Tagawa Coal Mining Museum
This former coal mining hub offers an interesting off-the-beaten-track day trip from Fukuoka.
Once the epicentre of the coal mining in Japan, Tagawa is home to an entire museum dedicated to its rich history and deep involvement in the industry.
Though the Tagawa City Coal Mining Historical Museum is relatively small, it’s chock full of interesting displays including large models of instruments used for coal mining, as well as life-sized dioramas depicting the everyday lives of coal miners during the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras. Visitors can also understand how coal was made and mined.
Adorning the walls of various exhibition rooms are essays written by coal miners and pictures drawn by Ioe Saito, known for his illustrations of The Adventure of Momotaro. These offer a candid account of the dangers that befell workers in the mines and the hardships they endured. You can also see thousand year-old clay artifacts salvaged from the Hikoyama and Chuganji rivers and the Sesudono burial grounds. Among them is a clay horse that is allegedly Japan’s oldest horse sculpture, plus tiles from the roof of the ancient Tendaiji temple in Iwate.
Although Tagawa is no longer the booming city it used to be, it’s most definitely worth a visit, especially to see the Kawakudari Jinkosai Festival held in May where participants trudge across the river bearing a grand yamakasa on their backs. Nearby, Mount Hiko offers a challenge to even the most veteran hikers.
Tagawa is also the birthplace of Tirol Chocolate – the little square chocolates wrapped in seasonal wrappers that Japanese people go mad for. The outlet in town sweetens the deal by selling a bag of about 50 Tirol chocolates for 500 yen.