The Taro Mine is supposed to be one of the most beautiful mines in all of Japan – it certainly is one of the most dangerous…
After *Mike*, *Ben* and I visited the *Matsuo Mine Apartment Buildings* for a second time, we headed for the pacific coast to stay the night for an early start to the Taro Mine. Despite being about 250 kilometers north of the infamous Fukushima Nuclear Power Planet we were still able to see and experience the struggles the area is going through after the tsunami hit in the aftermath of the Tohoku Earthquake 2011. The hotel we stayed at, one of the few in that part of Japan, just opened half a year prior – and when we reached the coastal town of Taro, we realized that barely anything happened to the disaster zone in the past 2.5 years. The local Lawson we stopped at after our exploration is still housed in a container building above sea level and the previously flooded area still has barely any new buildings… (By coincidence there is a German documentary called “Die Helden von Taro” (The Heroes of Taro) about the town and its inhabitants; you can watch it on Youtube if you are interested.)
The Taro Mine itself wasn’t damaged by the tsunami, but I assume the earthquake gave it a good shake, probably causing some of the heavy roof tiles at the sifting plant to come down – another reminder of how you don’t want to be in an abandoned building while a natural disaster strikes!
Like most mines, the Taro Mine has quite a long history. In this case it dates back to 1857 and it was a troubled one from the beginning, when convicted Yokohama smuggler Takashima Kaemon fled to the north and discovered sulfide ore in the mountains. Due to the financial uncertainty of the endeavor, he sold the mine to Iguchi Kenchi – who sold it due to financial difficulties in 1918 to what is now Rasa Industries, after actually closing it temporarily. The company started to invest and began massive examinations in 1919, which resulted in test operations that had to be suspended between 1923 and 1926 due to a depression, probably in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake. Construction of what is the present day abandoned Taro Mine began in 1933 and officially started operation in 1936 – fully operational for only 8 years, when a fire in the sifting plant rendered it inoperative in April 1944. A year later the Taro Mine started production again, only to be partly destroyed by U.S. air raids, resulting in another year of repairs. Between 1946 and 1971 the mine was fully operational, except for… one year between 1961 and 1962, when the mine was temporarily closed due to… you can guess it… a massive fire!
After being closed for good, Tokyo’s Meisei University took over some of the Taro Mine and the surrounding mining town to create their Taro campus. Today only their Cosmic Ray Laboratory is still in use, the rest of the area is abandoned. Or rather closed, as rumor has it that there is still security showing up once in a while…
What sets the Taro Mine apart from most other mines is the fact that the sifting plant wasn’t demolished – usually only massive concrete walls and pillars are left after a closed mine was stripped of any valuable machines and metals, but in this case the case was still there.
The first two floors were easily accessible and, thanks to the extremely high ceiling, quite impressive. The third floor required some climbing effort via a pile of bricks, which I wasn’t able to do due my minor *knee injury the afternoon before*. From there a rusty and party collapsed metal only staircase lead to the fourth and final floor, which I wasn’t willing to climb even if I would have been able to as it looked like a deathtrap to me.
Instead I found another way outside, where I hiked up a little slope to an exterior part of the third floor, disconnected from the rest of the sifting plant by collapsed metal constructions and intentional architectural decisions – you can see that *in the video*.
The rest of the Taro Mine actually wasn’t that interesting. One of the blue chemical pools the *Osarizawa Mine* is famous for was very active and welcomed us with a little fountain, other pools were more of brownish color and looked far less inviting. The already mentioned cosmic ray laboratory looked and sounded indeed quite active, while a huge four- or five-storey white building with a collapsed roof appeared to be so dilapidated, moldy and rotten that none of us felt the urge to get inside.
Even the 5 colorful two-storey apartment buildings down the road couldn’t get the attention of all three of us. Though there was one set of items in a wooden building we all were fascinated by – what appeared to be an old police helmet and a log with countless handwritten entries. Beautiful artifacts of modern archaeology, probably from an era when the Taro Mine was just a test operation…
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