In Iwate Prefecture there was a village called Matsuo and is now a part of the city of Hachimantai. Matsuo village was once called a “paradise above the clouds”, where an iron and sulfur mine located in the village once thrived. Matsuo Mine opened in 1914 in the Hachimantai Plateau in the Ōu Mountains of central Honshu.
The makeshift town was built to house the working population of the Matsuo sulfur mines. The concrete apartment complex sheltered over 15,000 people and was considered luxurious at the time for its central heating, flushing toilets, and garbage chutes. The Matsuo apartments were abandoned in the late 1970s after the mine closed in 1969. But the ruins of the Matuso mine still stand.
The History of of the Abandoned Matsuo Mine
Sulfur resources were known as early as 1766 and the existence of a sulfur mine was documented in 1879. Around that time the Meiji government turned Japan from an agricultural state into an industrialized country. A small-scale trial digging failed in 1888. And in 1911 a private investor from Yokohama took over and lead the mine to temporary glory.
In 1914 Matsuo Mining Co., Ltd. was established to start mining and refining sulfur in the area. The number of employees has also increased from 352 in 1916, to 2,213 in 1936. At the peak of production, about 100,000 tons of refined sulfur and 680,000 tons of iron sulfide ore were produced.
Around 1914 the now-iconic Matsuo Mine Apartment Buildings were constructed. Matsuo Mine once accounted for 30% of Japan’s Sulphur production and 15% of its pyrite, boasting of having the highest production in the entire Asian continent. Matsuo Mine was the third largest mine in Japan in the 1950s of ore and Sulphur.
In addition, Matsuo Mine Railway Co., Ltd. was established for the transportation of sulfur and the import of daily goods in 1934. Initially, it was about 7 kilometers hand-tracked track between the foothold residence (Hachimantai Shishidai) and Nitta, but in the following year, Nishine Town Daisaku was connected to JNR (now JR) garland line. It was abolished in October 1972 with the closure of the Matsuo Mine.
Following the end of World War II, Japan had a rapid economic boom which was accompanied by serious environmental issues, including the outbreak of Yokkaichi asthma. It was caused by the emission of sulfur dioxide, so the Japanese government mandated petroleum refineries to install desulfurization equipment, resulting in the vitalization of sulfur production. Thus, the mining of sulfur eventually went out of demand.
The operation lasted in 1969, at which point the mine was closed and the workers, along with their families, moved on to other places. The village, complete with its machinery, apartments, and school gives off an eerie post-apocalyptic vibe much like a ghost town.
Stunning Photos of Abandoned Matsuo Mine
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How To Reach Abandoned Matsuo Mine With
Matsuo was a mining village located in Iwate District, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, but it is now a part of the Hachimantai city and no longer exists as an independent municipality.
- From Tokyo to Matsuo Mine it will take 7 hours by car. You can drive Tohoku Express Way.
- Or you have to catch a local train from Tokyo to JR Shinkansen Hayate 25 (2.5 hours).
- Take Route 4 from Morioka – IGR Iwate Ginga Tetsudo (50min)
- Get down at Matsuo Hachimantai, Iwate, which is situated 15 minutes from Abandoned Matsuo Mines.
What is so special about Matsuo Mines?
Matsuo Mines are famous for its abandoned concrete apartment complex of 11 apartment blocks. Whether you are looking for an urban exploration trip where you can discover relatively remarkable history or overview the remains an eerie and feel the mystery of Matsuo Mines and its mining town nearby.
Matsuo Mine on Google Maps
Here you may find the location of the ruins of Matsuo Mine Apartments on a satellite map.