Development of Mines

Before the Satake family came along the domain had only a few mines, which were not yet fully developed. The new government under the Satake family developed the mining industry in Akita to the point that rumors in Hitachi in those days said that “all the gold and silver of Hitachi went to Akita underground.”

The silver mine at Innai was discovered in 1606, only a few years after the arrival of Yoshinobu Satake. The gold mine at Ani, first developed by Yoshitaka Satake, was later turned into a prosperous copper mine. These two mines long supported the domanial government financially. They had declined by the mid-nineteenth century, but the mining continued and the Meiji government took them over.

Map of Ani Copper Mine (stored in Akita University Museum of Mining)

The drawing below shows the work at the Ani copper mine. It was first developed as a gold mine, but an entrepreneur from Osaka, Kitaguniya Kichiemon, developed copper veins and the domanial government later took over. The Ani copper mine and the Besshi copper mine (in Iyo province) were the two major copper mines in Japan in those days. The Ani copper mine alone accounted for 38% of the shogunate’s official production of copper in the eighteenth century.

Work layout of Innai Silver Mine (stored in Akita University Museum of Mining)

The drawing on the left, dated 1858, shows in detail the work of miners in the Innai silver mine. The mine produced more than 375kg of silver per month during its best decade in around 1840. In those days, households in the area numbered 4,000 and the population was 15,000, making it more prosperous even than the castle town at Kubota.

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