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Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Museum

This fascinating museum provides an insight into every aspect of the Besshi Copper Mine.

Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Museum

The Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Museum stands at the entrance to the valley that leads up to the mine. Next to it is a sports ground where Sumitomo used to hold sports events for its employees. The museum itself stands on the grounds of Ōyamazumi Shrine, which enshrines the guardian spirit of the Besshi Copper Mine. It’s a branch shrine of the headquarters on Ōmishima Island in Imabari.

The museum building seems to be embedded in the ground, evoking the image of a mine. Its roof is planted all over with azaleas, which bloom in vivid pinks in May. In front of the museum you can see a steam locomotive used on the mine railway. This was imported from Germany, from the same company that made Matsuyama’s steam trains. There’s also an electric locomotive and rolling stock.

The museum has five exhibition areas on various themes including the history of Sumitomo and Besshi, the geology that produced copper, the daily life of the miners, mining techniques, and the story of how it overcame smoke pollution caused by copper smelting. Exhibits include prints from the Edo period, evocative photos, models and dioramas, geological samples, various products made of copper, busts of Sumitomo directors, and tools and clothing actually used by the miners. These combine to create a vivid picture of the life of the extended community that existed for centuries around the mine, dug with great labour into the mountain above.

Entry to the museum is free. You can happily spend a day or more visiting the museums and sites related to the copper mine.

(Photos courtesy of the Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Museum)

Information

Name in Japanese: 別子銅山記念館

Pronunciation: besshi dōzan kinenkan

Address: 3 Chome-13 Suminoshindencho, Niihama, Ehime 792-0844

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