Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine – World Cultural Heritage in Japan

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine is an underground silver mine located in Ōda City, Shimane, Honshū, Japan. It is the largest silver mine in Japanese history, having operated for nearly 400 years, from the discovery of silver in 1526 until its closure in 1923.

English name: Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape
Location: Ohda City, Shimane Prefecture
Year of recognition: 2007
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(v)
Acreage: 529.17 ha with a buffer zone of 3,134 ha

Rakan-ji Temple

Parts of the mining town are still well preserved, and the Japanese Government classified it as a special reserve for historic building groups in 1969.

The development of a large silver mine often requires large quantities of lumber harvested from the surrounding forests. However, the development of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine results in less deforestation and erosion due to strict control of logging, and also less pollution of soil and water resources.

That is one of the reasons that Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was selected as a World Heritage Site. It was also declared in 2007 as one of the 100 largest geological sites of Japan.

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine Items and Cultural Landscapes

Silver mining and processing facilities, administration, residential areas, and related religious facilities:

– Ginzan Sakunouchi Mine (1): is the main mining area, located in the East of the Heritage area, which was strongly developed in the early years of the 16th century and operated until the 20th century. The mine is surrounded. by fences and strictly controlled. There are more than 600 preserved underground mines (mabu) and mines that clearly demonstrate how the production, management and organization of life is related to silver mining and processing, from the scale from small craft to industrial scale.

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– Mine Administration Area at Daikansho (2): is the central base of the Iwami Ginzan Mine Management System. Later, in the 17th century, the administrative district was moved to Omri (also in Ginzan Sakunouchi). Currently, some buildings such as the entrance gate, the garden house (Mon-Nagaya), were rebuilt in the early 19th century.

– The fortress area at Yataki (3); Yahazu-jo (4) and Iwami-jo (5): built on top of the mountain, to protect the silver mines at Iwami Ginzan.

Ōmori Ginzan Residence (6): formed from more than 150 villages around the Iwami Ginzan mine, under the direct control of the Tokugawa shogun. Many of the villagers are former samurai. In the village, there are houses, hospitals and many temples, of which the outstanding ones are: Kanzeon-ji Temple, located on a rocky mountain, is the place of worship for shoguns to pray for Iwami Ginzan: Temple Shogen-ji, built in 1601, is the resting place of local rulers with beautiful carved decorations; Shrine Sahimeyama was built in the mid-15th century to worship the guardian deity of Iwami Ginzan. The building was rebuilt in 1891…

Sahimeyama Shrine

– Silver refining facility Miyanomae (7): built in the late 16th century, early 17th century, located in the mountain.

– House of the Kumagai Family (8): is the house of the largest merchant in the Omori area. The building is one of the examples of townhouse architecture to illustrate the social position and daily life of merchants, who enjoyed prosperity through silver production. In the house, the furniture and household items, garments are preserved and displayed for visitors. This is also one of the examples of the traditional way of life of the old Japanese.

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– Rakan-ji Gohyakurakan Temple (9): is a temple founded in 1766, located partly in the mountain with Buddha statues and stone statues of 500 Arhat (Gohyaku-Rakan); The work is the epitome of stonemasonry culture at Iwami Ginzan.

Silver transport routes:

– Route Iwami Ginzan Kaido Tomogauradō (to Tomogaura port) – 10: is a commercial route about 7km long, to transport silver and ore from the mine to Tomogaura port;

– Route Iwami Ginzan Kaido Yunotsu-Okidomaridō (to Okidomari Port) -11: is a 12km long commercial route, which connects silver mines with Okidomari port.

Silver shipping service facility:

– Service facility/port city Tomogaura (12): is the port from which silver and silver ore are shipped to Hakata, Kyushu. In the early years of the 16th century, when the Iwami Ginzan mine was newly developed, there were many merchant ships coming from Hakata to transport ore. In the port area, there are still settlements, squares, silver ore warehouses, administrative buildings…

– Service facility/port city of Okidomari (13): this port was used for about 40 years, in the last years of the 16th century, to supply supplies and transport silver. It is also a military port.

– Service facility/port city of Yunotsu (14): is the port connecting the Iwami Ginzan Heritage Area to the outside. The layout of the town has not changed from its original founding period. There are many preserved structures here, such as workers’ houses, shipping agents, hot spring inns, temples and shrines. It is also an important site for a number of government-administered historical buildings, such as the Ginzan Iwami Museum…

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iwami ginzan silver mine - world cultural heritage in japan

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine Map

Video about Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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