Travel Back in Time at Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine
A UNESCO World Heritage Site that helped transform the world's economy
Get a glimpse of what life was like in one of Japan's largest and most prominent silver mines, set deep in the verdant mountains of Shimane Prefecture. Explore a well-trodden mine shaft and discover the meticulously preserved settlement where local workers, merchants and samurai lived out their days. Follow lush forest trails to the sacred caves of a mountainside temple, and hike to the port towns that once shipped Japan's abundant silver to the world.
The silver mines of Iwami Ginzan flourished from the 16th to the 20th centuries, producing about a third of the world's silver at its peak. The registered World Heritage Site spans a vast mountainous area, from within which you can explore various routes ranging from smooth countryside paths to rugged hilly terrain. Tucked deep within the woodlands, you’ll find the moss-covered entrance to Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft. As you venture through the tunnel, notice the chisel and hammer marks, testimony to the grueling effort miners once expended to excavate the mountain.
Stroll through the old mining town of Omori, with immaculately preserved red-tiled houses lining the low valley. Along with a Magistrate's Office and small shrines, you can visit the former residences of a samurai and a wealthy merchant family. Peruse historical buildings that have been refurbished as gift shops, cafes, and galleries. Pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the mines at nearby Rakanji Temple and admire the Gohyaku Rakan, where some five hundred Buddhist statues—all with their own unique and expressive faces—are stacked around a stone cave.
For greater insight into the history of the mine and its surroundings, check out the exhibitions and hands-on experiences at the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center. If you're still not ready to return from this journey through time, venture coastward to the quaint port towns of Okidomari and Yunotsu to find charming rustic inns and ancient hot springs.
Iwami Ginzan can be accessed by bus and a short walk from JR Odashi Station (take the Iwami Kotsu bus and disembark at the Sekai Isan Center stop.)
Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center
approx. 30 min. or more