Once one of the greatest silver mines in the world, Iwami Ginzan holds a significant place in history. The name Iwami Ginzan translates to “Silver Mountain of Iwami,” and during its peak, it produced a third of the world’s silver. This precious metal was extracted from the mines located in a group of mountains. The area designated as a World Heritage site encompasses not only the mines but also the town of Omori, which was responsible for managing and servicing the mines, and two ports on the coast, Yunotsu and Maji, which served as transit points for shipping out the silver and receiving supplies.
The World Heritage Center is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in learning about the rich history and significance of Iwami Ginzan. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the comprehensive exhibits and displays that cover various aspects of the mine. From its history to the science and engineering behind its operations, as well as insights into the lives of the people who worked there, the World Heritage Center offers a deep understanding of the site. English-speaking visitors can obtain a printed handout or borrow an iPad to read and hear descriptions of the exhibits.
To fully appreciate the area, it is essential to get oriented at the World Heritage Center. The center also serves as the arrival point for buses that transport visitors to different spots within the site. Due to limited vehicle access, shuttle buses are provided to take visitors to various starting points for exploration. These walking paths offer beautiful landscapes and the opportunity to experience the historical significance of the area.
One of the highlights of Iwami Ginzan is the town of Omori, which played a vital role in supporting the mine. A shuttle bus runs from the World Heritage Center to both the top and bottom of Omori. From there, visitors can follow a quiet footpath that leads through woodlands and past stone stairways, ascending the mountainside where numerous temples once stood. These temples were crucial in providing funeral services for the miners, as life in the mines was often brutal and short. Rakanji, a temple located across the road from Omori, showcases a series of caves carved into the rock face by the miners. These caves house 500 statues of rakan, each with its unique pose and expression.
For those interested in exploring the routes that once connected the mine to the sea ports, there are two walking paths available. The eight-kilometer route to Tomogaura near Maji Station and the 12-kilometer route to Okidomari near Yunotsu offer glimpses into the historical significance of these transportation routes. The Okidomari route, in particular, is well-developed and part of the Chugoku Nature Trail. It is feasible to complete the entire circle in a day, considering the train connection between Yunotsu and Maji.
Yunotsu, a hot spring resort and another World Heritage site, is an excellent place to soothe tired feet after a day of exploration. Visitors can start their journey from Yunotsu, passing through picturesque countryside before climbing up to the pass and descending to the mine area and Omori. Alternatively, starting at Omori and traversing the mountain before descending to Yunotsu is another option.
The historical significance of Iwami Ginzan cannot be overstated. During its peak production in the 16th and 17th centuries, a quarter of a million people worked at or supported the mine. The wealth generated from the silver mines had a profound impact on the region and the country as a whole. Today, Iwami Ginzan stands as a testament to human ingenuity and the importance of preserving our heritage.
In conclusion, Iwami Ginzan is a remarkable World Heritage site that invites visitors to delve into the rich history of one of the world’s greatest silver mines. From the World Heritage Center to the town of Omori and the walking paths that connect the mine to the sea ports, there is much to explore and discover. The site offers a glimpse into the lives of the people who worked in the mines and the impact it had on the region. Whether it’s learning about the engineering and science behind the mine or simply enjoying the serene countryside, Iwami Ginzan is a destination that should not be missed by history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Address And Maps Location:
1597-3, Omori-cho, Oda-shi, Shimane-ken