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Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

Some 100 kilometers directly north of Hiroshima lies Iwami Ginzan, an area once home to Japan’s biggest silver mine. With the old silver mine leaving behind more history than visitable attractions, the main draw to this rural pocket of central Shimane Prefecture is the abundant nature and charming streets of Omori town which were kept intact in spite of the importance placed on the silver mine.

Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape
  • History buffs, rejoice. Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine is regarded as one of the most important silver mines to exist not only in Japan but worldwide, and all is to be discovered on a trip to the Iwami Ginzan area. The silver mine was discovered in 1526 by a wealthy merchant whose wealth grew exponentially throughout his life - helped along by his implementation of haifukiho, a smelting method for extracting silver quickly. The mine was in action for almost 400 years, finally being put to rest in 1923 but leaving behind the legend of its high quality silver that once made up one third of the world’s silver production. This proved to be a catalyst for trade between the East and the West.

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Out of the labyrinth of 600 or more tunnels that were in use throughout the far-stretching Iwami Ginzan mine, the Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft is one of the only ones left open to the public. While ducking into the lit tunnel cut into the hillside gives you a small sense of what working in a mine may have been like, the gritty information is best read about at the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine Museum a 25-minute walk north of the shaft itself.

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Back out in the open air, the nature-rich surroundings hold countless outdoor activities for visitors. The remains of Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine sit peacefully in an area teeming with lush woodland and mountains; exquisite nature that was recognised in 2007 when the area was named a World Heritage Site not just for the mine but as the “Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape”. Set to the hills for a hike through the untouched forests or hire a bike to cover more ground.

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    While enjoying the countryside is a must on a trip to the Iwami Ginzan area, Omori town is a welcome snippet of civilization in the form of a street of beautiful wooden architecture topped with its trademark red roof tiling. Originally the base for the management of the silver mine hundreds of years ago, Omori is now set up for visitors who stroll up and down the picturesque stretch picking up snacks along the way such as dango cooked on an outdoor stall.

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Cafes and souvenir shops dominate the street but for a little more culture don’t miss the former residences of merchants living in the town, which include the Former Kawashima Residence and the House of the Kamugai Family, as well as temples and shrines, such as Kigami Shrine, dispersed along the stretch and set into the green hillside.

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

    sekaisan iwamiginzaniseki
    Address
    Shimane Pref. Odashi Omorichou
    Phone
    0854889950
    Iwami Silvermine Museum (Ruins of the Oomori prefectural governor’s office)
    Address
    Shimane Pref. Odashi Omorichou Ha 51-1
    Phone
    0854890846
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