Learn History of Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine with an English Guide!
– Damien Craig
We arrived in Omori Town, surrounded by forests and mountains, on a cold winter’s morning while a light snow fell. Observing the town from the parking lot, it looked like a picture come to life. I took note of the contrast between the old and the new; the asphalt road and power poles compared to the traditional houses and stone bridges. Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Heritage is a reg istered UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Omori Town, around 650 mine shafts (mabu), trade routes, fortress ruins, ports and more. The site was a large scale silver mine that operated between 1526 and 1934, so important to the world economy that it appeared on contemporary European maps.
A woman comes up to us and says in confident English ‘Hello, my name is Mie Hata.’ Ms. Hata is a member of a volunteer group that offers free English tours of Iwami Ginzan to tourists, and she w ill act as our guide today. Once everyone is introduced, we begin our 2.3km walk towards a mine shaft at Mt. Sanno.
Q: Ms. Hata, why did you decide to join the volunteer group?
A: I’m originally from Hyogo Prefecture and mov ed to Oda City about ten years ago. My house is about twenty minutes from here by car. I was an English teacher at Junior High School, but now I run a private English school. One day, there was a seminar for English guides, and I went to that, and it was interesting so I decided to join the g roup. We’re called the ‘Iwami Ginzan V olunteer English Guide Group’ and there’s eight members now. This is my fifth year in the group. We have requests to do these English tours 3~4 t imes per year , but we want to do it more frequently.
Q: Tell me what happens on a usual tour.
A: Each tour usually lasts around two and a half hours, and I walk with the English speaker to the mabu mine shaft, while explaining the history of the mine and the mining process, walk through the mabu and then we come back together. You need to book in advance, as we each have jobs and need to coordinate, but about once per year someone w ill show up and want to take a tour w ithout booking, which we can usually accommodate.
Q: Please tell me about your hopes for the future of these tours.
A: I want many foreign people to come and enjoy Iwami Ginzan. I also want to meet people from many countries. Finally, I’d like to increase the number of volunteers that we have. A thermometer placed near the entrance tells us that the inside of the mine shaft is 5C, which is warmer than outside! Seeing the hand-dug mine w ith my own eyes, I am once ag ain i n awe of the power of humanity. Once we exit, Ms. Hata and I m ove on from talk about the mine, to more friendly conversation and before I know it, we are back in the parking lot in Omori. I learnt that there was once close to ten thousand people livi ng in Omori, but now there are just four hundred. Howev er, since the town’s registration as a World Heritage Site in 2007, nume rous restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and hotels, have sprung up to meet the needs of the eight hundred thousand tourists who make their way here annually, while preserving the feel of the town. Thanks to my friendly guide Ms. Hata, who explained ev erything clearly , I felt that I got a goo d understanding of the town and the mine. Why don’t you come take a walk with Ms. Hata too, through the historic town that is Omori?
Iwami SGG Club is a group of volunteer guides to support foreign tourists who travel around Iwami area (Hagi, Hamada, Masuda, Tsuwano).
Massage ; We are not professional guides and not expected to be expert in art or historical issues. We may accompany visitors on sightseeing tours, cultural events or performances and suggest places where cannot be found in guidebooks.
*How to make a reservation ;
Please make your reservation from the application form in the official website [→ SGG Official Website ].