Outstanding Universal Value: Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine as a World Heritage Site
(1) Economic and cultural exchange of global importance
In the 16th century, the haifuki* (cupellation) method of East Asian traditional metal refining was introduced to Iwami Ginzan, leading to local silver production techniques being established and large amounts of quality silver being produced. The innovative technology and production methods used at Iwami Ginzan subsequently spread to many other mines throughout the country and brought prosperity to the silver industry in Japan, an event that holds a unique place in Japanese history.
Large amounts of silver produced in Japan circulated throughout East Asia via trade routes during the 16th and 17th centuries. At the same time, Europeans sailed beyond their own sphere of civilization in search of gold, silver and spices, and began to initiate trade with East Asia, resulting in important economic and cultural exchange between the East and the West.
*Details on Page 10.
Silver Chogin Oval Shaped Coins (Bunroku Sekishu-chogin, Otoriosame-chogin, Gokuyo-chogin)
"Map of Japan" (1595) Teixera
Theatrum Orbis Terraum (1595) includes "Hivami" (Iwami) and nearby "Argenti fodinae" (Silver Mine)
"Map of Tartatia" (1570) Abraham Orterius Drew
An area of Japan is indicated as "Minas de plata" (Silver Mine)
(2) Silver production methods based on traditional techniques are well preserved in many areas
The entire mining process at Iwami Ginzan, from digging to refining, was carried out manually, and the concentration of silver smelting refineries near the mines made it possible to yield large quantities of quality silver. This is evidenced by over 600 remaining areas of outcroppings and mine shafts in the mountains, along with over 1000 small flat areas of land in the vicinity where refineries and dwellings were built.
Throughout the Edo Period (1603-1867) traditional techniques were used to produce silver at Iwami Ginzan. Following the Meiji Restoration towards the end of the 19th century, new techniques were developed in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, but mining was brought to a halt as the silver ore became depleted. As a result, traditional techniques for mining development have been well preserved at Iwami Ginzan.
Remains of outcroppings
Terraced flat areas of land
(3) Complete industrial system, from silver production to shipment, is displayed in its entirety
The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine ruins present an overall picture of mine management from silver production to shipment. There are remains of mines where the processes of digging and refining took place, ruins of mountaintop castles used to defend the mines against external enemies, as well as two transportation routes which connect the silver mines to ports for transporting silver ore, silver, and materials for the mines. Old towns and ports that once prospered from silver mining are now inhabited by local residents.
The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its environs are still surrounded by lush forests, thanks to the adequate management of forest resources that was exercised to ensure a steady supply of the vast amount of timber that was used as fuel needed for refining. This provides a rare example, unparalleled in the world, of the uniting of mine ruins and the rich natural surroundings to form a holistic cultural landscape. **
**Landscape fostered through the coexistence of nature and human beings.
Okubo Mabu (Mabu means Mine Shaft)
Iwami Ginzan Kaido (Transportation Route) Tomogaura-do
Tomogaura Port and Settlement