As the production of gold spread throughout Michinoku and mining operations grew more expansive and more sophisticated, the mountains and mines that had at first become known for their gold came to be seen as sacred places due to the prosperity and stability they brought to the region. The culture born from this connection between people and gold spread from the mountain areas to the people of the villages and seas, a culture that has been passed down over generations through celebrations and ceremonies symbolizing past ways of life and prosperity.
Mining tools found new uses in the daily lives of villagers. The sounds of drums and work songs dedicated to the gods of the mountain fused with the culture of the sea, leading to the flourishing of a unique performing arts tradition that brought color to the region’s port towns.
Marco Polo once described Japan as “Zipangu,” an earthly paradise and a land of gold. Gold is certainly rooted in the landscape of Michinoku, just as surely as its mountains, rivers, villages, and seas are. The story of Michinoku Gold, embedded in our culture, faith, industry and daily life, is rich with a sense of industrious glory. The more we explore, the more we learn about the wonders of our story, and we invite you to experience the world of Michinoku Gold alongside us.
Due to the first gold in Japan being discovered there, Mount Nonodake became known as a sacred mountain guarded by the gods and the Buddha. In the Heian period, a connection to mountain worship developed and it became recognized as a sacred place that brought peace and security to Michinoku. The mountain temple of Konpo-ji, from its founding 1,250 years ago to the present day, continues to preserve the mountain summit as sacred place, the the point that even the killing of animals for food is prohibited there. All that time, the temple has also continued to act as a center of faith for the area. Konpo-ji is a good example of how a mountain which won fame for gold production became recognized as a sacred place, then elevated to an object of worship that provided stability for the region.
These are tools that were used to collect gold dust in rivers and extract gold from ore. The collection of gold dust, which began over 1,000 years ago , took root as an occupation of people in the region through the early-modern era permit system. Even in gold mines where gold was extracted from ore, gold collection continued through individual businesses even after the mines ceased large-scale operation. That practice took root in the villages, where gold-collecting operations continued until recent years. These are tools that were incorporated into everyday life and continued to see use for many years.
These tools were used for panning for gold dust in the streams of Mount Nonodake. The collection of gold dust here, a practice which began over 1,000 years ago, took root as a livelihood of people in the region through the early-modern era permit system. In Wakuya, which was the first gold-producing area in Japan, the collection of gold continued as a side business during the agricultural off‐season until recent years. These are tools that were incorporated into everyday life and continued to see use for many years.
The garden of the Ayukai family, high-ranking retainers of Sendai domain during the Edo period who were based in Kesennuma. Stone mortars that were used in local gold mines to crush gold ore have been repurposed here as garden stones. It was precisely because it was an area with many gold mines and where gold collection operations had been widespread for many centuries that this sort of garden was created. It can be said to be a good example for showing that the tools used for collecting gold were incorporated into daily life.
This is a traditional craft that passes down gold-working and processing techniques, similar to those used to create Konjiki-do, to the present day. It originated when Fujiwara no Hidehira invited artisans from Kyoto and had them create magnificent tableware using generous amounts of collected gold dust.
A regional folk toy made from papier mâché, taking the form of a cow carrying bales of Tamayama-produced gold on its back. A traditional craft that has been produced since the Edo period, it has been handed down in the region as an item that celebrates the prosperity of the gold mines.
The residence of the Kodate Suzuki family, an old Karakuwa family that had been entrusted with taxing gold dust collection and developing gold mines, such as Shishiori Mine, during the Edo period. In 1675 (Enpo 3), the family introduced the bonito pool fishing culture of Kishu Kumano to Karakuwa. Later, the family ran various small businesses adapted to suit the times, such as fishing and brewing. During the Meiji period, they redeveloped the Oya Mine. From old documents related to the gold mining passed down by the Kodate Suzuki family, it can be seen that gold mining was actively carried out in this region. The Kodate Suzuki family history is a precious example of a longstanding family living in harmony with the sea and the gold mining industry of the region. *This cultural property is not open to the public.
During the Edo period, gold mining became established as a livelihood for the people of this region. Although it was flourishing, the more widespread it became the more difficult it was to secure stable gold output over a long period of time, which became a major burden on the region. In Kesennuma, gold mining continued while at the same time nascent industries such as bonito fishing were also being introduced. Eventually, Kesennuma Port developed into a kazemachi port, where sailing ships waited for a favorable wind. Many ships jostled together here to set sail. In Kesennuma, it is said to be a port that miners developed and supported. Kesennuma Port and the sight of ships waiting for the wind there symbolizes a chapter of history in which gold mining was incorporated into Michinoku’s landscape and drove the development of the port.
Uchibayashi drum performances were once dedicated to the gods at the “God of the Mountain” festival, which celebrated the production of gold. With the development of Kesennuma Port, uchibayashi took root as performing art that serves as a prayer for safe sailing and a good catch. The lively and stirring sound of the drums represents a valuable local performing art that connects the culture that arose from gold mining to the culture of the sea, something that has been passed down through generations as a symbol of liveliness and bustle.
The work songs of miners who labored in the gold mines spread to fishermen, becoming songs to celebrate a big catch. This local performing art makes you strongly aware that the culture born in local gold mining communities fused with the culture of the sea, growing together with the development of local industries. It represents a unique cultural property that expresses a connection to gold, rooted in Michinoku’s landscape alongside its mountains, rivers, villages, and seas.
Kinkasan is considered one of the three most sacred destinations in all of the Tohoku Region, alongside Dewa Sanzan (“Three Mountains of Dewa”) and Osorezan (“Fear Mountain”). As “Michinoku Gold” became synonymous with Japanese Gold, Kinkasan became known for its sacred worshipping grounds. Ever since the Early Modern Period (late 1400s–1700s), the belief in the island’s deep connections with the country’s legend of gold became widespread and the tradition of Kinkasan Moude (“Kinkasan Pilgrimage”) flourished. Even today, Kinkasan is strongly believed to be “the island of prayers where the gods of gold reside.”
The pilgrimage route from Ishinomaki to Kinkasan was commonly referred to as “Kinkasan-do” (“Kinkasan Road”). Until the early Meiji era (1868-1912), women were forbidden from making their way to Kinkasan to pay their respects to the gods enshrined on the island. Instead, they had to do so from afar at the Ichi-no-torii (“The First Torii Gate”), located in an area called Yamatori on the Oshika Peninsula. Today, the rule forbidding women from entering the holy grounds of Kinkasan has since been removed, and women can now cross the straight connecting Ayukawa Port to Kinkasan Island with everyone else. The Ichi-no-torii gate, along with the former harbor and the old road, still remain intact at the end of Kinkasan Road in an area called Yamatori-no-watashi. Here, you can admire the scenery that still lives on from this distant past.