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Oda1Visitors to Shimane Prefecture would be remiss were they not to visit one of the region’s best-kept secrets: the silver mines of Iwami Ginzan in Oda City, which features an area designated an Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings. One can also visit the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center, which exhibits items that have been excavated from the mines.

As Europe expanded its interests across the world during the 16th century, these mines became a supply hub accounting for around one-third of global silver production.

Registered as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site in 2007, the Iwami Ginzan mines are a window onto a prosperous past. At its peak, the town was home to some 200,000 people. Now, there are only 400 households in the area.

Today, around 600 outcroppings and shafts remain. Visitors can walk through the tunnels of the silver mines and along mountain transport routes that connected the mines to Yunotsu, a port town about 12 kilometers away.

A two-kilometer walk leads to a living museum of preserved dwellings where the miners and administrators lived: the Omori–Ginzan Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings. The House of the Kawashima Family, for example, is a time capsule showing the life of a high-ranking samurai.

At the Rakan-ji Temple’s Gohyakurakan Shrine, one comes face to face with 500 seated Buddhist arhats, each engraved with an individual expression. These sculptures commemorate the lives of those who died working in the mines, and honor the ancestral spirits.

Omori–Ginzan pays homage not just to the past, but also to the present. A number of businesses have sprung up in the area, including gift shops and restaurants.

If you seek a trip with a difference down memory lane, you cannot get much better than a visit to Oda and its illustrious offerings.

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Registered as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site in 2007, the Iwami Ginzan mines are a window onto a prosperous past.