Unique is an adjective that is usually tossed around when talking about the attractions you can find in Japan. It isn’t hard to understand why this would be how people see it because they really do seem like they have something to offer everybody. If you have a liking for historical locations as well as a place you can go to and relax in, there is one you can find that is able to mix both in the Oda-shi which is found in the Shimane Prefecture. It is known as the Iwami Ginzan.
Information of Japan’s Iwami Ginzan and How It Became a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The story of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine is one that you never get tired of hearing. This is because it literally turned the expression of “striking a gold mine” into a reality for a man named Kamiya Jutei. In the year of 1526, this Japanese merchant luckily discovered this mine in the Shimane Prefecture on the island of Honshu. He developed it and eventually introduced a Korean style of mining that would later be referred to as the “Haifukiho Method”. This method made use of a unique assembly of multiple labor-intensive businesses that used the manual techniques of mining in the 16th century to produce high-quality silver in the most efficient way at the time.
Kamiya Jutei did not know the massiveness of his discovery. Initially, it was just seen as any other mine found anywhere else in the world. Fortunately, judging by its recorded production in the early 1600’s, it became obvious that this was a special mine because it was producing nearly 38 tons of silver per year and this value was already a third of the world’s production at the time. This made Japan’s economy very strong because the key currency in East Asian trade during those times was silver.
Being that silver was the currency before currencies like the Japanese yen (JPY), it was surely fought for by the warlords in Japan. Of all the powerful clans that got to control this mine, the power that got the most out of it would certainly be the Tokugawa Shogunate because they won control over it during its prime in the year of 1600. They won it as a result of the Battle in Sekigahara. To protect their treasure, they later barricaded the mine with hundreds of pine trees to make it less accessible. They also built the Yamabuki Castle in the center of the mining complex to have a headquarters there.
All mines run out of ore eventually and for the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, this time came during the 19th century. The production of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine fell as the other mines all over the globe started to produce more. Soon, silver was replaced by other minerals like copper as the main material produced and in the year of 1923, the mine was closed. Although it fell from the top of the mining world, all the historical information about its contributions to Japan’s economy were not neglected because in the year of 2007, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that include that likes of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial because of it being a pioneer mine in the development of silver mines in pre-Modern Asia and also for the cultural landscape surrounding it.
A Guide to Japan’s Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine as well as the Other Attractions There
Considering the historical importance of this place to Japan’s culture and economy, it comes as no surprise that it has become a popular tourist site among locals and foreigners. There is more to be enjoyed here aside from just the ruins of the silver mine because the main attractions of this located is actually divided into three areas. These areas are namely the Silver Mine area, the Omori Town area, and the Yunotsu area.
The Silver Mine area is obviously where you can adventure through the old mine shafts and ruins in this place where the “Soma Silver” or silver from this mine was mined. You will also be able to enjoy and learn about a couple of temples and shrines that were built here throughout its 400 years in use. Having temples and shrines in this area just exemplifies the culture that this place holds because it showcases the Japanese’s constant spiritual approach to things including mining.
The main attraction for this particular division is the mine shaft called Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft. This shaft is 273 meters long and is the only mine shaft over 600 years old that is still open to the public. As you venture through the shaft, you will see two trails that lead to castle ruins and the nearby port towns. The trail leading to the port towns exist there because that is how the mined silver used to be transported to the ports for trading. The trail that leads to the port city of Yunotsu is about 12 kilometers long while the trail leading to Tomogauara is about 7 kilometers long. The admission fee for the Silver Mine area is 410 yen and it is open all year long except for New Year holidays. You should also know that they only operate between the hours of 9 AM until 5 PM except during the months of December to February because their operating hours during those months are shorter, specifically between 9 AM to 4 PM.
The next attraction you can check out is the town of Omori which is a one and a half kilometer stretch of shops, temples, shrines, and houses that can be found north of the mines. At the time of the mines peek, this area used to be filled with the merchants and craftsmen that made a living off the silver from the mine. Because of this, this town has historical significance as well. Some of the families that prospered here because of the mine still reside in this town and if you can speak Japanese, you can easily ask them about details of the history of the place. If you aren’t so lucky to be able to speak their language, you’ll be glad to know that there are also museums open in this area that can cater to your need for knowledge about this historic place.
After all the walking, touring, and trekking, you’ll surely want to be in a place that you can relax in. luckily, a part of Iwami Ginzan has this old-fashioned town that is well-known for the onsens found in that town. It is called the onsen town of Yunotsu and it might seem familiar because it was mentioned earlier to be one of the port towns that used to be used for transporting the mined silver. Since the Edo Period, this town has been recognized as a place for relaxation because of all the public baths, onsens, and ryokans or hotels in this place. Having these establishments alongside the magnificent view that this area provides makes it unquestionable why it would be a great place to end a day of adventure and to spend the night as well.
There are two notable public baths here and they are namely the Yakushiyu Public Bath and the Motoyu Public Bath. The Yakushiyu has no closing days and the admission fee to this place is only 350 yen. Aside from the several bath features available here, their neighboring building is a historic building that now houses a unique café in case you would want to have some coffee before or after your relaxing bath. The Motoyu Public Bath, on the other hand, has an admission fee of 370 yen and it does close on some national holidays. If this is the bath that you want to try out, make sure to double check the news about this bath as well as the date you plan to go on to ensure that its services are open and available for you.
Gaining Access to the Iwami Ginzan via Bus and Other Forms of Transport
There are many routes you can take to get to Iwami Ginzan but your best bets would be to use the routes from either the Izumo or Matsue area. The JR train system has pretty much connected all parts of Japan so getting to the Izumo or Matsue station should be a breeze. Once you are in either of these stations, your next goal is to get on a JR train that would take you to the Odashi Station.
A one-way ticket from the Izumo station would cost you about 580 to 2000 yen depending on the time and type of train you will take and the trip will most likely take about 30 to 50 minutes. Alternatively, if you take a train from the Matsue station, a one-way ticket would cost 1140 to 3000 yen and that one-way trip would take about 45 to 90 minutes of travel time. You should know that all trains that travel these routes are covered by the JR Pass so don’t forget it if you have it.
Once you reach the Odashi Station, you’ll need to take a bus to Iwami Ginzan. This trip usually takes about 25 minutes and the bus ride would cost you around 630 yen for a one-way ticket. This bus ride is not covered by the JR Pass so also bring enough money to pay for these expenses. These buses travel every hour so you won’t have a problem getting a ride to Iwami Ginzan at any time of the day.
With all the information here about the Iwami Ginzan area, you can easily see that there are a lot of unique things to enjoy here. There aren’t a lot of places in the world that offer what this place offers to both tourists and locals that want to take time to visit its attractions. Because of the rarity of its attractions, it is surely worth the time and effort to go here because you are assured of an experience you cannot get anywhere else. Just plan your trip accordingly and it should be smooth sailing for you and your travel crew.