Jade Hunting Expedition – Part 1
Itoigawa City– Niigata Prefecture – Japan
Golden Week; May 3rd-7th gave me five days to go south and hunt for Japanese jadeite. I’d tried to get down to Itoigawa twice last year, but the weather was against me. I’d planned on camping, and was washed out the previous occasions. This time the weather was sunny, so, after an eight hour drive to the southwest along a quite scenic coast highway, I reached Itoigawa, where the Southern Alps hit the Sea of Japan. It took me a little while to locate the campground I’d seen on a map.
Part 1 of these notes covers my trip to the Oyashirazu Pier, the Jade Museum there and my interaction with the local jade hunters. In Part 2 I shall relate my adventures in the Kotakigawa Gorge and exploring the ancient Jomon village of Chojagahara.
In about 2,500 BCE the Jomon village of Chojagahara, situated on a hill overlooking Itoigawa, was the center of a trade network providing jade for beads and stone axes to Jomon settlements throughout Japan. But by 700 AD jade ornaments had fallen out of fashion and the source for the jadeite was lost. That source, in the Kotakigawa Gorge, wasn’t rediscovered until 1939.
Note for Gem Geeks–a very detailed article on Japanese Jadeite can be found in this issue of the official GIA magazine: GEMS & GEMOLOGY, SPRING 2017, VOL. 53, NO. 1