Nishimikawa Gold Mine and the history of gold panning
The existence of Sado’s Nishimikawa Gold Mine has been known since the Heian Era. However true development of the mine didn’t start until around the year 1460 at the beginning of the Sengoku (Warring States) Era, after which any gold found from the sand was placed into the war chest of subsequent commanders among other uses and became a major source of currency on the island. Although the heyday of the 16th to 17th centuries saw the largest output from the Nishimikawa mine, that output gradually started waning until the mine finally closed down in 1872. Since the gold-panning method used needed a large amount of water, large-scale canals were built in the surrounding area. Even now, there are 12km worth of remaining canals. This gold-panning is thought to be the oldest method in Japan, and at the time, mountains were undercut and the soil and rock which held the gold dust were washed through the valley river which made for a dynamic process. Currently, at Nishimikawa Gold Park, you can try out this gold-panning process.
Panning for gold at Gold Park
There are exhibition galleries and video rooms at Sado Nishimikawa Gold Park, with information on gold and gold-panning available and learning about gold is possible. But the most popular attraction is undoubtedly the gold-panning. Actual Nishimikawa sand is used for courses which are divided into levels of ability. There is the beginners’ course where you can enjoy searching for gold dust by washing the sand through a sieve-like pan, the intermediate course where the sand is washed through a man-made river and then the advanced course where the sand is washed through a real river. The gold dust that you can find can then be made into accessories which you can take home as a memento.