The Ashio Mine became industrialised in 1871 and produced approx 39 percent of Japans copper up until its closure in 1973. It caused a lot of environmental controversy in the later part of the 19th century as a result of floods and pollution. But it now lies quiet, sleepy and hidden away in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture.
The journey to this place is beautiful and picturesque as you drive along steep winding roads through lush green forest. The little town at the foot of the mine is quaint and traditional with nice wooden houses and shops (shops that look like they havn't been opened since the 80's).
The abandoned mining huts were a definite highlight with their mossy green interiors and dilapidated wooden walls. A majority of the mine was demolished a few years back however, there's still some rusty machinery scattered around. A small part of the mine is still active, so I had to sneak around (and I hid behind some big rusty vats while some of the workers passed by in trucks and cars). I got questioned on my way out by two uniformed men...I just explained that I was only taking photos and apologised profusely for trespassing...they let me go but informed me that this place was off limits to the public.