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November-December 2009

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Tanakamiyama: A Classic Japanese Pegmatite District




Tanakamiyama, 太神山, sometimes written 田上山 (Mt. Tanakami; roughly 600 meters in elevation), lies just east of the city of Kyoto, on the southern end of Lake Biwa, in Shiga Prefecture (fig. 3). It is part of a large area of eroded hills that is underlain by Tanakami Granite (figs. 1 and 2). Known as the Tanakami region or simply Tanakami, it is one of the most important specimenproducing pegmatite districts in Japan, along with the Hirukawa area in Gifu Prefecture and the Fukushima district, Ishikawa Prefecture (Nambu 1970). Tanakami is probably most noteworthy for its production of fine topaz crystals and as the type locality for masutomilite (a manganeselithium mica).

Recognized as a classic Japanese mineral locality, Tanakamiyama is also noted for a long history of cultural and environmental significance. In a waka poem (the classical style of Japanese verse that predates haiku) in the book Minamoto no Toshiyori Kashu about Tanakamiyama (ca. 1128), Kumorinaki yuzukuhiomo mitsurukana, kore kaminoyamano shirushinaruran translates as “Glorious sunset! This must be a sign of a holy mountain.” This reference alludes to the sacred stature of the mountain to the Shugendo religion, which incorporates an ascetic, mountain-dwelling lifestyle (Kasa hara 2002). The literature of the Tanakami-fudo temple (Shugendo sect), which was built in 859 on the top of Tanakamiyama, suggests that the name of this mountain, 太神 (tana + kami = great + god), is related to Amaterasu-omikami, the sun goddess of Japanese mythology (Ashkenazi 2008). A contrary etymology is found in Omi Yochi Shiryaku (1734) by Tokikiyo Samukawa, a comprehensive geography of Omi Province. This states that tanakami, 田上 (= rice field + above), was originally tanikami, 谷上 (valley + above), as is written in the Nihongi (ad 720 the earliest official history of Japan). 
  
 

Dr. John Rakovan, an executive editor of Rocks & Minerals, is a professor of mineralogy and geochemistry at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

Dr. Mieko Ono is a professor of Japanese linguistics at Miami University.

Dr. Carl Francis, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, is the curator of the Harvard Mineralogical Museum.

  
       

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