The Story ofMichinoku Gold

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The Koganeyama Gold Deposits

The sacred source of Japan’s first gold


The Koganeyama Gold DepositsThe sacred source of Japan’s first gold

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key sites in Michinoku Gold country. First, there’s Japan’s earliest source of gold, the Koganeyama alluvial deposits in Wakuya, Miyagi.

Gold dust discovered here in 749 (Tenpyo 21 in the Japanese calendar) was collected and presented to the emperor to help gild the great Vairocana-Buddha at Todai-ji Temple in Nara. Delighted with the offering, Emperor Shomu decreed that the official era name be changed from Tenpyo (“Blessed Peace”) to Tenpyo-kanpo (“Wondrous Treasures of Blessed Peace”).

At the southern foot of sacred Mount Nonodake, whose summit looks out over Hiraizumi and the coastal Sanriku area, there stands a great golden torii gate. Beyond the gate lies the tranquil ruins of a Buddhist temple built to commemorate the discovery of gold, and the still-standing Koganeyama Shrine, which has a rich heritage. A monument on the shrine grounds is inscribed with verses from the Man’yoshu written by eighth-century poet and statesman Otomo no Yakamochi, praising Japan’s first discovery of gold. This attention from figures of the imperial court demonstrates that even faraway Nara was linked to Michinoku through gold.

Along the streams of Mount Nonodake and the Koganesawa River that runs past the shrine’s hall of worship, luminous fireflies dance wondrously in the air, casting a golden twinkle over the water. Sometimes, you may even be lucky enough to spot flecks of real gold in the water too. In the Koganeyama area, you can revel in a legacy that began with a single grain of gold.

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