The rise and fall of gold mining
During the Warring States period, when the technology to process gold from ore was introduced, Japan saw the spread of underground mining begin in earnest, in addition to placer mining of gold dust.
Near the coast in Rikuzentakata, Iwate, the Tamayama Gold Mine was established under the direct supervision of Date clan ruler Date Masamune and managed by state officials he appointed to the task. Located at the western foot of Mount Hikami, which rests on granite bedrock, Tamayama became the most valuable of the Kesen area’s four major gold mines. In addition to its exceptional gold yield, the mine yielded high-quality quartz crystals, prized for use as eyes in Buddhist statuary.
Visitors are greeted by a fifteen-meter tiered pagoda at the entrance of the mountain trail, alongside the Kesen River. The pagoda, which has suffered in war and earthquakes throughout its history, has been rebuilt multiple times, exemplifying the pride and importance the local community still places in their mine. Walking the trail, one can see terraced fields opening out across the hills, constructed to help support the miners who took up farming after the decline of the gold mine. Also among the remnants of the mine’s history are the Matsuzaka Jubei Sadanari Clearance Monument, a marker celebrating the achievement of converting the mountainous terrain into workable fields; Takekoma Shrine, where miners worshiped; and the Shogon-ji Pine, an aged tree growing at Shogon-ji Temple, with outstretched branches said to represent the yearning to return to the glory days of the mine.
Along the roads to the top of the mountain, old smelters can still be found. The entrance to the Sennin Mineshaft can also be seen here, a relic of the mine’s heyday. Near the top of the mountain lies Tamayama Shrine, another testament to bygone glory days, erected to house a guardian spirit for the mines. This mountainside grew quite long ago. The discarded fragments of quartz scattered across the mountainside here stand in telling contrast to the golden stalks of rice spread across the countryside below, illustrating the shifting fortune of a community once made prosperous by the productive mine.
A permit for the gold extraction under the system started by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This is a wooden permit that allows for gold collection and the open-pit digging of ore, carried out by individuals or small groups After Hideyoshi, the system was inherited and implemented by Date Masamune. Eventually, gold extraction under this system took root across the region as a people’s occupation. It shows that even in the early modern era, the collection of gold dust in Michinoku, which had continued for over 1,000 years, greatly interested the leaders of the day.
A gold mine located on the slopes of Mount Hikami. In the Edo period, Date Masamune actively commissioned the development gold mines in Michinoku. The Tamayama Mine was known as one of the the Four Great Gold Mines of Kesen. The remains of refineries, checkpoints, and the Sennin shaft are scattered all over the mountains, communicating the full story of early-modern gold mining.
An old document containing many descriptions of gold mines in the Kesen District. The Yoshida family served as administrators in the Kesen district, and these documents describe the operation of the gold mines at that time. It is a valuable document that concretely details how warlords of the time, like Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Date Masamune, actively developed gold extraction operations.
Crystals extracted from mineral deposits in the granite of Mount Hikami. The crystals are crystallized quartz, the main constituent mineral of granite, a common type of gold ore. They were used as eyes in Buddhist statuary. Even today, they can be found scattered among the debris at Tamayama Gold Mine. They are valuable byproduct characteristic of gold ore.
With the establishment of Takekoma Station on the JR Ofunato Line in 1932, this tower was built as a result of local people’s strong desire to honor the Tamayama Gold Mine and pass on its memory to future generations. Although the tower has been destroyed numerous times by war and disaster, it has consistently been rebuilt through the efforts of local residents. It is a valuable historical artifact that is essential to understanding how the prosperity of the gold mine exerted a major impact on the local community.
A shrine that was transferred here to serve as a guardian deity for Tamayama Gold Mine alongside Takekoma Shrine. The Oshu Fujiwara and Date clans held strong belief in it. Exposed gold ore and crystals lie scattered around the shrine grounds, much the same as they were during the mine’s heyday.
A monument honoring the development of this mountainous area as fields in order to support the livelihoods of miners working in the declining gold mines. The fields around the monument are known by the name of “Shinden.”
A weir channeling water from the Tsubonosawa River to the crop fields of Shinden in order to support the livelihoods of miners working in the declining gold mines. The main channel that stretches about a kilometer from the weir is still in use today.
A shrine that was transferred here to serve as a guardian deity for the Tamayama Gold Mine alongside Tamayama Shrine. It is an important shrine that, together with its counterpart Tamayama Shrine, protected the gold mine. The Oshu Fujiwara and Date clans held deep faith in it, but with the decline of the gold mine, it was transferred to its present location in the village. It is a valuable cultural property that relates to the rise and fall of the Tamayama Mine.
A 200- to 400-year-old pine tree on the grounds of Shogon-ji Temple. Shogon-ji had been the temple associated with Tamayama Gold Mine, but after the mine’s decline the temple was transferred to its current location and this tree was planted. The treee’s pose, like that of a twisting dragon, is said to represent the desire to return to Tamayama; it is prized as a symbol of villagers’ sentiments toward the mine.