Iwami Ginzan

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  • Japanese: 石見銀山 (Iwami Ginzan)

Iwami Ginzan, or the Iwami province silver mines, was the largest silver mine ever to operate in Japan, and one of the primary sources of silver in the entire global trade network of the 16th-18th centuries. Located in what is today Shimane prefecture, the former site of the mine was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.[1]


The site was a particularly contested one during the Sengoku period, with the Amako clan gaining control of the mines in 1537, losing them briefly to the Ôuchi in 1539 but regaining them just two years later, and then losing them again, this time to the Môri clan, in 1562. Using technology imported from China in the 1530s which increased extraction capabilities significantly, Iwami Ginzan was able to produce as much as 150 tons of silver each year in the 16th-17th centuries.[2]

The main nearby port through which silver was exported was known as Yunotsu.[3]


  1. Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape, UNESCO.
  2. Cesare Polenghi, Samurai of Ayutthaya: Yamada Nagamasa, Japanese warrior and merchant in early seventeenth-century Siam. Bangkok: White Lotus Press (2009), 31.
  3. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 207.