A third of the world's silver supply was once mined here
Mt. Sanbe , sitting near the center of Shimane, belongs to Daisen-Oki National Park and is the main peak in a range of volcanic mountains. It's an iconic symbol of the Iwami area, which boasts a World Heritage site as well as natural hot springs.
The area is full of the charms of an earlier age. When you have explored the history and culture, the area's forests and beautiful beaches are uncrowded and well worth exploring.
- The views from the top of Mt. Sanbe
- A mineshaft that runs through a mountain
- Kotogahama, the "singing sands" beach
How to Get There
Izumo , with its great shrine, is only 20 minutes away, and Matsue only an hour away. To connect with the shinkansen at Okayama takes three and a half hours or at Shin-Yamaguchi, three hours. Highway buses connect with Hiroshima in two and a half hours.
A World Heritage area with the charms of a past age
When you reach Mt. Sanbe , you have left the more populated part of Shimane that was formerly known as Izumo and entered the old province of Iwami. Except for the ancient castle town of Tsuwano in the mountains of Shimane's far west, tourists seldom visited Iwami until 2007 when the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was registered as a World Heritage site. Visitors have since discovered a sparsely populated area rich in natural beauty where a traditional lifestyle and environment is preserved.
Dormant for 4,000 years
The rounded slopes and peaks of Mt. Sanbe , part of Daisen-Oki National Park, overlook quiet, narrow, wooded valleys dotted with small farms. It's not a very high mountain, but it rises above the surrounding countryside and gives you expansive 360-degree views.
There are plenty of trails to hike up, some more strenuous than others. Some of the trails pass through wide-open grassy areas and others through forests of beech. Surrounding the peak's base are several hot springs, and around the start of the most popular, and shortest, trailhead are camping areas, parks, a nature museum and other facilities.
Nearby is a unique underground museum, the Sanbe Azukihara Buried Forest Museum , where giant trees that were buried almost 4,000 years ago during the last eruption of Mt. Sanbe can be still be seen standing or toppled by the cataclysm.
A third of the world's silver once came from here
From the top of Mt. Sanbe , you see a serrated line of mountains that were once home to one of the richest silver mines on the planet. Iwami Ginzan , which means "Silver Mountain of Iwami," is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, set in a sparsely populated region that once had a quarter of a million people working for it.
During the 16th and 17th centuries when one-third of all silver in the world was mined here, it was a driving force of the economy of Japan and its trade with the outside world. At the World Heritage Center, you can learn all about the mine and decide which of the many sites spread across the area you want to visit.
Many people explore one of the mineshafts that are open to the public and pass right through the mountain. Most will certainly visit Omori, the one-street town below the mines that looks much as it did centuries ago and where you can visit homes of the samurai who controlled the mines and of the wealthy merchants who made their fortunes here.
The World Heritage site includes the roads that led from the mines to ports on the coast, including Yunotsu , a popular traditional hot spring resort that was well known even before the area became a popular destination.
Glorious, secluded beaches
Something else you will see from the top of Mt. Sanbe are some of the best beaches in Japan, and because there are no big cities nearby, they are never crowded. One of the best is Kotogahama—more than one kilometer of fine white sand with turquoise seas. The sands here are said to sing as you walk on them, and at the nearby Nima Sand Museum , you can see artworks made from the sand as well as the world's largest hourglass, which takes one full year before it needs turning.