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World Heritage / Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape

Criteria: (ii) (iii) (v) | Date of Inscription: 2007 | Location: Shimane Prefecture | Justification for Inscription

UNESCO

Description

Iwami-Ginzan was one of the world-famous silver mine sites. It was mined for approximately 400 years from its discovery in 1526 to its closing in 1923. It played a pivotal role in economical and cultural exchanges in the world.

Iwami-Ginzan Silver Mine
Iwami-Ginzan Silver Mine
Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft
Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft
Iron Pan
An iron pan that was used when "Haifuki" technique was first introduced to Iwami-Ginzan.
Iwami Ginzan Kaido Yunotsu-Okidomarido
Iwami Ginzan Kaido Yunotsu-Okidomarido
Ruins of Iwami-Ginzan Silver Mine are largely scattered in Ohda City located roughly in the center of Shimane Prefecture that stretches east and west. The silver mine was discovered by Kamiya Jutei, a wealthy merchant in Hakata, Kyushu in 1526 and continued being mined for about four centuries until 1923. It was the only silver mine in Japan known to Europeans during the Age of Geographical Discovery. In its heyday from the mid-16th century through the former half of the 17th century most of the silver produced in Japan, which accounted for one third of the then silver production in the world, was thought to be produced in Iwami-Ginzan. The high-quality and credible silver was exported to foreign countries and played an important role in trading in East Asia, whose economy was based on silver.

It is designated as a World Heritage Site, evaluated in three ways: it significantly contributed to the economical and cultural exchanges in the world, the silver production method using traditional techniques is well preserved in many remaining areas, and it presents an overall picture of mine management from silver production through to shipment.
Soma-Gin Silver
Iwami-Ginzan is located in Sama Village and silver produced in the mine was called "Soma-Gin" after the village.
Mining and Refining silver Techniques
Operations in the mine from digging through to refining were all by hand. It was dark in the mineshafts and miners used lanterns made out of turban shells during the Edo-era (1603-1867). Iwami-Ginzan first introduced the "Haifuki" technique in Japan, which passes air over a mixture of lead and silver in order to sort the silver from the raw ore. This method dramatically improved silver refining technology and was used in other mines largely in Japan later, including the Ikuno Silver Mine (Hyogo Prefecture) and the Sado Gold / Silver Mine (Niigata Prefecture).
Longevity Celebration
The mine's ventilation was poor. As a result, many miners fell ill from inhaling excessive amounts of dust particles. It is said that when miners became 30 years old they celebrated their longevity.
Ginzan Kaido Street
Iwami-Ginzan became a demesne of the Tokugawa government since the initiation of the government and financially supported it for 300 years. A road in which silver was transported along was named "Ginzan Kaido."
Sightseeing in Iwami-Ginzan
Ruins are widely scattered in the Omori, Yunotsu and Tomogaura areas. Touring three areas is conveniently accomplished by car; and walking around in each area is recommended. If you visit the ruins in the mountains, clothes and hiking equipment are necessary. If this is your first time visiting, it is better to be guided by a local person who is familiar with the mountains.
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