Sado Kinzan

Sado Gold Mine

Useful Information

Location: Aikawa, west coast of Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture. Ferry boats from Niigata, Naoetsu, Teradomari take about two hours. 30 km from Ryotsu Harbour.
Open: APR to OCT daily 8-17.
NOV to MAR daily 8-16:30.
Fee: Adults JPY 700, Student Highschool JPY 600, Student Elementary School JPY 400.
Groups (30+): Adults JPY 630, Student Highschool JPY 540, Student Elementary School JPY 360.
Groups (100+): Adults JPY 560, Student Highschool JPY 480, Student Elementary School JPY 320.
Groups (300+): Adults JPY 490, Student Highschool JPY 420, Student Elementary School JPY 280.
Classification: MineGold Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=400,000 m.
Guided tours: self guided, D=60 min., L=300 m.
Address: Sado Kinzan, 1305 Shimoaikawa, Sado-City, Niigata, 952-1501, Japan, Tel: +81-259-74-2386, Fax: +81-259-74-3235. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1542 Shige'mon Sotoyama, an Echigo merchant, discovers Tsurushi Silver Mine nearby.
1601 Sado Kinzan discovered and developed.
1603 Nagayasu Ohkubo designated Magistrate of Sado.
1622 Sado Koban (Sado gold coin) first produced.
1696 Minamisawa Drainage Tunnel (922m) completed.
1868 Eond of Tokugawa Shogunate, start of Meiji era, mine belong to the Ministry of Industry.
1875 Ohdate shaft dug, the first mechanized shaft in Japan.
1883 first rock drills in Japan were used.
1889 taken over by the Ministry of the Imperial Household.
1896 transferred to Mitsubishi & Co.,Ltd.
1918 taken over by Mitsubishi mining Co.,Ltd.
1918 50,000 tons of ore produced per month
1989 gold ore deposit exhausted, Mine operations terminated.


The gold veins of this mine are spread over an area of 3,000 m east to west and 600 m north to south. They reach up to 800 m deep. The gould is found ina a bundle of veins, there is no single continuous vein. The veins branch off and reunite in intervals of 10 to several hundred meters. Each vein has minor off-branches.

During its operation the total amount of mined metal was 78 tons of gold and 2,330 tons of silver. The most produktive time was around 1920, when it produced 50,000 tons of ore per month.


Sado Kinzan (Sado Gold Mine) is the most famous gold mine in Japan. It is known and mined since 1601, when it was discovered and developed to the biggest gold mine in Japan by the Tokugawa government. The gold was mined, casted and most of it was used to produce coins. The Ohban (large gold coin) and Koban (small gold coin) are legendary.

The mine is entered immediately after the ticket office. A stair leads down to the level of the entrance tunnel, which brings visitors across the street underground into the mountain. A course with various displays, dioramas and exhibitions about underground mining techniques, leads 300 m through the old mine tunnels. A bridge brings visitors back on the other side of the road into the museum. Here are exhibitions on the smelting, casting and the coins.

The underground tour emphasizes on huge dioramas with many details. There are numerous small miner figures, which are computerized, showing typical miners work. The topics are for example operating the manual drainage pump by pumping workers, the work of the stope miners (the ones who really dug ore), or Mizukae-Mushuku (draining workers). The pumping workers were very important and well payed. The stope miners were at the head of the tunnel mining the ore or creating tunnels. They used chisels with iron clippers and hit them wiht hammers. At the end of the 18th century, there was the need for many people working as draining workers. The Tokugawa Government decided to capture Mushukunin (unregistered people) in cities like Edo and Osaka. They were kidnapped and forced to slave labour in 24 hour shifts.

The museum gives an overview on the processing of the gold ore. It was smelted, refined and casted to Koban (gold coins). There are models of all important machinery like furnaces and foundry in the scale of 1:10. A second part of the museum was created in 2001 for the 400th anniversary of the mine. It shows a full-sized model of the Minamisawa Drainage Tunnel. A three dimensional model shoows the location of the gold veins. The is also a real 12.5kg bar of 99.99% pure gold which visitors are free to touch.