The Haunting Silence of Tōhoku Mines
Abandoned mines in Japan have always been a great attraction for all urban explorers, but I never expected to visit the best of them so soon. In this trip, we are going towards the great northeast of Japan where many of them sleep quietly. It is 5 am and the chilly wind is real intimidating, but we must get going, before the sun awakes. Driving uphill into the Matsuo mountains, we are rising with the sun. Inside the forests, the leaves are turning red; not many birds are singing, only the brave eagles hovers coolly and gracefully.
Matsuo Mine (松尾鉱山)
We passed through the not yet ruined destruction site for Matsuo Mine quietly in the Morning Reveille, heading towards our even quieter destination. It took us some time to drive around in circles trying to figure out the best approach to the mine. And when we finally get off the car, it actually started to rain.
The strong winter wind is howling through the abandoned concrete blocks where there are no windows left. The casually arranged blocks were the dormitory for the workers; there are so many of them, looking like giants standing in the middle of these deep mountains. We trespassed into the first empty corridor, the floor is cracked, and plants are climbing in from everywhere. Our troop separated from here, to have some private exploring time. Since the place was so huge, we actually never saw each other at all until the gathering time.
Marching through the complex resided almost 100 years ago, we are really walking through history. Unfortunately there are not many belongings left here, but our friend did report to have found some war time posters. But it felt like such a treat already to be able to see abandoned buildings all around wherever you stand. With no doors or glasses left, these buildings are really easy to enter.
You should also climb onto one of the roofs, sit closely to a chimney to hide from the sharp wind, and get some warmth of the sun when the rain stops. The emptiness echoes in the Iwate mountains, the haunting silence of the abandoned mines.
There is even a school not far from the complex, the iron board hanging on top of the building is cracking loudly ready to fall and chop someone’s head off anytime… Taking about getting killed, someone did kill himself in the school gym with the basketball rack…
The midday sun drove our chill away, and dried me up from the frozen rain in the morning. We are now at Osarizawa. This is a mine with 1300 years history, it closed down at 1978 but there are still many workers around, probably cleaning up the left overs.
Osarizawa Mine (尾去沢鉱山跡)
We carefully avoided attention and ran into the bushes of the deserted side. This ruin is really old, even the original shape of the building is more of less gone. The main “tourist” spot is the two pure blue chemical pools right at the foot of the mountain, which reminded me of the non-chemical but more colorful pools in Jiuzhaigou (Sichuan, China).
Not satisfied from the most visited area, our troop started to climb the old mountain, where some unrecognizable concrete blocks still lying around. However, besides the fact that the hiking itself was quite exciting, there was nothing much to it. The Osarizawa ruins were too ruined (not that I am complaining :/) and it was too dangerous to move around on the slippery, steep and sandy surface while trying to hide from the cars that kept slowing down when passing near us. After watching the workers from the top of the hill for a while, we packed and left without looking back, because the pictures taken from further away is much more interesting. The abandoned constructions of the mine looks like a big spider devouring the yellowish mountain slowly but surely.
The last mission left was Taro mine. We bid goodbye to Akita, where the tasty rice are grown, and back to our base, Iwate Prefecture. It actually surprised me how long the drive is, so Iwate Prefecture must be huge (indeed it is, it is the second biggest in Japan, right after Hokkaido).
Mine closed down in the 1970s, the main building is huge, bare but full of green. This area once being quite busy, has residential buildings, a theatre hall for movies, and even a shrine. Nowadays, it became belongings of Meisei University, and they use it for Cosmic Ray observation.
Taro Mine (田老鉱山跡)
After the peaceful walk in the abandoned area, a tour around this laboratory of nobody is recommended. It is quite a shock for my not-so-scientific mind, with hundreds of cords coming out of the window, crawling on the floor, then spreading out onto hundreds weird looking little machines, and the chemical pools from the mines are right next to it. The beeping sound of the machines and the flushing sound from the pipes disturbed the silence of the mine. Students for the laboratory must be haikyo lovers to be able to research in such an environment.
The not so well written article for sure cannot deliver the whole message. The Tohoku mountain talks better themselves; in their unique language they will charm you completely. The haunting silence of the mines, their once prosperities are still told by the wind, if only you listen carefully.