|Location:||Yubari. (43"03'15.39 N, 141"58'39.50 W)|
|Open:||All year daily 9:30-17. |
|Fee:||Adults JPY 800, Children (4-12) JPY 400. |
|Guided tours:||D=60min., self guided.|
|Bibliography:||Guide Book of the Yubari Coal Mine Museum|
|Address:||Sekitan-no-rekishimura-kanko Co.,Ltd., Takamatsu 7, Yubari, Hokkaido, Tel: +81-1235-2-1544.|
|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.
|1888||coal discovered the American Lyman Monroe.|
|1890||first mine at Yubari opened.|
|1920||the first national Japanese census counts 50,000 inhabitants.|
|1943||Yubari achieved the status of city.|
|1960||peak of population.|
|1964||peak of production.|
|1980||Yubari Coal Mining Museum opened as an industrial Museum.|
|1990||last mine closed.|
|2007||city went bancrupt and mining museum is for sale.|
The Yubari coal is the result of dense rain forests of metasequoia and other trees. The biomass was covered by landslides and volcanic eruptions, compressed by the overlying rocks and thus transformed into black coal. Lifted up by the orogeny of the Hokkaido mountains, erosion removed most of the cover until the seams reappeared at the surface. The mining activities followed the seams into the mountain flank.
The seams are between three and five meters thick, there are even some spots of up to seven metre thick coal. This makes the coal very easy to mine. The decision to close the mine was based on the change in global markets, but increasing prices for coal and oil could make the coal mining profitable again.
In 1888 the American Lyman Monroe was hired by the Japanese to survey the coal deposits of Hokkaido. He discovered coal in the mountains, three coal beds with thicknesses between three and five meters. The thickest reaches a thickness of seven meters. Two years later the first mine was opened and the town Yubari developed from scratch as a miner town. The coal mining grew continually and reached its peak in the 1960s. Yubari had its highest population of 116,908 inhabitants in 1960, the highest production of the mines was in 1964, when four million tons of coal were mined. But foreign coal was cheaper, and the demands of industry changed towards oil, so the government favoured imports from Australia and China.
Today Yubari ahs become a small town with 13,000 inhabitants. As the mines are closed, new ways to earn money had to be found. Today the town is well known for its (expensive) melons, a yearly film festival, and the mining museum, which seems to be a sort of theme park.
The center of the mining related exhibits is the Coal Mining Museum. It shows the discovery of the coal, the development of the mining and the used technology. A tunnel of the mine is integrated into the museum, an elevator brings the visitors down a dozen meters, but a sound and light show gives the impression that the ride goes down several hundred meters. The tunnel is rather dark, illuminated by widely spaced incandescent bulbs. The side branches show dioramas showing the work underground and the used tools. The visitor gets a hardhat and headlamp at the entrance. The tunnel is almost dark, only a single bulb is switched off and on by motion sensors, as the visitor moves on.
The Fossil Museum shows some 250 fossils which were found during the mining. They include plesiosuars and ammonites. The Mining Community Museum has dioramas with wax figures, showing the daily life of the miners during the 1960s. A scale model shows Yubari in its busiest mining days, overhead lighting simulates the passing of the day, complete with red sunset. At nightfall the tiny miner's houses which line the hills glow warmly. A real highlight is the Coal Basset, a place where a seven metre thick part of the coal seam is visible.
The city of Yubari received enormous subsidies from Tokyo to build a sort of theme park around the coal mine since the mid 1980s. But the sights were poorly thought-out and drew very few visitors to Yubari. As a result, the cost to keep them up ruined the town. Finaly in winter 2006/2007 the city and the mining museum went bancrupt. History Village and about 20 other tourist facilities are now up for sale.