1960s, Japan, Mie Prefecture. A typhoon hit the all-white mine named Shiraishi. The gigantic wooden shelves could not stand against the strong wind, nor did the limestone powder stored on those shelves which was mostly washed away with the rain.
Typhoon and Explorers.
Half a century later, 2 brave urban explorers from Belgium reached the very same place. And the mischievous typhoon ones again stroke Mie prefecture. Standing inside the shaking wooden rooms, they thought their lives were to end here.
Luckily, the haikyo mine protected them, it did not collapse! What a great news for all urban explorers! Otherwise we could have lost 2 great urbex photographers, as well as a charming haikyo location.
Not as brave as they are, we chose a perfect sunny day to pay our second visit. Not a cloud in the sky, it is perfect for a hike through all the greens surrounding and covering Shiraishi. The sun shines through the leaves, the river runs happily on the side. We jump though the rubble, feeling like Alice in a perfect wonderland.
Having been here once, we should have known the route pretty well. But we still managed to get ourselves stuck in a cul-de-sac. Not to worry, there are many pictures to take on the way; walking back will not be a problem.
Ok, lecture time! What is limestone powder used for? Most people would answer ‘Chalk’! Not bad Chalk indeed is a form of limestone. Now you must be wondering do they really need so many chalks as to build such a huge mine like Shiraishi. As a matter of fact, limestone powder is used in a variety of industries like steel, plastic manufacturing, construction; it is also used as neutralizer for removing pollutants as well as for changing the acidity in soil. Even paper making involves limestone.
As for this mine, it is normally called Fujiwara Mine (藤原鉱山) or Shiraishi Mine (白石鉱山) by explorers, but its real name is actually Shiraishi Industry Kuwana Factory (白石工業桑名工場). It was founded by a Mr. Shiraishi (白石恒二) in 1921 and he is also the one who invented the “Shiraishi-method of manufacturing light precipitated calcium carbonate”. The corporate founded by him and his brother, named Shiraishi Calcium (白石工業), was successful with the growing need of limestone, and is now a worldwide company!
The haikyo we are standing at now is such a cleverly designed factory that it is a shame that it ended up abandoned in 1969. If you look from high up, you can see the whole factory is built along the slope of the mountain, at the bottom of which runs the happy river we just walked by.
… Snap! … Snap!
The slope has made it possible to run the whole factory solely by the almighty gravitation. If you do need electricity somewhere, it is generated by water from the top of the mountain. Great example of ecology! A product called Hakuenka (白艶華) which was first produced here, is exported to the world even till now.
Wondering in the Wonderland.
Finally, the sun is setting and we should be heading back to the car.
Such a pleasant walk it has been that I really do not mind coming back to here again anytime, on an equivalent brilliant weather.
The icy ‘spring’ water right next to the parking place was a great ending of the day (it is actually not spring water at all…might even be polluted, but there is always a queue there with people getting huge tanks of water, apparently it is tasty and healthy…with the calcium from the factory probably :p). We washed our hands and filled up the water bottles.
When the engine starts, I am missing Shiraishi Mine already. Next time, we should come back for some different pictures; maybe at night, or maybe when it snows.