Japan's Sado gold mines are Japan's biggest gold mines and have been functional since 1601. They are Sado Island’s most relevant historical place. This gold mine has been functional for about 388 years. However, in 1989 mining activities were brought to a complete halt. Throughout its mining years, an average of 15,000,000 tons of ore has been mined from the Sado mines. The ore generated about 78 tons of gold accompanied by 2,300 tons of silver. The Sado mines were functional through the Edo Period. This mine provided most of the funding of the Tokugawa Shogunate which had jurisdiction over the Sado Islands during that period.

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However, the gold mine is now open to the public and has an amazing museum that showcases displays alongside models regarding the mine’s operation.

Site Attractions

Sado's mine's most popular attraction is the walking tours that take you through the mining tunnels and there are two such tours. The first tour will take you through several restored Edo Period tunnels which are now populated by life-sized statues demonstrating the work of the miners at that time. Instructions during this tour are provided in different languages, which go a long way in supplying visitors with necessary information regarding the working conditions of the miners along with the equipment and techniques that were utilized.

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Seeing visitors through the newer mines is the second tour. These mines were operational during the Meiji Period. However, along with the entire mine, operations in this tunnel were put to a stop. In this mine, visitors will also see the equipment and techniques utilized of which a majority were relatively modern tools.

How To Get To The Sado Mines

By car, it will take visitors approximately 45 minutes to get to the Sado mines from Ryotsu Port through Sawata. Another way visitors can get to the Sado mines is by taking a bus headed to Aikawa, this bus will take off from Ryotsu and head straight for Aikawa. This is a 1-hour trip and costs about 840 yen. Upon arrival, visitors are to take a cab or a 30-minute walk to the gold mines.

Need to know

  • The open hours are as follows: 8 pm to 5 pm (April through October) and 8 am to 4:30 pm (November through March)
  • There are no closing dates for the Sado mines
  • The fee for the Meiji tour is 900 yen
  • Visitors can pay for both tours for a fee of 1400 yen

Historical Facts

Those who worked the mines were simple villagers employed by the administration and were compensated with relatively high wages for their tedious work. As time went on and the tunnels got deeper, the administration was getting short of hands to work the mines. The name mushukunin was the word associated with criminals, refugees, and outcasts that worked the mines. Normal employees worked side by side with the mushukunin in the mines and served as manual laborers.

At the peak of the Edo Period, disasters of nature accompanied by hunger drove people out of their homes and with no place of refuge. A large number of the people made their way to Edo and various other places on the island. Due to this, the bakufu saw them as a public nuisance thus rounding them up and sending them to the mines.

Wealth Of The Sado Mines

Japan's Sado mines were a completely independent operation. The gold and silver produced from this mine were used in the minting of coins. This mine also funded the Togugawa Shogunate thus making the administration self-sufficient. Just after the fall of the Tokugawa administration, the government of Meiji soon took over mining activities thus bringing in foreign workers and utilizing western technology which helped in boosting the productivity of the mines. In 1896, the Mitsubishi conglomerate purchased the mines from the new Meiji government and continued to use modern technology for the extraction process.

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Production reached an all-time high in 1940, which grossly aided Japan's war effort. The amount of gold running through the Sato mines spreads across three kilometers from east to west and over six hundred meters from the northern part to the southern part. The gold present in the mines measures up to 800 meters in depth. What we are saying here is that the amount of gold present in the mine is a lot. For a span of four hundred years, over four hundred kilometers have been dug into the mountains. One ton of the ore extracted from the Sado mines is used to produce 5 grams of gold. Throughout the time the Sado mine was active, an average of 78 tons of gold and 2,330 tons of silver were extracted.

A visit to this place of historical importance is as enjoyable and informative as any other course you've stumbled on. The Sado mines is also a place of learning and art as it showcases the life of ancient Japanese miners and their struggles. If you are ever in Japan and looking for a place of historical importance and culture, the Sado mine is a place for you.

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