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Trip to the Ryosendo Caves

by James Mallonee

After arriving at the parking area for the Caves, our guide got out to purchase tickets. It turns out we had to walk about a mile and a half back along a small river. Many of the rocks in the area seemed to be granite varieties, which made me wonder about the caves. As it turns out, they are in a small limestone area almost surrounded by granite and basalt. The caves themselves are heavily developed. It is a "cleft" cave, that is it is formed along a crack in the limestone where the water exploited the crack and widened and deepened it. There are small tubes here and there that either enter or exit from the main "stream" and the Japanese have built platforms above the stream that people walk along.

It is the deepest limestone cave in Japan and the only one to have a "cave museum". The deepest pool was about 300 feet deep, and due to the clarity of the water, you could see where tourists had tossed coins into it, even though signs were posted saying "do not throw items into the water". The cave was rather cool with the stream running through it, and water drops kept falling from above. This was obviously a common problem as many areas had plastic roofing and in other areas the concrete floor was pitted with holes. All in all it was kind of disappointing due to the obvious indifference to nature and the heavy development.

After I had finished looking around, I went back outside where for once it was actually warm, (this was April 16th, the 30th of March it had snowed). I then wandered down toward the bus and a bridge across the river that I thought might have something interesting. When I arrived at the bus I noticed a lot of dirt and rocks had been dumped near a baseball field not too far from the parking area, so I wandered over there. Most of the rocks were granite varieties, then I came across the prize... I picked up a piece of mica schist with garnet crystals. Most of them were very similar to a piece I had received from Cal Keeter a few years back, that is long hexagonal crystals in matrix. Most of the crystals were thin, but several were pinky size. Enough to get your heart going, especially since I hadn't expected anything here.

I filled up my back pack and then grabbed a couple more pieces "for the road". I figured my $40 fee for the trip had more than been paid for with that, especially since I now knew where to go. I had planned a trip in July, but actually made it back there in October. The trip down was interesting since Jody and the girls had never been there. We were almost alone on our trip, except for some friends who were going on to Tokyo (their trip was 13 hours total). One of my friends picked up a stone about 50lbs in weight with garnet crystals scattered across the top and sides.

The crystals are mostly long, thin, and dark. However, some of them appear to have "pink" centers. I'd almost think they were not garnets, except for the schist. I never did find where the garnets originated. They apparently came from the area around Ryosendo, although I found no other indications other than where the dirt had been disturbed near a ball field.

James Mallonee