Transition of Settlement Structure

Transition of Village Structure

Gold and silver production at the Sado Gold and Silver Mines was carried out through highly specialized unmechanized industries corresponding to the placer deposits of the Nishimikawa Placer Gold Mine and the ore deposits of the Tsurushi Silver Mine and the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine. Distinctive mining settlements adapted to each mining technology, and production organization were formed.

Conceptual diagrams show how the mining technology and production organization of the mines were reflected in settlement structures.

Settlement structures

Sasagawa Settlement, Nishimikawa Placer Gold Mine

At the Nishimikawa Placer Gold Mine, mining and ore dressing were carried out by a unique technique using the force of water called Onagashi (great flow), with the areas for mining alluvial gold decided by each group. Each group took up residence on the site of former mines near their mining sites, and a settlement was formed. The technique of Onagashi and the structure of the settlement did not change significantly throughout the Edo period (1603–1868), and remnants of this period remain in the present-day settlement, such as the group organization and irregular settlement structure.

Tsurushi-Aramachi District, Tsurushi Silver Mine

The Tsurushi Silver Mine was the first mine developed for ore deposits.

The Tsurushi Local Magistrate’s Office, which managed the mine, was built on a slope close to the silver mine, and it has been confirmed that ore dressing and smelting work were carried out through the division of labor in the surrounding area. Settlements were formed near the Local Magistrate’s Office and workshops, and residential areas gradually expanded to accommodate the rapidly increasing population brought about by the prosperity of the silver mines. This is evident from randomly connected, irregularly shaped terraces and the absence of main streets within the settlement.

Kami-Aikawa District, Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine

The Kami-Aikawa District, the initial mining settlement of the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine, had a planned street indicated by the red line, and it can be seen that rectangular strips of land were created on both sides of the street. In the Edo period drawings, there were many towns named after the proprietors who managed the mines, and archaeological investigations have revealed that mine proprietors employed many miners and engaged in production themselves.

Aikawa-Kamimachi Town, Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine (early Edo period)

The settlement structure of the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine later developed in response to changes in production technology and production organization based on the policies of the Magistrate’s Office.

In the early Edo period, the Sado Magistrate’s Office was established at the tip of the plateau, and the main road, indicated by the red line connecting the Magistrate’s Office and the mines, was constructed. The town’s layout was distributed by occupation and implemented according to the street and land plotting along the main road, leading to the present-day layout.

Aikawa-Kamimachi Town, Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine (mid-Edo period)

Subsequently, gold and silver production factories were concentrated on the premises of the Magistrate’s Office, establishing factory-based unmechanized technology under the direct management of the Magistrate’s Office. In the mid-Edo period, the location of the samurai estates and factories was switched. This way, distribution of the town by occupation changed to a town with a mixture of occupations.

Aikawa-Kamimachi Town, Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine (Meiji period, 1868-1912)

During the Meiji period, the management and operation of the mines were transferred from the Tokugawa shogunate to the Meiji government, but street and land allocation remained unchanged.

Due to the increase in production associated with industrialization, miners gathered from outside the island lived in newly established facilities called quarters in the town.