The Ikuno Silver Mine (生野銀山) in the south of Asago City is one of the best mines in Japan that was mined for more than 400 years. The mine that was closed in 1972 after it suffered from the deterioration of ore quality is now maintained as one of the city’s major attractions for people to discover the mining tunnels and quarries. You will also find out how the industry has evolved in Japan!
It is said that people have known about the mine since 807. But the full-scale mining only began in 1542 under the order of Yamana Suketoyo (山名 祐豊), the guardian of Tajima Province (但馬国), after the discovery of silver vein. Since then, the ownership of the mine had changed from the Yamana clan to the Oda clan, the Oda clan to the Toyotomi clan, and then to the Tokugawa shogunate before it became a national property after the Meiji government took it in 1868.
At its peak, the silver production from Ikuno Silver Mine was 560kg per month in 1620. No wonder all the leaders of each era in Japan wanted to own it!
The Meiji government focused on modernization and connecting with the outside world after 220 years of isolation during the Edo Period. This policy resulted in the government hiring a French engineer named Jean Francisque Coignet. As the first foreigner employed by the country, there is a statue of him there if you ever wonder how he looked like (^_-)-☆.
Before you pass through the front gate of this mining facility, remember to check out the two gateposts. You will notice there is a chrysanthemum crest engraved on each of them. This proves that the imperial family once owned the mine in 1889 before it was sold to Mitsubishi in 1896.
For a map of Ikuno Silver Mine, you can refer to pages 4 to 5 of the official pamphlet HERE.
Shrine of Ikuno Silver Mine (山神宮分社)
Passing through the gate where you need to pay for your entry, you will see a small shrine in a cave. It is the old mine site that was mined in the Edo period. It is now a branch of Yamajingu Shrine that enshrines Kanayamahime no Mikoto (金山彦命), who has been revered as the god of mining.
The ground in the shrine is covered with water. A small Shinto altar is placed on top of a stone surface. The two bigger stones in front of the altar are no ordinary stones. They are chalcopyrites and were offered to the god here!
You might notice several small holes in the wall. Just to make it clear, they aren’t the traces of a Yakuza shooting. Those are the result of trial drilling by a rock drill. Even a small space like this records the long history of the Ikuno Silver Mine!
Ikuno Silver Mine Mining Museum (鉱山資料館) and Fukuya Museum (吹屋資料館)
Just a few steps away from the shrine, this time at your left, is a big white building. This is the Ikuno Silver Mine Mining Museum. Various illustrations and tools related to Ikuno Silver Mine are exhibited here. You will see how inside a mine, the tunnels made by the miners simply look like ants’ nests. We feel rather thankful we live in an era where we don’t need to work in the harsh working environment like workers from the past!
Opposite the Mining Museum is a smaller white building known as the Fukuya Museum. It will show you how silver was refined before the industrial revolution. The refining technique that was used here is called Cupellation or Haifuki-hō (灰吹法) in Japanese, which was the most advanced technology at the time!
Don’t worry if you can’t read the explanation boards at Ikuno Silver Mine. A lot of them do have English translations under Japanese. This is particularly the case at the Mining Museum and the Fukuya Museum.
Kanagase Mine (金香瀬坑)
As you proceed further, you will see the entrance of Kanagase Mine at the end of the valley. The French-style entrance was also the work of Coignet in the early Meiji period.
Inside the 1 km-long cave, it is divided into three sections. Humanoids and previously used machinery are placed throughout the “Edo period mining zone”, the “modern mining zone”, and the “lifting and elevator zone”, showing you how mining was done in each era.
In the burning hot summer, you will definitely be tempted to stay in the cave for more than the usual 40 minutes that is required to explore. With a constant temperature of 13 degrees inside the cave throughout the year, it is the best spot in Asago City (´▽｀*).
Also, inside the cave, you might spot some wine cellars and other storage facilities. If you fancy some local specialties, head to the souvenir shop near the Ikuno Silver Mine’s gate!
Kanagase Group of Remains of Surface Mining (金香瀬旧坑露頭群跡)
After exiting the Kanagase mine, climb the stairs on the left of the entrance to see more remains of another mining method. Throughout the mountain road, you will see evidence of open-pit mining from the Edo period. In one section, it looks like the miners have sliced the mountain in two!
A return trip will only take around 20 to 30 minutes, so if you have time, visit them!
Ikuno Silver Mine’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information
- Ikuno Silver Mine is open from
- 9:10 am to 5:20 pm from April to October
- 9:10 am to 4:50 pm in November
- 9:40 am to 4:20 pm from December to February
- 9:40 am to 4:50 pm in March
- The last admission is 40 minutes before the mine closes for the day
- From December to February, Ikuno Silver Mine is closed on Tuesdays. If it is a public holiday, it will be closed on the next business day instead.
- The admission fee is
- 1,000 yen for adults
- 600 yen for middle and high school students
- 400 yen for primary school students
- Free otherwise
- From JR Ikuno Station (生野駅), take Shinki Grenn Bus’s (神姫グリーンバス) Ikunogakuen Line (生野学園線) and get off at Ikunoginzan-guchi (生野銀山口)
- HERE is the service timetable.
Discover Other Attractions in Asago City
Ikuno Silver Mine isn’t the only attraction in Asago City worth your time. The city is also the home of one of the Three Castles Floating in the Sky in Japan!
To find out more awesome attractions close to Ikuno Silver Mine, please refer to our article on Asago City (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.