If you wish a glimpse into the life of those who lived in Feudal Japan, you may want to find a path that leads you to Iwami Silver Mine and the culture of Omori town. Nested in a well-tended forest-covered mountain, you will find yourself nearly transported to the past surrounded by world recognized culture and structures from various eras.
After the discovery of rich veins of silver in the region (a prized commodity as currency) Iwami Silver Mine was established in the early 1500’s and would be active for nearly four centuries afterward. Such a long running operation created not only an extensive mine system, but also refineries, a residential town, shipping ports, and even multiple castles to protect the mines.
This Mine would employ special refinement techniques to produce some of the purest silver, and at its peak production one-third of silver produced in Japan was solely from Iwami Silver Mine. Interestingly, while supplying such wonders the local operators and residents did so with minimal destruction to the local environment (i.e. forest management, sustainable logging, etc.), extremely uncommon for most mining operations of the time. These feats allowed a thriving community to exist still today in the residential area known as Omori town, a quaint little mountain town full of culture and architecture reminiscent of traditional Edo or old Kyoto. All of which would become a World Heritage Site in 2007.
The main roadway itself through the townscape of Omori is the primary draw of the area. This may be quite the adventure for those who have a desire to see Traditional Japanese Architecture as its streets are lined with beautiful examples (perfect for great photo opportunities) as well as some shops with traditional goods and snacks for sale.
Following the main road will eventually lead to the silver mining tunnel known as Ryugenji Mabu, which can be explored by wheelchair.
The nearby Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center offers a detailed history of the area and some hands-on experiences.
Iwami Silver Mine is part of Omori town in Shimane Prefecture. For wheelchair users not travelling as part of a group, arranging for a wheelchair taxi is likely the best option. The local accessible travel center, Tekuteku-Sanin, can possibly help with this.
The main road itself through Omori Town is wheelchair accessible. Many shops here have made attempts to be wheelchair accessible, but because the town is made of older traditional style buildings, more than half tend to have one or two small steps at the entrance or very cramped interiors. At least one shop has steps but a ramp can be provided upon request.
The main road through Omori Town has some shops with outside benches, as well as a cafe or two, making it easier for those who need to rest throughout a long walk.
The main road through Omori Town is paved, nevertheless in bad weather the slope of the road could be problematic for some wheelchair users. It’s recommended to try to visit on a clear day to fully take the time needed to enjoy the stroll, food, and sites.
There is a wheelchair accessible toilets available near the parking areas.
The Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center has accessible parking, tactile blocks, wheelchairs which can be borrowed, and an accessible toilet. A tactile map of the region is also available for those with visual impairments.
Ryugenji Mabu is wheelchair accessible but very cramped.
If you are looking for Tradition, History, and deep Cultural ties, then you will find a lot to experience here.
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