountain fortresses, shrines,
transportation routes and the three port towns called
Tomogaura, Okidomari and Yunotsu. The Iwami Ginzan
Silver Mine was built in a heavily wooded area in the
Shimane Prefecture and was kept rich in its forestry due
to the efforts of the miners from back in the day. They
used only the minimal amount of wood for refining and
replanted trees in the process.
From 1526 to 1923, Iwami Ginzan was one of the world’s leading mines in the production of high quality silver. They used the haifuki-ho, cupellation techniques, which were transferred from China through Korea, allowed the extraction of silver in large quantities in 1533. The silver excavated from the mines was vital to the East-West trade and the stimulation Japan’s economic status. Supposedly during 16th century one third of the world’s silver was from the Iwami Ginzan. The mine gives insight to the silver production that has survived intact through the Edo Period, where Japan was economically isolated, and halted the introduction of new technology that was running rampant during the Industrial Revolution. Thus the preservation of the techniques, routes and port facilities were kept as it was back then.
The Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft, built in 1715, was formed like an ants’ nest and has more than 500 shafts. Walking through the different tunnels provides an idea of the manual labor it took to produce silver. The town of Omori- cho keeps a look of olden times when it was lined with Daikansho (Magistrate’s Office), Buke-yahiki (Samurai residences), stores and shrines. The Kumagai Family House is the largest surviving Japanese-style house in the town. You can actually enter the home and see the furniture along with other household items that were used in that time frame. Then on the highway where the refined silver was taken is the Rakanji. It was founded in 1766 as a temple for the souls of the people who worked and died at the mine. Inside the stone caves is the Gohyaku Rakan, where there are 501 Buddhist statues enshrined with varied expressions. The ports that transported silver provide something unique to do especially Yunotsu. There is a hot spring called Yakushiyu Onsen that is rated by the Japan Spa Association as top class with therapeutic effects for different kinds of illnesses.
Chugoku | Shimane | Iwami Ginzan
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine
The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was once one of the top silver producing mines in the world. This old silver mine is now a major tourist attraction that brings many visitors each year.