Port of Niihama
Review and History

The Port of Niihama lies on the shores of west central Shikoku Island on the Inland Sea coast in Japan. On Shikoku's west coast, the Port of Niihama is about 54 kilometers north-northwest of the Port of Kochi on Shikoku's east coast and some 92 kilometers southeast of the Port of Hiroshima on Japan's mainland island of Honshu. The Port of Niihama is a manufacturing and mining center that produces chemical products and copper, and it is a commercial seaport. In 2005, almost 124 thousand people lived in the Port of Niihama.

Port History

In the 7th Century AD, the central government established a branch office in the Port of Niihama. At the time, the Port of Niihama was a small fishing village. Between the 8th and 13th Centuries, the Todai-ji and Horyu-ji temples based near Kyoto had become the major landowners in the area.

During the period of the Samurais from the 13th to 16th Century, the Port of Niihama area was the object of competition for control between the powerful Kaneko and Matsugi clans. From the 17th to 19th Centuries in what is known as the Edo period, the Port of Niihama region was divided into three districts controlled by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Saiijo clan, and the Komatsu clan. After 1691, the Port of Niihama grew as a transport center for copper from inland mines to the Port of Osaka.

A modern smelting works was established in the Port of Niihama in 1883, and a new hydroelectric company built in 1913 served as a foundation for further industrialization.

The modern city of Niihama was founded in 1937. World War II prisoners of war from Australia were forced to work the Port of Niihama copper mines as slave labor. In August 1945, those men watched the Atomic Bomb explode over Hiroshima.

In the 1970s, the Port of Niihama continued to grow to accommodate increasing imports of copper ores to the local smelter. The city grew to be the heart of the East Ehime New Industrial City program that produced aluminum, copper, machinery, and chemicals.

Today, the Port of Niihama is best known for the historic Besshi copper mine and for its annual Taiko Festival. Every year, the "Man Festival" attracts tourists from all over Japan to a drunken boisterous celebration.

The Port of Niihama's Besshi copper mine was once one of the world's most productive mines, and it was the beginning of the Sumitomo Corporation. The mine is closed, but its importance to the Port of Niihama is recalled in a museum. Today, the Port of Niihama and the city's factories are the major contributors to the local economy.

In 2003, the mountainous village of Besshi became part of the Port of Niihama. The Besshi Copper Mine had been operated for almost 300 years by Sumitomo. For a time in the late 1690s, the mine was the world's top copper-producing mine, and it was an important contributor to the treasury of the Tokugawa Shogunate from through its demise in the late 1860s.

The mine was modernized during the Meiji period, with new technology being added. The mine had to be closed in 1973 because it had grown so deep (1000 meters) that rock pressure and temperature made operations impossible. By the time the mine closed, it had produced 650 thousand tons of copper, and it had spawned many new companies that support the Port of Niihama economy today.

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