Japan (April 2019): Iwami Ginzan

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Iwami Ginzan is a former silver mining area that played an important role in the economic expansion of Japan. Active between 1526 and 1923 it reached its production peak in the 16th and 17th centuries during the Edo era. It is located 5-6km inland from the San-in coast, near the small ports of Yunotsu and Nima, which were then used to ship silver. Today the site consists of a well-preserved small town (Omori), mining shafts, temples, and various ruins.

 

Most of the site is spread along a pretty river in a narrow valley. Omori is located at the north-east entrance of the valley.

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Some of the old traditional houses lined up along the main street of Omori.

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Residence of the Kumagai family, one of the wealthiest and most influential merchant families in the area:

- View of a portion of the residence from outside.

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- Small garden near the main entrance.

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- Two of the Japanese seven Lucky Gods welcoming the visitors.

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- Former reception room.

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- Decoration on a sliding wood panel.

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- Portion of the kitchen.

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- Residence′s sake brewery.

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- Paintings and other artifacts on display on the second floor of the residence.

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In the Ryugenji Mabu mine shaft created in the 17th century:

- Main tunnel.

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- Side tunnels following mineral veins.

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Gohyaku-rakan, niches carved out from a rock face and accessible by arched stone bridges. They contain 500 statues of ″rakans″ watching over the souls of the dead miners. No two statues are identical. [A rakan (Japanese) or arhat (Sanskrit) is a disciple of Buddha who has achieved a state of liberation close to full enlightenment.]

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Kanzeon-ji (Buddhist temple).

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Kigami-jinja (Shinto shrine) at the NE entrance of Omori.

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Ceiling decorations in Kigami-jinja.

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Shogen-ji (Buddhist temple):

- Entrance gate.

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- Main hall.

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- Many Buddhist temples in Japan have great wood sculptures. Those of Shogen-ji are particularly beautiful and expressive.

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Seisui-ji (another Buddhist temple).

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Statues in Seisui-ji. Note the cross on the statue on the right. When Christians were persecuted in Japan during the Edo and early Meiji eras, they had to conceal their faith. By praying before such a statue, they looked like Buddhist lay people, but in reality they prayed to Jesus.

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