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Tsurushi Silver Mine Site

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This web site does not recommend you visiting this place simply because it is difficult to get to. Do not rely on maps on the old sign boards like Photo.29.1 and 29.2; they are inaccurate. You cannot ask for a help if you lost the way because the area is remote from residential area.

Photo.29.1 Do not follow this map

There had been several gold and silver mines in Sado Island. The oldest record appears in the story tale "Konjaku Monogatari" that was written in Kashou Era (1106-1108). The episode reads that an iron sand collector went to Sado and brought 1000-ryo of gold to a servant in Noto that is currently Ishikawa prefecture. That gold in the episode seemed to be a kind of gold dust. Since Nishimikawa gold mine had produced that type of gold, Nishimikawa Mine is thought to be the oldest in Sado. Until production of gold from ore started in 16th century, people had collected gold in the form of gold dust1). As for silver mines, there were two major mines; Tsurushi and Niibo. Tsurushi silver mine was bigger than Niibo2).

Tsurushi silver mine was found by a ship trader Mr. Toyama Shigeuemon in 1543. Probably it is not true, but folklore says that he saw something shining on the slope of Sawane Mountain when he was sailing nearby sea3). He asked the local ruler Sawane-Homma family a permission to produce silver. In order to get permission, Mr.Toyama proposed to pay tribute of 16.125 kilogram of silver a year4). At the beginning of mining, ore was collected by open-cut mining. But in 1595, pit-mining was introduced by the mine master who came from Iwami Silver mine to Sado. This could help the development of mining production. And the area was called "Tsurushi One Thousand Houses". Prosperity in Tsurushi continued through the Eras of Keicho, Gen'na, and Kan'ei (1596-1645) 5).

Photo.29.2 Do not follow this map, too

Iwami Silver Mine in current Ota city of Shimane Prefecture was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 20076). Another technical thing brought from Iwami to Tsurushi was a method of refining. In the first process, lead and quartz are mixed into ore that is already processed in the form of powder. Strong charcoal fire eliminates sulfur. Alloy of gold, silver, and lead sinks at the bottom, while foreign matters that is iron and lighter float. They can be separated. In the second process, the alloy is set at the bottom of furnace made from bone ashes. Charcoal fire makes oxidized lead absorbed into ashes. Refined gold-silver alloy remains at the furnace bottom. The third process would be separation of gold and silver; but such method was not introduced until Gen’na Era (1615-1623) 7).

In Keicho Era (1596-1615), a mine at the back of Tsurushi silver mine was found and developed in much greater scale. That was Aikawa gold-silver mine that turned to be the biggest gold mine in Japan. The center of mining industry was gradually moving from Tsurushi to Aikawa. The magistrate office moved to Aikawa in 1603. Production at Tsurushi silver mine was halted in 1863. It resumed in 1882 but closed completely in 19468). Many relics were found by excavation research in the area, however, there would be almost nothing that shows you signs of mine even if you visited there. Sealed pithead is shown in Photo.29.3.

Photo.29.3 Sealed Pithead of Tsurushi Silver Mine

At the foot of the slope, there is a shop "Ikeda Kashiho" by the bus route to Aikawa. Photo.29.4 shows that sweetshop which is famous for selling "Sawane Dango". It is a kind of sweet cake in Japanese style. Sawane dango is also available in many souvenir shops in Sado and even in the shop of Sado Kisen Car Ferry.

Photo.29.4 Sweetshop "Ikeda Kashiho" selling Sawane Dango