Abandoned mines near Tokyo? Impossible – you might think, but it’s very possible. Two hours west of Shinjuku, lies the Nishitama area, part of greater Tokyo. It is simply the name for an area in the mountains west of Tokyo; a place that many know, but few actually venture into and explore. Inside Nishitama is Okutama, a town located in the western portion of Tokyo Metropolis, Japan.
The Okutama area is filled with old things to explore, such as abandoned Okutama Ropeway, an old bridge, and a cement factory, and finally, of course, there are abandoned mines. Abandoned Okutama mines are only about 90km from Tokyo and its location makes town for an easily accessible day trip from Tokyo.
The old tracks and tunnel are from the now-abandoned Hikawa Railway Line, which was used to connect Okutama to Okutama Lake during the construction of the Ogouchi Dam. There are also a series of worker houses and warehouses on the path. Unfortunately, these are now abandoned too but, their remains remind us of the work that went into creating the pathway and the once-bustling route used during the construction of the dam.
On the way, you may find a pair of rusty tunnel trucks and a bulldozer. Extraction in different mines took place in different ways. Somewhere a narrow-gauge track was laid (the remains of it we later met), and somewhere the breed was exported by special machines. Nearby are the remains of the service base buildings – tires, spare parts, other details.
The work and drilling at Okutama mine were carried out by the blast-drilling method, the central adit goes deep into the depths in a spiral, branching off at different levels by adits of different sizes. As will be seen further, there are large ones, designed for trucks and bulldozers, and small ones “for narrow-gauge railways.”
The abandoned Okutama mining system was very large in length – different sections of it were being explored already in the first year. The mining in this place was stopped in the 1970s, and finally, the Okutama mine was abandoned in 1990.
Entrance into abandoned Okutama mines. There was very little construction support – mostly the ceiling was either made from stone or lined with mesh. Over the years, vaults have collapsed in many places – there were many filled-in drifts, there were also backfills.
But inside Okutama mines there are also very large halls with a high level of humidity – underfoot a cement viscous, like mud, slurry. Other halls are dry – several adits converge/diverge in them. And you can also see traces in it – not far from the entrance we found traces of tanuki and monkeys.
Three-kilovolt electrical substations have been preserved at different levels. No attempts to destroy or cut the cable, etc. bad deeds were not noticed. No graffiti about the local Caves branch or the German encryption machine. Local Japanese urban explorers, even if they did leave records about the Okutama mines visit, were in the form of small stickers on something smooth.
Descending lower and lower, we found a vertical shaft of about two meters in diameter, separated from the adits by a rotten wooden fence and a rusty mesh. A stone thrown there flew for about ten seconds. Carefully looking down, we saw other exits to it, below the level.
In some places, there were large puddles and even whole small lakes with floating bulbs.
Suddenly, a new telephone set connected to the line was seen in the adit. Until this time, we have not met telephones inside Okutama mines. Moreover, on wet ground, many tracks and a rolled-up car track were clearly visible. We begin to walk carefully, listening to all the sounds coming. Soon a second phone appears – the receiver hangs on the wire, there are no beeps. We reach a fork with many signs – fresh air blows on the right and begins to climb up, but after a kilometer of walking in this direction, a large puddle blocks the path and we turn back
The second branch of abandoned Okutama mines turned out to be much more interesting. First, we found another waterfall flowing along the connecting road. The drift itself used to go out into another adit, and when it was flooded into it another drift was pierced, pumps with pipes were brought in. However, now this economy was in a ruined state with protruding remains of pipes and stairs. Secondly, they found a wooden booth and another connecting drift went down from it (remember, this place will come up in the following story).
The most interesting thing turned out to be “third”. At the T-junction, the road was blocked by a huge ore conveyor belt. She walked along the adit from somewhere below, getting lost in the distance, and, bypassing us, went up and only the light of working electric lamps illuminated the darkness of the lair of this giant underground worm. Literally on the horizon below the abandoned areas, operating workings began.
The construction tape did not move. Despite the lights on, everything was calm and quiet. There are at least two reasons for this – the weekend and the Japanese holiday O-bon – the day of remembrance of the dead, when all the Japanese go to the cemeteries at the same time, and the country gets stuck in many kilometers of traffic jams on the highways.
We moved down the tape and after a while got into the reloading room. Here, the two ribbons converged at an acute angle, so that the rock, rising along with the first ribbon from the depths of the mine, fell on the second ribbon, and that one carried it up. Apparently, such a cascade comes from the darkest depths, and from the other end, it reaches the sun.
From the plate we understood that the unit is called K-2BC, its capacity is 700 tons of rock per hour, belt speed is 200 meters per minute, segment length is 173 meters, the permissible height difference is up to 22 meters, belt width is 75 cm, power is 100 kilowatts, six motors, and the consumed voltage is three kilovolts. The arrow plate indicates the direction to the “bottom” of the shaft.
And four adits diverged from the hall: along which we came, one down with a conveyor, the other down with the remains of the tape and the last side. First, we went along an abandoned one and, after a couple of hundred meters, came to an underground lake. Apparently, once there was also a conveyor here, but then the water broke through and flooded the adit. On the way, we met an automatic pump. Look at the sensor hanging in the foreground – two rods, when the ends are immersed in water, the sensor is triggered and water pumping automatically starts.
The second road went down, along a functioning conveyor, and led to a control booth and a stone crusher. The tall mechanism is equipped with industrial video cameras, the vault above it is lined with metal insol, the light is on, the indicators are on. The place is very interesting because other conveyors go from the crusher. The sign warns about the need to work in a mask, apparently flying stone dust is formed from crushing.
The third road ran into a flooded adit. Remember, at the beginning of the article, I mentioned the underground waterfall? Here he is, the culprit, the flooding. Water gushes from the connecting drift, roaring, and splashing.
As you can see in the photo, the workers built a dam and diverted water into a pipe, and then let it go through a drainage channel somewhere further. Behind the dam, the depth is knee-deep, at the bottom there is mud-bog and my companions refused to climb into it, shod in bags or just in flip flops. The flooded section soon ended and mud began, through which narrow-gauge rails peeped through on the floor, and soon the trolleys themselves and the Mitsubishi locomotive met. The dirt went away with them.
Right in the adit, a train of ten trolleys froze forever, followed by another one, but with a locomotive. The study of the nameplates showed that the locomotive was manufactured in the 31st year of the Showa era, that is, in 1956. Operating voltage 500 volts, manufactured by Mitsubishi.
How To Reach Abandoned Okutama Mines With Public Transport
Abandoned Okutama mines are easily accessible from Tokyo by train and bus. A public bus or car is the cheapest way to get from Tokyo to Okutama and it will take 1h 6m. There is no direct train from Tokyo to Okutama. However, there are services departing from Tokyo and arriving at OkuTama via Ome. The journey, including transfers, takes approximately 2h 26m. After you will arrive at Okutama, you can take a taxi or a long walk to reach abandoned mines.