The Story ofMichinoku Gold

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The Shishiori & Oya Mines

Two pillars of Japan’s Industrial Age gold rush

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The Shishiori & Oya MinesTwo pillars of Japan’s Industrial Age gold rush

In the Meiji era, with the introduction of industrial technology, large-scale mining operations proliferated across the country, leading to an unprecedented gold rush. Amid this fever, in 1904 (Meiji 37) the Shishiori Mine in Kesennuma, Miyagi unearthed the “Monster Nugget,” Japan’s largest naturally formed gold nugget. It was exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair that same year, shocking the world.

Alongside Shishiori, the second of the two major players in the Japanese gold rush was Oya Mine, located in the hilly region in the south of Kesennuma. At its peak in 1935 (Showa 10), the mine produced about one ton of gold annually. The Oya smelting works never slept, and an extensive mining town sprung up around the mine that even boasted a cinema and kindergarten for its employees and their families.

These two mines, which were once overwhelming presences supporting Japan’s economy, closed decades ago and are slowly becoming reclaimed by nature. The hammers and worn-down chisels displayed in the museum at the foot of the mountain serve as a record of the mine’s history and the dedication of the miners, who dug through solid rock in the narrow shafts, relying on their experience and intuition to uncover lodes. Even now, these sites remind us of our timeless fascination with gold.

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