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Japan July 4th 1996, Lake Towada region, Japan. Approx 3600ft level.


Misawa Japan and Environs

By James Mallonee

Shortly after arriving here I began wandering the train tracks which run across the Base, even in the snow, and it wasn't until April that the snows finally melted away. The roadbed of the tracks appears to have been redone at least once. The primary rock is common river rock with here and there an uncommon inclusion. The best find so far is one piece with quartz crystals about the size of my palm, the crystals were long and thin and other than minor tumbling damage were surprisingly intact. On top of the base rock is layed a layer of quarried stones. These appear to be similar to "greenstone" that is used in places in the States for a similar purpose. That is the rock is greenish (of course) and heavily altered by heat, fairly hard and tough. Basically the kind of rock you would like to have on a road. However, in veins running throughout the rock are small greenish crystals, in some cases so matted as to appear to be like fiberglass. Only in a few specimens do the crystals show any size, and they are always wire thin. I have also found a few quartz crystals mixed in. The green crystals are probably a variety of amphibole judging from where they are in the stone and the matrix itself. They could also be just colored quartz crystal, but the form of the crystals looks wrong for that. Along the coast and shore of Lake Ogawara (it's partially on base), the sand has small quartz crystals. Some are large enough to see the crystal faces. They appear pretty intact for beach sand, which usually looses its edges quickly. There are also rounded stones that contain a high amount of copper, bright (at least when rubbed) red-gold buttons in a dull matrix. I've even found some peacock ore mixed in. And of course the ever present volcanos show their presence with pumice and in a second hand sort of way agates and jasper. The later two are suppose to coat the beaches just north of here near Aomori.

The Japanese for the most part do not see much value in collecting the local stones. There are some tourist attractions which try to market some of the local rocks and minerals, but only in a limited sense. Most Japanese like to have a "rock garden", but only in that instance are they even remotely interested in stones, and for the most part they are more concerned with lighting and harmony in the stones than in what can be made from them or in the internal beauty of them. Not that I don't like rock gardens, but there should be a place for both.

I met an older Japanese gentleman who used to teach at lapidary classes at the Base. He had a small shop downtown that I got to see. I traded him some stones, but his prices were very high. Most of the work he did was setting stones into wooden bases for decorative purposes. He had the chrysanthemum stone and some fossils and some other interesting stones, but really the shop was small. The first time I met him I watched while he used a tool similar to a leather working awl to gouge holes in a carved wooden stand so that a medium sized (2-3 pound) stone would fit in it properly.

He never did tell me much more than I already knew. And he was unable to go out on any field trips. I used the "Geologic Survey of Japan" as a partial guide, but unfortunately, most of it was way too vague to be able to track down anything. I mainly wandered the beaches and the hills looking in waterways and tracking down various leads that people told me. Fortunately, the area around Misawa was very geologically unusual.

Speaking about geologically unusual, while I was stationed there (1994-1997) there were 2 very powerful earthquakes. 7.5 on the scale for one of those. It knocked my house partly off the foundation. The "towers" 10 story apartment buildings built by the Japanese government with the US approval swayed back and forth almost 24 feet. Many of the Air Force members on Base lost a lot of their belongings. There was a huge amount of damage, compared to the relatively few injuries.

James Mallonee