Rising from the Ruins
Around the turn of the 20th century, mining towns sprang up around Japan to meet the nation's growing demand for mineral resources. Communities flourished and grew rapidly, developing a culture of their own. But as the seams became depleted and prices fluctuated, their decline came even faster. Now, a century later, those towns are looking for ways to build a new future. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, we look back at 3 visits to mining towns, charting their changes and finding out what makes them special today.

Yubari, former coal mine town

Yubari, in the center of Hokkaido Prefecture, is famous for its international film festival, which is held each winter, and for its picturesque scenery. But half a century ago it was best known as a thriving coal mining community. Now little remains of that era except memories and atmospheric ruins.

Kamioka, former mining town

Kamioka was once a major center for mining ore in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture. Now the mine is closed, but these days the town has become a center for a new and unusual style of tourism -- on mountain bikes that run along the tracks of a disused railroad.

Iwamizawa, former coal mine town

Iwamizawa was another mining town that grew and flourished in Hokkaido, underpinning Japan's modernization. After the coal industry declined, the area turned to farming and has successfully embraced new agricultural products to develop new markets.

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