2015.5.17
Okayama

Remarkable Traditional Stone Working Tech! Island of the Stone, Floating in the Seto Inland Sea!

The Kasaoka Chain is a group of 6 unique islands. The largest, Kitagi Island, is famous for its high-quality granite, which is known all over Japan as Kitagi stone.

Countless buildings all over the country have been constructed of Kitagi stone. Major ones include Osaka castle, the Great Torii gate at Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo’s Nihonbashi Bridge, and the head office of the Bank of Japan, among many others. Each one of them is a historical landmark that supports the very core of Japan.

 

“I wonder what kind of island it is…”
I had no image whatsoever. And that’s why I came here! To Kitagi Island.

The first thing that will catch your eye is the amount of stone, stone and more stone, placed all around.
Even the shrine’s lantern is as high as its torii gate. Stone exists as part of the life force of the island as naturally as the air.

 

Though apparently in times past there were over 100 quarries, there are now only two left.
How do they quarry the stone? That’s what I’m most interested to learn.

Clang, clang, clang…

At a space surrounded by high stone walls, I see three stone-cutters at work. They thrust a chisel inside crack in the stone and hit it with huge swings of a hammer. It’s a scene beyond my imagination.

Looking up, I see ladders – maybe for moving around?

 

Pazu from Castle in the Sky might have run up and down these ladders, but using them to come and go is hard to believe.

In this quarry, they still use a chisel and a hammer!
The quarrymen read the stones rifts to grasp its creases. They insert a chisel at that border and hit it with a hammer – a large stone will just split nicely in half.

It’s an old method that takes time, but this is supposed to enhance the strength of the stone. The craftsmen’s grasp of each stone’s unique features, and cutting it in its natural state is what makes Kitagi stone.

I leave the quarry behind, and head to a processing plant for dried fish.
On this island where everything is about stone, they apparently have dried fish that are “ash-dried”.
As I enter, I see dark rugged rocks laying around.

 

They are turned into this.

Fish of the season caught in the Seto Inland Sea are prepared at a low temperature using volcanic ash that has been processed using stone working techniques.

 

The ash absorbs the fish’s excess humidity and odor, while at the same time condensing in the components of good flavor.

 

It’s a gem of a dried fish! With a little added magic from the traditional methods cultivated on the island, they make a perfect souvenir!

 

The island of the stone, floating in Seto Inland Sea… To think that there was such an interesting island!!

Setouchi Island Tour / Kitagi Island

An outlying island located in Okayama prefecture, it is known as the “island of the stone”, and is famous for its Kitagi granite. During the construction of Osaka castle in the early Edo period, large amounts of stone to be used for its walls were shipped out. Starting from the Meiji period, stone mining became more regular, and Kitagi stone was used in numerous constructions.
HP: http://www.pref.okayama.jp/kikaku/chishin/ritou/17kitagishima/ (Japanese)

Passanger boat traffic

Kasaoka Port, Kitagi Island: 8 trips per day

Fare (one-way):

Regular boat: JPY790

Speed craft:  JPY1410
Sanyo Kisen Homepage: http://www.sanyo-kisen.com/ (Japanese)

 

 

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