Sado Gold Mine 佐渡金山
Stroll through a 400-year-old gold mine
Sado Island, a remote island on the Sea of Japan, has long been called The Island of Gold. The length of the tunnel dug for the mine is 400 kilometers, about the same distance from Tokyo to Sado.
- Taking a walk in the pitch-black tunnel
- A museum where you can learn about the 400-year history of gold mining
- Touching a real gold bar
How to Get There
Sado Island is an island in the Sea of Japan, 45 kilometers west of Niigata City. To reach Sado Island, use the high-speed jetfoil or car ferry. A jetfoil is a type of hydrofoil that flies over the ocean with a high-pressure jet of seawater.
From Nigata Port to Sado's Ryotsu Port, it takes 65 minutes by jetfoil. By car ferry, it takes 2 hours and 30 minutes. From Ryotsu Port to the Historic Site Sado Gold Mine, it takes 70 minutes by bus. Alternatively, it takes 75 minutes by jetfoil from Nigata's Naoetsu Port to reach Sado's Ogi Port. It is then a 90-minute bus ride from Ogi Port to the Historic Site Sado Gold Mine.
Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine is representative of the many the gold and silver mines on Sado Island
Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine is a former goldmine funded the Tokugawa shogunate (1603‒1867)
Although they are no longer used for mining, there are walking courses through the Historic Site Sado Gold Mine tunnels
Learn about the history of gold in Japan
Sado Island is 855 square kilometers, about 1.5 times the size of Guam or Phuket. There are many mines on the island, and gold dust began to be mined around the 12th century. A total of 78 tons of gold and upwards of 2,330 tons of silver were produced.
Sado Gold and Silver Mines is a general term for the gold and silver mines on Sado Island, one of which is the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine. Full scale development began in 1601, and a large amount of gold and silver was produced for nearly 400 years until mining stopped in 1989. Here, everything from mining to koban coin manufacturing was carried out. Today, the site has been developed as a tourist facility, Historic Site Sado Gold Mine, where you can learn about the changes in mining technology and production methods while observing heritage sites such as the remains of mine shafts and ore dressing facilities.
A tunnel that spreads out like an ant nest
The total length of the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine is an incredible 400 kilometers. A portion of it is open to the public as a Historic Site Sado Gold Mine sightseeing route.
There are two types of courses. The Sohdayu Tunnel Mine is a 30-minute course that recreates the mining experience of the Edo period (1603-1867) with dolls and other tools in the remnants of hand-dug tunnels. The Dohyu Tunnel course is a tunnel that was excavated in the Meiji era (1868-1912), and the 40minute course takes you by the mine carts and crushing yard which were left untouched from that time. During the tour, you can also see the Doyu-no-Warito Opencut, the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine that cracked due to mining.
There is also the Island Mirrorge Course, where you can walk through the tunnel wearing MR (Mixed Reality) glasses, and the Adventure Tour where visitors can walk in the pitch-black tunnel with a guide. You can borrow real work gear such as boots, a helmet, light and work gloves and experience the tunnel like a real miner would have.
The inside of the tunnel is around 10 Celsius
Make sure to wear long sleeves in the tunnel. It's also slippery underfoot, so watch your step. Please note that there are no toilets in the tunnel.
At the museum you can see a diorama of the process from mining to the production of koban gold coins, and hold a real gold bar.
Stroll around town at the foot of the gold mine and visit famous sightseeing spots
There are many related facilities in the town, which spreads out at the foot of the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine. At the Gold and Silver Mine Guidance Facility Kirarium Sado, take a commemorative photo with a giant koban coin. Take a tour of the restored Edo period smelter at the Historic Site of Sado Bugyosho Site (Sado Magistrate's Office), and feel a connection to the past at the large Kitazawa Flotation Plant, where ore was sorted during the early Showa period (around 1940).
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.