The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine (石見銀山) was an underground silver mine in the city of Ōda, in Shimane Prefecture on the main island of Honshu. It was the largest silver mine in Japanese history and at one point produced 1/3 of the world's silver production. It was active for almost four hundred years, from its discovery in 1526 to its closing in 1923. The mines, mining structures, and surrounding cultural landscape - listed as the "Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape" - became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
accommodations Yuzuriha Inn in Omori Town.
km / 15.9
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine - Visitors Center - 石見銀山
The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was an underground silver mine in the city of Ōda, in Shimane Prefecture on the main island of Honshu. It was the largest silver mine in Japanese history and was active for almost four hundred years, from its discovery in 1526 to its closing in 1923. The mines, mining structures, and surrounding cultural landscape — listed as the "Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape" — became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
The mine was discovered and developed in 1526 by Kamiya Jutei, a Japanese merchant. Jutei later introduced a Chinese style of silver mining that would become the Haifukiho Method. The mine reached its peak production in the early 1600s, with approximately 38 tons of silver a year which was then one-third of the world's production.
Silver from the mine was used widely for coins in Japan. It was contested fiercely by warlords until the Tokugawa Shogunate won control of it in 1600 as a result of the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. It was later secured by fences and barricaded by pine trees. Yamabuki Castle was built in the center of the mining complex.
Silver production from the mine fell in the 19th century, as it had trouble competing with mines elsewhere in the world. Mining for other minerals, such as copper, then replaced silver as the predominant material produced from the mountain. The mine was eventually closed in 1923.
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Open 09:00-17:00 daily. Only accessible on foot, about a 2 km (1.3 mi) walk from the main road.
The Iwami Ginzan Museum, also called the Magistrate’s Office or Daikansho, is a private museum that was renovated and opened in 1976 after local volunteers took over the building that was planned to be demolished due to aging.
In the Edo period (1603–1867), Iwami Ginzan was under the direct administration of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate, the central government. The shogunate’s representative, or magistrate, supervised the silver mine and the surrounding area from his fortified office, around which the town of Omori developed. The magistrate was responsible for tax collection, law and order, and the management of the mine. To carry out these tasks, the magistrate’s office hired a number of local officials, many of whom were experts in specific fields such as tax calculation or silver mining.
Today, the site of the Iwami Ginzan magistrate’s office is composed of a gate structure built in 1815 and a main building erected in 1902. The main building now houses a museum that focuses on the history of mining at Iwami Ginzan from medieval times to the closing of the mine in 1923. The exhibits include a wide range of mining equipment from over the years and feature descriptions of how miners and their families lived, how local officials went about their business, and even how new magistrates and other functionaries assigned to Iwami Ginzan from elsewhere in Japan would use manual-like picture scrolls to study before taking up their duties.
The Nima Sand Museum features a large hourglass mechanism that automatically rotates from December 31 to January 1. It is designated the largest hourglass in the world, but is not officially registered in Guinness World Records. This museum officially opened in March 1991.
This museum features sand comprising six large and small pyramids made of crystal glass. The world’s largest hourglass Sunagoyomi measures the duration of a year and is displayed in the center of the building.
Open daily 09:00 – 17:00. Closed Wednesdays.
975 Tenkawachi, Nima-cho, Oda, Shimane 699-23005
km / 2.9
Tomogaura Port - 鞆ヶ浦港
599 135 678*17
According to legend, the silver mine at Iwami Ginzan was discovered by the merchant Kamiya Jutei, who in 1527 noticed a mountain peak glittering in the sun when sailing along the coast nearby. Based in the southern city of Hakata (present-day Fukuoka), Kamiya reported his find to the Ouchi family that ruled those lands, and the Ouchi quickly assumed control over this mountain of riches. To transport the silver ore mined at Iwami Ginzan to Hakata and then to the Korean peninsula to be refined, they established a port at Tomogaura, the closest suitable cove, which offered protection from the Sea of Japan’s fierce waves and harsh north winds. The Ouchi cleared a 7.5-kilometer road from the mine to this port, building earthen bridges in the hilly terrain and making the path suitable for transporting the heavy ore. This road was used for some 30 years.
When the Ouchi lost Iwami Ginzan to the rival Mohri family in 1562, Tomogaura was abandoned in favor of another port and the road fell into disuse. Local residents reverted to fishing and agriculture, which still sustain many here today. The only reminders of Tomogaura’s glory years are the protruding rock formations along the shore, which were carved out of the soft stone to function as mooring devices for the Ouchi ships that once transported silver ore from this port.
Yunotsu, Shimane Prefecture, a port town that used to be a shipping port for silver produced at Iwami Ginzan, prospered as a production center for pottery.
It is the village of pottery that you can touch the two huge climbing kilns that leave their remnants and Yunotsuyaki. At the Yakimonokan, you can see valuable materials from Yunotsu-yaki, experience pottery in a day, and display and sell works from local kilns.
Open daily 09:00 – 17:00. Closed Wednesdays.
イ22-2 Yunotsuchō Yunotsu, Oda, Shimane 699-2501
km / 1.0
Naito Family Residence - 内藤家庄屋屋敷
599 041 023*82
Parking at the nearby Yu Yu Kan Tourist Information Center parking lot at MapCode: 599 011 859*33.
Lo-170 Yunotsu-cho Yunotsu, Oda, Shimane 699-2501
km / 0.4
Yunotsu Port - 温泉津港
599 041 124*41
Once a modest fishing village and little-known onsen (hot spring), Yunotsu grew into a crucial source of supplies for Iwami Ginzan. In 1561, the Mohri family built a harbor and coastal fortifications at the mouth of the long, narrow valley. The steep rocky slopes on both sides of the town made it easy to defend, and Yunotsu flourished as the main port supplying the silver mine with food, fuel, building materials, alcohol, tobacco, and other basic goods. The Mohri also engaged in trade with China, the Korean peninsula, and other faraway lands, giving the town a somewhat international character.
Yunotsu enjoyed further prosperity during the Edo period (1603–1867), when it became a port along the Kitamaebune shipping route along the Sea of Japan coast connecting the Hokuriku region of northern Japan with the mercantile city of Osaka on the Inland Sea. Officially established in 1672 and later extended to Hokkaido, the Kitamaebune trade provided the impetus for several local families to enter the shipping industry and amass significant fortunes. The layout of modern Yunotsu, including its roads and waterways, dates back to this period of affluence. The oldest building is the Naito House, constructed after a fire laid waste to the town in 1747. It was the home of an illustrious family, the head of which was appointed lord of Yunotsu by the Mohri in 1570 and tasked with protecting the silver shipments departing from the nearby port of Okidomari. The Naito family remained a local presence for centuries, operating shipping, sake brewing, postal, and other businesses.
While not as historic as the Naito House, most other structures in Yunotsu today are quite old. Many of them date back to the Taisho era (1912–1926), giving the town an old-fashioned charm that is particularly evident after nightfall, when traditional-style lanterns illuminate the narrow streets. Modern-day Yunotsu is also famous for its hot springs; the two onsen baths still in business let you experience these rejuvenating waters for yourself.
In the history of Iwami Ginzan, Okidomari Port was the second port used to ship silver from the mine to markets both in Japan and overseas. When the Mohri family assumed total control over this area in 1562, they established a new road from the mine to the Sea of Japan. At the end of this path was Okidomari, which performed the dual functions of commercial port and naval base. A fortress built by the Mohri at the mouth of the port in 1570 protected both the silver shipments from Okidomari and the supply route to the nearby harbor of Yunotsu. A village with distinctive, rectangular plots of land was established along the road near the harbor.
In the early seventeenth century, Iwami Ginzan fell under the control of the new central government based in Edo (present-day Tokyo), and the flow of silver was directed away from the coast, carried instead over land to the port of Onomichi on the Seto Inland Sea and from there to Osaka and on to Edo. Okidomari quietly transformed into a fishing village, but the sixteenth-century plots remain intact, and its Shinto shrine, where people would pray for safety on the sea, was recently rebuilt. You can also walk to the edge of the port to look out over the once fortified islands and spot the 60-odd protruding rock formations, which were carved out of the soft stone to function as mooring devices for ships transporting silver.
The Yakushi-yu Public Bathhouse consists of 2 buildings. Shinyu is the oldest building, built in the early Taisho period (1912-26) as a wooden Western-style building. It has a strong presence in the hot spring town and is said to be an architecturally valuable building. The gallery on the right side used to be a women's bath, and the current cafe on the left side, which was popular for its heavy furniture, was a changing room for men's baths. There remain stained glass windows labeled "Women's bath" and "Men's bath" in gold letters.
The now main building, Yakushi-yu, is where the mens' and womens' baths are now housed.