Exploring the Tsuchikura Mine (a.k.a. the Pawnbroker Mine) caused quite a bit of trouble. Unlike most of my other explorations it is not easily accessible by public transportation and therefore a challenge in general. As described last time I met with my urbex buddies Andrew and Damon to drive to the Tsuchikura Mine in the Shiga mountainside. After we were distracted by the *K-1 Pachinko Parlor* we finally made our way to the east. At Lake Biwa the weather was already rather cold and it snowed a little bit, but the streets were just wet, that’s it. The country road leading to the mountain though was soon covered with the white slippery beauty and each tunnel we went through seemed to add 5 centimeters of snow to the fields and forests we were passing. When we finally reached the old side road to the mine we had to abort our approach: The street was completely covered by snow, at least 50 cm were piling up and looking down the way ahead of us it looked like it was getting worse – we had to wait till spring.
4 months later, April. Japan’s cherry blossoms were in full bloom when Damon, Andrew and I decided to try the Tsuchikura Mine again. With the snow (mostly) gone access was as easy as it could be. No fences, no barbed wire, no secret entrances – no wonder the place is one of the haikyo favorites everybody seems to know about.
The Tsuchikura Mine was opened in 1907 (Meiji 40) by a company called Tanaka Mining and produced mainly copper and iron sulfide as well as some gold and silver and small amounts of lead. In 1934 (Showa 9) the Nitchitsu Mining Corporation bought and modernized the mine, but a series of accidents caused by heavy snowfalls in the area (no kidding, huh?) cost quite few lives:
In 1942 most of the mine was moved two kilometers to the south, to the present location, where a sifting plant with a capacity of 100 tons per month was built. In 1957 the sifting plant was expanded to 200 tons per month, but around six years later the plant stopped to be profitable due to cheap ore from overseas when trade liberations kicked in – the unexpectedly low quality of the ore at the new deposit didn’t help either and so the mine closed in 1965.
At its zenith about 1,500 people worked at the Tsuchikura Mine, sadly there is nothing left of the mining town surrounding it. All there is to see today is a couple of concrete constructions on a steep slope and a roofless house towards the top of it – probably the previously mentioned sifting plant, once wainscoted by wooden buildings. (If you are interested in some old photos please *click here* – the text there is in Japanese as this is the first time somebody writes a bit more about the Tsuchikura Mine in English on the internet.)
Exploring the abandoned leftovers of the Tsuchikura Mine was pretty easy thanks to its popularity. The place consisted of several “floors” with concrete fluid reservoirs and brackets for conveyer belts which looked a bit like Stonehenge. Since quite a lot of people seek to get up there nice explorers installed ladders and lots of ropes. People in decent shape and free from giddiness should have no problems to make it up the slope and enjoy a nice view down on the remains and the rather narrow valley. In comparison to the *White Stone Mine* and even the *Iimori Mine* the Tsuchikura Mine was rather boring, but it offered some nice angles and interesting views to take pictures of – and if you are lucky you will meet a photographer and their cosplay models… (Abandoned mines are popular amongst certain niche photographers. You know, production value!)
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