Visiting the Silver Mines of Iwami Ginzan

(A guided tour of Ryugenjimabu )

Hi there, my name is Shun and I’m the local guide for the town of Omori here in the Iwami Ginzan area. Today I took my guests up to the Ryugenji Manu Mine Shaft where silver used to be mined a couple of hundreds of years ago. Recently with the winter weather I was not able to take my guests up here, but luckily on this day it was nice and sunny. So I took my three guests onto electric bicycles and made our way up into the mountains.

We first made a stop at Omori Suzuki Farms, where my friend Suzuki-san has started his own farming business last year. He grows his vegetables without using any fertilizers, animal products, and pesticides. He also takes old and unused rice paddies and with time and effort, turns them into farmable land. My guests were surprised to see how nice the farm was, with its mounds almost looking like a mountain range. On our visit, there were leafy greens and carrots growing in Suzuki-san’s farm. Instead of just the history of this area, I was glad I got to show what the young people of Omori are taking part in to my guests.

We then headed to Shimiuzdani Refinery Ruins for a dynamic view of the local mountains from a higher vantage point. Although these ruins look very old, they are only from the 1850’s compared to the other ruins here which go back to the 17th and 18th century. While the rock walls still remain here, the wooden buildings on them have been removed. However, if you have the Iwami Ginzan app, you can use it to see a virtually realistic model of the buildings through your phone’s camera! We climbed to the top of the structure and had a good look around the area. My guests were really impressed that this area was so well kept and clean. Thanks to the local community groups as they clean the ruins once a month or so, it makes these locations a pleasant and safe place to visit.

We then made it to the top of the trail which is where the entrance to Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft is. There are many small mine shafts along the way to Ryugenji Mabu, but most of them are very small and not secure. As we walked into the mine, I explained to them that they had 6 men dig through 30cm of solid rock every day. As such, it was very back breaking work digging a tunnel to mine for silver. All the mine shafts are dug North to South, for all the silver veins run from east to west. By digging North to South, the miners were able to hit sections of silver ore at a higher frequency. My guests seemed very excited to walk into the mine shaft and seeing the underground network of tunnels that were used in the past.

After our trip to the Ryugenji Mabu, we zoomed back into the town of Omori for a tour of the townscape. The nice weather continued into the tour of the townscape letting us take a leisurely stroll throughout the town. We were even able catch a glimpse of the sunset when we were at Kanzenonji temple overlooking the town. I think that having the opportunity to visit the mine shaft gives good background knowledge to how this town came to be and what sort of history it contains. While it is currently quite rainy and snowy, once springs comes around I’m excited to give more people tours of the mine shafts of Iwami Ginzan!

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