World Heritage Iwami Ginzan and its Cultural Landscape

Starting with its discovery in 1526, the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was one of the world’s most prominent silver mines for 400 years. During the Age of Exploration it was known only as “The Silver Mine” to Europeans and at its peak was responsible for one-third of the world’s silver production. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, the first such mine to be registered in Asia. The site also includes the surrounding transportation routes, ports, mining towns and hot springs. The great significance of the ancient remains of Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine lies in the fact that abundant traces of silver production from the mining sites to transportation routes have survived almost intact to this day.

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The value of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine as a World Heritage Site

The ancient remains of the mine which produced fine-quality silver over 400 years within an environment abounding in nature, and the landscape which retains vestiges of traditional Japanese lifestyle and culture. Iwami Ginzan exhibits universal outstanding values as the site of the silver mine that produced a large amount of silver in the 16th and 17th centuries, triggered the mass production of gold and silver in Japan, and exerted significant influence upon the history of the exchange of goods and communications among civilizations. The abundant traces of silver production, are now concealed to a large extent by the mountain forests that have reclaimed the landscape. The resulting relict landscape, which includes the surviving settlements of the people related to the silver production, bears dramatic witness to historic land-uses of outstanding universal value. It was one of the reasons that Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was selected as a World Heritage Site in 2007.

It gave birth to an economic and cultural exchange of global importance

As Europeans expanded their activities across the globe in their effort to seek out more sources of gold, silver and spices, Iwami Ginzan was the chance for them to enter into Asian commerce thanks to the mine’s large production of high quality silver. On top of that, the silver production technique used at Ginzan spread through Japan and were integral in the rise of domestic silver production.

The silver production method based on traditional techniques is well preserved in many remaining areas

At Iwami Ginzan the entire process, from digging to refining, was carried outmanually. This is clearly shown by over 600 remaining areas of outcroppings and mine shafts in the mountains, along with 1,000 small flat tracts of land in the vicinity where refineries and dwellings were built.

The complete industrial system, from silver production to shipment is on display in its entirety

At Iwami Ginzan, it’s not just the remnants of silver-producing mines, but also the fortresses, magistrate buildings, merchant and samurai residences that make up the mining towns as well as the trade routes used to transport silver, the ports and port towns; in other words the entire industrial system that holds people’s interest. Even today, people are living and working in these areas in various capacities.

Silver Mine area

The Silver Mine area includes mine shafts and ruins from the area’s mining period as well as a few temples and shrines. It has retained the streetscapes of the countryside that cannot be found in cities, and you will find it most pleasant to leisurely stroll amid such landscapes. Iwami Ginzan spreads over a vast area, and depending on the course you take, you will come across some steep and rugged mountain paths.

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine World Heritage Center

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It is difficult to appreciate the value of Iwami Ginzan just by viewing the site. This museum features exhibits that simply and clearly explain about the history of Iwami Ginzan and its impact on the world history, as well as minging technology explanations. Through displays of excavated items, replica models and video footage, visitors can experience the value of the World Heritage Site.

  • Opening hours:
    9:00-17:30 from March to November
    9:00-17:00 from December to February
  • Closed:
    The last Tuesday of every month, Year-end and New Year period
  • Admission(for overseas visitors):
    Adults: ¥200 Children: ¥100
  • http://ginzan.city.ohda.lg.jp
  • Tel: 0854-89-0183

Okubo Mabu Mine Shaft

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The largest and most impressive mine shaft in Iwami Ginzan, only recently opened to the public for guided tours. Visitors should participate in a tour provided for safe exploration, since walking along the mountain path of the mineshaft may be dangerous. The exclusive tour is available four times a day every weekend (Fridays to Sundays) and national holidays except for winter. Reservations are necessary as a limited number are offered per week. Meet at the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center, where a bus will take you to the mines. Despite the time, effort, and money required, it’s well worthwhile for a full appreciation of Iwami Ginzan.

  • Access: The tour starts at Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center
  • Opening hours: every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and national holiday from Mar. – Nov. (closed Dec. – Feb.)
  • Admission: Adults ¥4000, Children ¥3000
  • Tel 0854-84-0750 (Monday~Friday/9:00~17:00, and Saturday/9:00~12:00)
  •      0854-89-0881(Friday~Sunday・Holiday /8:30~16:00)
  • http://www.iwami.or.jp/ginzan/

Shimizudani refinery ruin

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This is a ruin of a modern Refinery that adopted western techniques. It was active for only one year; however, its huge stone walls remain and remind us of old times.

Sahimeyama Shrine

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The Sahimeyama Shrine was built for a guardian deity of Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine in the mid-fifteenth century. The present building was reconstructed in 1819. The deity is worshipped in this area as the protector of the silver mine.

Ryugenji-mabu Mine Shaft

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In the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine there are over 600 mine shafts of various sizes known as “mabu,” among which Ryugenji-mabu is one of the largest .This long shaft was created during the middle of the Edo period, the area open to the public is 157 meters long. Chisel marks can still be seen on the walls. Inside the shaft, visitors can view the “Iwami Ginzan Picture Scroll” and understand traditional mining at Iwami Ginzan.

  • Opening hours: 9:00-17:00 from March to the end of November
    9:00-16:00 from December to the end of February
  • Closed:Year-end and New Year period
  • Admission(for overseas visitors):
    Adults: ¥200 Children: ¥100
  • Tel 0854-89-0347

Mining settlements – Omori Town

Besides the Silver mine area, there stands the town of Omori-cho which developed together with the mines. The road, extending for a distance of 1 kilometer parallel to the river, retains vestiges of the former times when it was lined with the Magistrate’s Office, old samurai residences, stores, shrines, and so on. It might also be fun to stop by at old wooden houses that have been refurbished into cafés and craft shops. Bicycles are available to rent and can be reserved at the tourist information office in front of the bus stop.The town has also been selected as an important traditional building preservation area.

Gohyaku-rakan・Rakan-ji temple

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Refined silver used to be carried on horseback along the highways and shipped from the ports. Rakan-ji, which stands halfway down one of these highways, was a temple founded in 1766 for the repose of the souls of the people who had worked at the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. Inside the caves carved out in the rocky mountain, Buddhist statues are enshrined, surrounded by as many as 500 stone arhat figures (known as Gohyaku-rakan) all engraved with a variety of expressions.

  • Opening hours: Everyday 9:00-17:00
  • Admission(for overseas visitors):
    Adults: ¥300 Children: ¥100
  • Tel 0854-89-0005

Former Kawashima Residence (Samurai House)

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This is the only former samurai residence in Iwami Ginzan area open to the public. The property is surrounded by a high fence and gate entrance, with a garden facing onto the street and the main house at the rear.

  • Opening hours: 9:00 – 16:30
  • Closed: New Year’s holiday
  • Admission(for overseas visitors):
    Adults: ¥100 Children: Free of charge
  • TEL: 0854-89-0932

Townscape community center

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Climb up the stairs into the building and here you will find a video corner. You will come to understand much about Iwami Ginzan after watching this video and strolling through the street of the town. The courtyard of the Omori district court house has also been re-created here.

Kanzeon-ji Temple

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Kanzeon-ji Temple is located on a rocky mountain; it was a place where shogunate administrator prayed for Iwami Ginzan. From this temple, visitors can have a full view of the whole Omori town.

House of the Kumagai Family – Important Cultural Asset

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It is worthwhile to take a look at the House of the Kumagai Family, which is the largest surviving Japanese-style house in this area, illustrative of the lifestyle of the merchants who enjoyed prosperity owing to the silver production 150 years ago. Erected in 1801, this house has been designated as an Important Cultural Asset of Japan. The furniture and other household articles as well as the garments that were actually used are exhibited, and these are not only interesting for their historical associations with the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine but will also shed a light on the traditional lifestyle of the Japanese back then.

  • Opening Hours: 9:30 – 17:00
  • Closed: Last Tuesday of every month, New Year’s Holiday
  • Admission(for overseas visitors):
    Adults: ¥300 Children: Free of charge
  • TEL: 0854-89-9003

Shogenji Temple

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Shogen-ji Temple was built in 1601 and is the resting place of the local magistrates of Iwani Ginzan. The gate and temple are adorned with stunning carvings. Inside the temple there are pictures and gold statues of the deity Kannon. It is free to walk around the temple grounds, however the admission fee for entering the temple and also viewing the cultural properties in 400 yen.

  • Opening hours: Every Day 9.30-17:00
  • Admission: Adult ¥400yen, Children: ¥100
  • Tel 0854-89-0252

Iwami Ginzan Museum (Former Magistrate’s Office)

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Once the estate of Tokugawa Shogunate mine administrators, the building now houses ancient documents, maps, research facilities, and other materials relating to the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. It is a great source for background information before heading on to the mine.

Kigami shrine

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This shrine houses the guardian deity of Omori. The current buildings date from 1812, it was built in the hope that it would bring prosperity to the silver mine. The worship hall (a Prefectural Cultural Treasure) has an unusual design including a double pent roof with Chinese and Japanese features, and a two-layer gabled and hipped main roof. On the coffered ceiling of the worship hall is a richly colored painting of a roaring dragon. If you sit under the mural and clap your hands four times, the ceiling and floor give off echoes.

Iwami Ginzan Guide service organization office

Walk, look around and find out how vivacious the centuries still are in this old town at the edge of Eurasian continent. You can breathe the unique mixture of medieval flair and the nature-rich environment. ※Charged. Please contact us for more information.

  • TEL: 0854-89-0120 (Open from 9:00 to 16:00)
  • http://www.iwamiginzan-guide.jp/

Audio guide

Foreign language (English, Korean, Chinese) audio guide devices with 55 titles are available in Iwami Ginzan Tourist Information counter, offering an experience more comparable to an audio documentary than to a traditional guided tour.

  • Rental fee: 500 yen (Deposit: 1,000 yen)
  • Available house: 8:30~16:30
  • Location: Iwami Ginzan Tourist Information counter,Iwami Ginzan Silver World

Heritage Center,Former Magistrate’s office square