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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Iwami Ginzan


Iwami Ginzan, "Iwami Silver Mountain", in Shimane Prefecture, southern Honshu, has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan.

© Ojisanjake

In its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Iwami Ginzan mines were producing around one third of all the silver in the world. Iwami Ginzan was home to a quarter of a million people, either working in the mines, or supporting the mines.

Work in the narrow shafts of the mines was brutal so lifespans for the miners were extremely short; to service the need for the frequent funerals there were almost 200 temples in the area.

Also included are old roads to the Shimane coast and the three traditional port towns of Okidomari, Tomogaura and Yunotsu, from where the silver was loaded on to boats for shipping.

Interestingly, Iwami Ginzan's proposal to be accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was initially turned down by the UNESCO sub-committee about a month ago, but has today been accepted by the full committee meeting in Auckland, New Zealand. There is speculation that a large "sweetener" may have been paid (though surely not in solid silver) to secure Iwami Ginzan's acceptance on the new list after intense lobbying by the Japanese Cultural Affairs Agency and the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

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