Niihama, Shikoku Island

Besshi Historic Mine Tour

By Rey Waters   Nov 20, 2018 - 3 min read

Located just twelve miles southeast of Niihama city in Ehime Prefecture are the ruins of one of the most productive ever mines in Japan, producing 19 million tons of ore.

Besshi began mining copper in 1691 and continued operations until 1973. They began digging at 3937 feet above sea level and reached a depth of 3281 feet below sea level.

From Niihama station take a city bus to Minetopia Besshi, a sort of mine amusement park, purchase your tour tickets, and board a small bus that will take you up and around winding roads to the top of a mountain where at one time 4000 residents lived. The town was named Tonaru Zone.

Upon arrival walk on over to the Copper Mine Memorial Museum where you can see what life was like living at the top of the mountain. You should spend enough time wandering through all six of the excellent exhibit areas. Back outside you will find many good photo shot viewpoints of both the ruins and the valley leading to the bay.

The tour guide will take you through a short tunnel used to move equipment around, then a walk down to the ore storage area ruins. All of the signs have English explanations. You will then walk up 208 steps to a very nice viewpoint of the surrounding area.

There will be some time to explore other parts of Tonaru Zone before heading back to Minetopia Besshi where you can pan for gold, check out the Mine Tunnel Gate, ride the German made train through a mine tunnel, and finally walk around in the main building. It houses a gem museum, mine equipment, restaurants, and of course gift shops. There is even a hot spring in the next building and plenty of walking paths.

The history of mining in Japan is very interesting and Besshi Copper mine is a must see on your trip to Shikoku.

Getting there

From Niihama station board the local bus to Minetopia Besshi. The ticket counter is just inside the entrance. From there you will catch a tour bus to the mine ruins.

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Rey Waters

Rey Waters @Rey Waters

Born in the U.S.A. - Worked 30 years in executive management high tech Industry, owned a management consulting firm and a wildlife art publishing company.  In 2012 completed the Ultimate Travel Writer’s course and published my first article Tower Hopping in Japan with Travel Post Monthly.  Since then I have published travel related articles and books in the U.S., Japan, and Costa Rica. As of 2018 I have traveled all 8 regions in Japan.   My objective in writing articles is to expose prospective tourists to areas of Japan outside the Tokyo - Kyoto corridor.   I enjoy writing about the outdoors, festivals, crafts, museums, local food, history, and the wonderful people I have met along the way. Residing in Yokohama for over five years, I have explored the entire city by foot and have written about my experiences.   There is so much to see in Japan.

Join the discussion

Elizabeth Scally 3 weeks ago
Ehime landscapes can be beautiful and wild. I love the photo of the red rail bridge to the tunnel.
Kim B 3 weeks ago
I visited here a few years ago when I was in Ehime, but on a much foggier day - the drive up there was spooky!
Rey Waters Author 3 weeks ago
Even on a clear day the trip up the mountain was nerve racking. It seems driving fast around those curves is part of the tour.