In 2007, Iwami Ginzan (silver mine) in the city of Oda, Shimane Prefecture was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The mine enjoyed a long history before it closed in 1923. Silver was said to have been first discovered there in 1309, near the end of the Kamakura Period. About 200 years later, innovative refining techniques were introduced from South Korea, and with them the production of silver dramatically increased.
The main reasons why the mine ruins were listed as a World Heritage Site are that they have such long history and the fact that the area continues to be covered with lush forests that include broad-leaved trees. This offers proof that appropriate forest administration was undertaken, and that development ensued while placing only a very small burden upon the environment. The inclusion of the mine in the list of World Heritage Sites offered an opportunity to construct the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Center. Through displays showing the mine’s history and technology and a reconstruction of the refinery, everything about Iwami Ginzan is introduced in a manner that is easy to understand.
The vestige of the prosperity of Iwami Ginzan is reflected in the view of Omori-machi. About one kilometer from the magistrate’s office, there still remain urban houses, inns, samurai residences and other structures in the area, once bustled as the center of the silver mine administration. This sight alone is enough to give you an idea how well Iwami Ginzan prospered. The scenery can be said to be full of variety as the result of differences in architectural style, reflecting the character and job position of each owner.