Become Indiana Jones at Ehime’s best theme park and historical site.
Minetopia Besshi is a unique theme park where you can step inside the world of mining and go beyond the typical sights of Ehime Prefecture.
Big sightseeing in Ehime, one of the four prefectures that make up the island of Shikoku, is that of Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen. While not as famous, Minetopia Besshi, located in northern Ehime, is a theme park that lets you become Indiana Jones for a day by riding along old minecart tracks and exploring the once-lively mining community of Besshi.
It is definitely worth a day trip, especially if you are going with children. The theme park was inspired by one of the largest mines in Ehime, making use of the real tunnels, tracks and buildings that the miners once used. The original mining complex dates back to 1690 when copper deposits were discovered. Because of its unconventional location, the park is not overly busy but still great fun.
The whole place is made to not only educate you but make you feel like you’re really there.
At the main area of the park known as Hadeba, you will be greeted by courteous staff and a welcome center. Around the back of the building is a platform where a miniature steam engine will take you on a wild ride along the old tracks that used to ship copper in and out of the mines. The tracks go through tunnels and along rickety bridges, and then finally stop at the mine shafts.
The end of the tiny train line is the actual mine where people used to extract copper. There are plenty of tunnels to investigate, but be careful not to get lost! Some of the ceilings can be pretty low. Inside the mine shafts, you will find mannequins reenacting the process of mining back in the Edo period. The whole place is made to not only educate you but make you feel like you’re really there, surrounded by the workers as they sweat and toil.
Once you’ve seen how the real miners used to do it, kids big and small have a chance to recreate the thrill of panning for gold inside the museum’s touch pool filled with sand and unrefined minerals. The best part: anything you find you can take home with you. After a hard day in the mines you can grab something to eat at the local restaurant, Mori no Kaze, or relax in the therapeutic Seiko Onsen also known as “Heaven’s water.”
The ruins at Tohnaru
So far we have only talked about the Hadeba area at the base of Mount Inukeashi, but there is even more to see at the park’s second section called the Tohnaru area.
Tohnaru is situated higher in the mountains. Here, you will find long-standing ruins of the ore storage depot from the original Besshi copper mine. Now the structures are completely unrecognizable, looking more like an ancient forgotten city than a mining facility, giving it the nickname the “Machu Picchu of the Orient.” Tohnaru is a 20-minute drive away from the main park but it is recommended that you get the local sightseeing bus because the road up there is quite narrow. The bus tours the whole area in just over two hours, but be aware that the buses do not run from December to February.
Minetopia Besshi is a unique theme park where you can go beyond the typical sights of Ehime.