Life and Culture Fostered by Mining

Life and Culture Fostered by Mining

▲ Stone mills were repurposed for use in the stone walls of Aikawa

Mining technology also benefited the lives of the people of Sado. The tunnel drainage technology was applied to the development of paddy fields. Furthermore, the masons who created the stone mills used in smelting gold and silver also created building stones for stone walls and the foundations of houses, as well as everyday items such as stone mortars, stone pagodas, and stone statues.

With the prosperity of the gold and silver mines, people gathered in Sado from all over Japan, bringing the cultures of various regions with them. Noh performances are still held in throughout Sado Island today. This is believed to be because Okubo Nagayasu, who served as magistrate of Sado, brought Noh performers with him when he arrived on the island.

Yawaragi, a ritual born from the labor in the mines, is filled with the prayers of miners wishing for the prosperity of the mines and the safety of their work underground. The folk song Sado Okesa was introduced to Sado by sailors who brought the Haiya bushi song of Kyushu, and has been passed down to the present day.

In addition to performing arts such as Ondeko (person wearing a demon mask dances to Japanese taiko drums) and Bun-ya Ningyo (puppet plays), mumyoi-yaki, the representative pottery of Sado produced using the iron-rich Mumyoi clay from the mines, also has a deep connection with the mines.

Yawaragi ritual

It is said that Yawaragi is performed to fulfill two wishes of the miners:
(1) To soften the hard ore
(2) To soften the heart of the mine deity

Yawaragi is a Shinto ritual unique to mines and is dedicated to the deity at the Oyamazumi-jinja Shrine.


Ondeko is a Shinto ritual to ward off evil and pray for the family’s safety and a bountiful harvest. It is said that there are about 120 settlements on the island, each with a different Ondeko.

The lineage handed down to Aikawa and other districts is depicted in a picture scroll from the mid-Edo period (1603–1868). It is said that it began with a festival at the Aikawa Uto-jinja Shrine.

Bun-ya Ningyo (puppet plays)

Bun-ya-bushi, the original form of Bun-ya ningyo, is said to have been popular in the Kansai region in the late Edo period and then brought to Sado.

A puppet show in which one person controls a single puppet was founded in 1872 by Ito Tokiwaichi, a Bun-ya storyteller from Sawane, and Osakiya Matsunosuke, a puppeteer from Ogi. It is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan.

Sado Okesa

In the early Edo period, the development of Ogi Port began with the aim of shipping gold and silver. In the latter half of the 17th century, it was designated as a port of call on the western sea route, and cultures from many different areas were brought from across the sea.

It is said that the Haiya-bushi tune, popular in Kita-kyushu during the Edo period, was brought to Sado by the crews of kitamae-bune and other ships, where it became known as the Okesa-bushi.

Mumyoi-yaki (pottery)

This is pottery using the red Mumyoi clay that can be found around the gold mines. Aikawa is home to the potter Ito Sekisui, certified as a Living National Treasure. Initially, the tuyeres and other parts for the bellows used in ore dressing were made using Mumyoi-yaki.


Okubo Nagayasu, who came to the island in 1604, held Noh performances at Oyamazumi-jinja Shrine and other places and is said to have laid the foundation for the Noh culture that has been passed down on Sado until today.

There are still more than 30 Noh stages left on Sado, and Noh plays are performed from spring to autumn throughout the island.