足尾銅山

Ashio dōzan - Ashio Copper Mine


Useful Information

Location: 9-2 Ashiomachitsudo, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1514.
20 km southwest of central Nikko city and about 10 km south of Lake Chuzenji.
(36.6333, 139.4399)
Open: All year daily 9-17.
Furukawa Ashio Museum: APR to NOV Fri-Sun, Hol 10-16, last entry 15:30.
Furukawa Kakemizu Club: APR to NOV Sat, Sun, Hol 10-15:30, last entry 14:45.
[2022]
Fee: Adults JPY 830, Children (6-14) JPY 410, Children (0-5) free, Disabled free.
Furukawa Ashio Museum: Adults JPY 400, Children (6-14) JPY 300, Children (0-5) free, Disabled free.
Groups (15+): Adults JPY 300, Children (6-14) JPY 200, Children (0-5) free.
Furukawa Kakemizu Club: Adults JPY 500, Children (6-14) JPY 300, Children (0-5) free, Disabled free.
Groups (15+): Adults JPY 400, Children (6-14) JPY 200, Children (0-5) free.
[2022]
Classification: MineCopper Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:
Guided tours: Train ride: L=700 m.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: T. Morishita (1981): The Watarase River Basin: Contamination of the Environment with Copper Discharged from Ashio Mine In Heavy Metal Pollution in Soils of Japan, edited by K. Kitagishi and I. Yamane. Tokyo: Japan Scientific Societies Press. 1981.
K. Shoji, M. Sugai (1992): The Ashio Copper Mine Pollution Case: The Origins of Environmental Destruction In Industrial Pollution in Japan. Edited by J. Ui. Tokyo: United Nations University Press. 1992.
Goro Koide (2010): 400 years of the Ashio Copper Mine ̶Recommendation for preservation of industrial heritage and tourism for visiting ruins̶, Chemistry & Chemical Industry, Vol. 63-7, July 2010. pdf
Address: Ashio Copper Mine, 9-2 Ashiomachitsudo, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1514, Tel: +81-288-93-3240.
Furukawa Ashio Museum, 2825 Matsubara, Ashiomachi, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1523, Tel: +81-288-25-5810.
Ashio Tourism Section, Ashio Tourism Division, Tourism Economy Department, Tel: +81-288-93-3116, Fax: +81-288-93-4783.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1550 first discovered.
1610 farmers discover copper ores and Mount Ashio becomes a government-run quarry.
1871 become privately owned.
1877 new owner Furukawa Ichibei discovers new copper weins and introduces advanced mining technology.
1935 new dressing plant for collection from low quality ore.
1948 full mechanization of beneficiation.
1973 mine closed.
1974 Furukawa Co, Ltd. held accountable for the poisonings.
1980 opened to the public.
APR-2005 Furukawa Ashio History Museum opened by a non-profit organisation.
2019 APR-Furukawa Ashio History Museum operation transferred to Furukawa Machinery Metals Co., Ltd.

Geology

Description

The 足尾銅山 (Ashio Dōzan, Ashio Copper Mine) is named after the town of Ashio in the northern Kantō region where it is located. Today it is primarily known as the site of Japan's first major pollution disaster in the 1880s which is known as (Ashio Copper Mine Incident). After production boomed in the 1870s and 1880s, people living downstream from the mine, along the Watarase and Tone rivers, began to notice changes. Silkworms eating mulberry leaves from near the mine were dying, farmers noticed changes in the color of the Watarase River and the river's fish population was plummeting. 3000 fishermen in the area were put out of work. The massive need for wood led to large-scale deforestation, the rivers lost their flood protection. The first major flood was in 1890, but instead of bringing fertile silt, it deposited silt contaminated by slag from the mine. The contaminated floodwater destroyed all vegetation it touched and rendered fields sterile. Farmers developed sores on their hands and feet.

The reasons are complicated and diverse, but all went down to a simple fact: the mining and smelting released poisonous substances into the environment. The results were so severe and expensive, that the people wanted severe measures. First small attempts to minimize the pollution failed. But the protests resulted in the birth of the Japanese environmental movement and the 1897 Third Mine Pollution Prevention Order.

The second important event at Ashio was the 1907 Ashio Riot. The numerous environmental restrictions caused miners at Ashio to fear that the order was threatening their jobs. So the mine company used it to keep the wages low. Pit miners who had been demanding higher wages, targeted infrastructure and low-level mining officials. The riot did actually result in higher wages and also triggered strikes and riots in similar industries. Strikes at other mines included the Horonai mine in May 1907, the Besshi mine in June 1907, and at others through July. The whole movement resulted in the 1911 Factory Law.

The mine areal of the former Ashio Copper Mine contains a parking lot, restaurant, and the Nikkoshi Kankokyokai Ashio Information Center. It also has a ticket office and the train station from where the underground tours start. Unlike other mine tours in Japan the tour at Ashio Copper Mine includes a train ride. The visitors board a rather modern mine train and travel along a dimly lit section of the former mine tunnel. Inside the same wax dolls and animatronic stuff waits as in the other mines, but the train ride is a great pro and a lot of fun for children.

The 古河足尾歴史館 (Furukawa Ashio History Museum) is located across the road and behind the railroad tracks. It offers additional exhibitions about geology, minerals, mining history and mining technology. Actually it is a must to combine both sites as the underground tours are not that informative. The exhibition has models of numerous important historic buildings in the Ashio Mining Office Diorama. Several building were erected by famous architects. Another exhibition contains statues and photographs of Furukawa Ichibei, the founder of Furukawa, the Sekizuka family. There is also an exhibition on mine safety and its development. And there are of course the smaller machines which were used in the mine, like drilling machines.

The Furukawa Kakemizu Club is also interesting. The two-story building with a Western-style exterior and Japanese-Western interior was used as a guesthouse and accommodation facility during the prosperity of Ashio Copper Mine. There is not only architecture, the building also houses an Ore Museum with approximately 200 items, mainly copper ores mined at the Ashio mine. Chalcopyrite, pyrite, galena, and crystals, mainly domestic ores and some overseas ores.