日本での一年間

December 13, 2011

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Japan loves its UNESCO World Heritage sites. And throughout the country there are 16 designated World Heritage sites. (Not too many compared to some other countries, but not too shabby either.) The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine became a World Heritage site in 2007. The silver mine area is nestled in the mountains about 2 1/2 hours north of Hiroshima in Oda city, Shimane prefecture.

The silver was discovered in 1526 and the mines were in operation for the next 400 years. When production in the mines were at their peak in the 17th century, 1/3 of the world’s silver was extracted here. But the area is not industrial. It is well-off the beaten path and you feels more like a mountain valley than a once prosperous silver town. Perhaps that is why the official UNESCO name for the site is “Iwamai Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape.”

I went to visit the mine on a rainy day in May.

Like most people who visit the mine, I began with a visit to the World Heritage Center. I was driving to the mine by myself and I got lost for a while on the rural back roads. There is virtually no English signage leading people to the mines and even the Japanese signs are confusing.  Eventually, I found the World Heritage Center, parked my car and went inside. Inside is a small museum about the mines, a 3D model of the region and several peppy volunteers, happy to give information about the mines and offer sample itineraries, based on the amount of time you have available. (I was a bit surprised to discover that there are no staff members there who speak any English.) They pointed me towards the bus that runs between the Center and the center of the old mining town every 15 minutes.

The mountains surrounding the mines.

Looking down the main road of the tiny mining town.

Lots of old style architechture around the silver mines. It feels like stepping into the past. Can you see the rain pouring down in this picture?

More on the silver mine after the jump

Rain drenched trees.

I couldn't decide between the mitarashi flavor (sweet soy sauce) and the sweet miso flavor for my dango rice balls, so they offered to give me one that was half-and-half. The top is mitarashi and the bottom is sweet miso. I highly recommend the sweet miso if you have a chance to try it. Mitarashi is also delicious, but available all over Japan, so you may be able to try it somewhere else.

River by the silver mines.

 

Entrance into a mine shaft

Inside one of the mine shafts. Sorry that it's blurry.

The new part of the mine shaft

We rented electric bicycles to get around the silver mine area

the little town around the silver mine is filled with lots of cute little boutiques and restaurants.

 

 

 

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4 Comments »

  1. すてきな場所なんですね!
    行きたいんです。

    Comment by London Caller — December 13, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  2. Reblogged this on 脳内会議進行中 and commented:
    雨上がりのしっとり感が素晴らしい

    Comment by えふえむ — December 14, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

  3. Thanks for your post! My wife and I are interested in visiting the mines next month. We will be taking public transport though. Our time is also limited, so I”m interested in your rental bike that you got once you arrived. Can you please advise where you got them, and how much? Also, is it worth going to the mines if time is limited? ( say 2 hours )

    thanks!

    Comment by Jason — April 17, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    • If you have 2 hours after reaching the mines, then I think that would be enough time to take in the atmosphere of the town and see the most preserved mine shaft (It’s called Ryugenji). You need to take a bus from the World Heritage center to get into town and you will probably get off the bus right next to the place where the bikes are rented out. (I think it’s the Omori bus stop.) It costs 500 yen to rent a bicycle for 3 hours or 700 yen to rent an electric bicycle for 2 1/2 hours.
      If your 2 hour time frame includes transportation from Oda city station or some other farther away starting point, then time might be too tight to see any of the silver mines.
      Have a great trip!

      Comment by myyearinjapan — April 25, 2012 @ 6:59 am


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