Itoigawa Japan’s Jade Coast & Benitoite!

I spent last weekend, Father’s Day weekend, on the West Coast of Japan in Itoigawa. It’s registered with Unesco as a Geopark due to it’s geology and is famous for it’s Jade (Jadeite), ヒスイ littered beaches and rivers.  However, it holds a much more precious gemstone in it’s mountains, Benitoite, the ultra rare state gemstone of California. I’ll get to that later.


I took an express train on the Chuo line which was about ¥4,000 ($40) cheaper than the Shinkansen. It adds about 2 hours to your journey, but that was great time spent working on music and taking in the beautiful scenes of the Japan Alps.




Upon arriving at the station’s west exit there is a visitor’s center I encourage everyone to visit. Inside there are actual boulders of Jade to look at and touch so you can familiarize yourself with the precious stone. It’s a very difficult stone to identify in the rough and there are several look a likes that can easily fool the ametuer, so it’s a good idea to stop here first, touch, look, ask questions, etc. before heading to the beach.

I left the center after a few minutes and walked the two blocks to the beach anxious to start hunting. As soon as I hit the beach I was taken back by how much Nephrite, Agate, Mariposite and green stones there were. Nephrite is another type of Jade, but a totally different mineral, usually darker green to black in color. In the two hours of collecting I picked up about 10 kilos worth of fist sized and smaller material. Unfortunately I would find out 99% of it was not Jade.

Tons of Mariposite, like the specimen above, litter the beaches and are often confused with jade.

My host, Toshio-san, was great. He took me to several beaches, the Fossa Magna museum and to see the hotaru, fireflies at night. His accommodations can be found on Airbnb and are across the coast highway from one of the collecting beaches.

To be continued…