Located in central Hyogo Prefecture, the Ikuno Silver Mine is a place of historical significance that flourished starting in the 16th century, and was controlled and expanded by three prominent figures: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Even though the mine is no longer in operation, visitors can still explore some of its impressive underground passages. Legend has it that silver was first discovered in these mountains around 800 years ago, but it wasn’t until 1542 that mining of silver ore began in earnest here.

Subsequently, what would be Japan’s largest vein of native silver was found, leading to a period of direct administration by Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, during which mining operations expanded. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the architect of Edo (modern-day Tokyo), appointed a magistrate for the Tajima (modern-day Hyogo) Gold and Silver Mines in 1600. This marked the mine as a special place vital to supporting the finances of the shogunate.

The Ikuno Silver Mine reached its zenith during the reign of the eighth shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, with records indicating yields of approximately 562 kg of silver per month. In 1868, it became the first silver mine under direct control of the new Meiji national government, who immediately implemented state-of-the-art mining technology as part of Japan’s push towards modernization.

After a short period as imperial property, it was later transferred to private enterprise and contributed to the national economy for many years. Mining operations ended here in 1973. Even today, the area around the former silver mine preserves the vestiges of its prosperous past.

About the Cultural Property

Kanagase Tunnel, Ikuno Silver Mine

The tunnels of Ikuno share the history of this once thriving silver mine. While only a portion of the mine is open to the public, visitors can see both the centuries-old chisel marks and modern mining methods in these historic passages. Inside the tunnels, an enormous hoisting drum and other equipment bring the mine back to life with life-sized figurines used to depict workers in action, making it easy for visitors to understand the complex mining methods employed here.The combined length of mining tunnels exceeds 350 kilometers, with some going as deep as 880 meters underground. The mine yielded not only silver but also a diverse array of minerals, including gold and copper.

Kusaka Ryokan

This former ryokan stands as a reminder of the prosperity of the Ikuno Silver Mine during the early 20th century. Constructed at heavy cost in 1909, it was initially a two-story wooden structure with a rear parlor added later. In 1921, a third floor was added.The building is adorned with intricate details throughout, including wall air vents and decorative onigawara (ornate roof tiles). At the time of its completion, it is said that there were only two three-story buildings in the area between Himeji to the south to Kinosaki to the north.This building serves as a tangible reminder of the substantial wealth the Ikuno Silver Mine brought to the region.

Former Kaizaki Clinic

The former Kaizaki Clinic, a place where laborers from the Ikuno Silver Mine received medical care, is believed to have opened its doors around 1887. While the clinic building is not particularly large, it stands as a valuable structure that embodies the beauty of late 19th-century Western-Japanese fusion architecture.

Inside, the waiting room features wooden flooring with plastered walls. The ceiling is decorated with intricate paintings depicting various elements of nature, including flowers, birds, the sun, and the moon.

The roof is covered with red-tinted local Ikuno roof tiles, adding another unique charm to the building’s appearance.

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日本遺産「播但貫く、銀の馬車道 鉱石の道」

令和5年度 文化資源活用事業費補助金(文化財多言語解説整備事業)