Kenji’s Cosmic Minerals exhibitionand wander journal #38

Patrick Reith (@mineralien_surselva)

『PAPERSKY』最新号のテーマは宮沢賢治。賢治の物語を脳内にインプットし、身体を開いてイーハトーブを巡る旅を紹介します。ギャラリー3階のウィンターマーケットと同時期に開催するのが、賢治を魅了した鉱物の展覧会。ファインミネラルを探して世界中を旅する〈USK MINERALS〉の貴重なコレクションを公開・販売します。

12:00 – 19:00 (最終日は17:00までとなります) 木曜定休
東京都渋谷区元代々木町22-8 3F, 4F and wander OUTDOOR GALLERY with PAPERSKY
tel. 03-6407-8179

The latest edition of “PAPERSKY” is all about Kenji Miyazawa. We invite you to open your body and mind, to input Kenji’s stories, and to join us on a journey through the land of Ihatov. Kenji had a deep fascination for minerals, and alongside the Winter Market held on the gallery’s 3rd floor, we will host an exhibition of these beautiful rocks. A rare collection from “USK MINERALS”, who travels the world in search of fine minerals, will be on display/for sale at the exhibit.

Friday 17 December 2021 ~ Sunday 30 January 2022
12:00 ~ 19:00 (~17:00 on the last day), closed on Thursdays
3rd and 4th floor, and wander OUTDOOR GALLERY with PAPERSKY,
22-8 Motoyoyogicho, Shibuya, Tokyo
tel. 03-6407-8179

The exhibition venue is on the 4th floor of the gallery. A large table top is studded with minerals, resembling installation art.





こうした賢治と石の関係に着目しつつ、鉱物の魅力を伝えてくれるのは〈USK MINERALS〉の内田佑介さん。世界のミネラルショーから海外の採掘場まで、自身の目で探し出した鉱物を日本で紹介する内田さん。深く魅了されている鉱物の世界について、話を聞きました。


There are many minerals scattered throughout Kenji’s stories.

As a young boy, Kenji Miyazawa would often spend time collecting stones from dry river beds. Because of this, he was nicknamed “Ishikko-Ken-san” (stone boy Ken). This anecdote from his childhood shows just how fascinated he was by stones.

Numerous different gemstones appear in Kenji’s stories. Amethyst is featured in his short story “Jyu-riki-no-kongo-seki” (The Diamond of Ten Powers), where it is referred to as a “beautiful violet quartz”. A ruby is referenced in his most famous work, “Night on the Galactic Railroad”, and an emerald is mentioned in one of the poems in “Spring and Shura”. All of these gemstones add a richness to the world that Kenji creates.

Yusuke Uchida, from “USK MINERALS”, tells us about the allure of minerals, while also focusing on the relationship between Kenji and these gemstones. Mr. Uchida brings stones that his has personally discovered at mineral shows or mines all around the world to his audience in Japan. Today we interview him about his deep fascination for the world of minerals.

From left to right: amethyst, emerald, ruby. These are all stones that feature in Kenji’s literary works.


この仕事を始めたのは10年程前です。 前職はフリーランスのレコードバイヤーをしていました。 2010年に勤めていたレコード店を辞めて独立。 ジャマイカやアメリカにレコード買い付けの旅に出たのですが、旅先で大きなトラブルに巻き込まれてしまったんです。 自信を喪失していた時に、アメリカ・アリゾナ州セドナの石屋で出会ったのが水晶。そこで運命が変わりました。


そうなんです。その小さな石の中に、今まで見てきた様々な景色が広がっていた。 鉱物から地球を感じ、その衝撃に突き動かされて、石のバイヤーになることを決意しました。

――Please tell us about how you became a stone buyer.

It was about ten years ago that I started this job. My previous job was as a freelance record buyer. In 2010 I left the record store where I had been working to become independent. I travelled to Jamaica and the United States to buy records, but I got caught up in some serious trouble while I was there. It was at that time when I had lost confidence in myself that I came across some rock crystals at a stone dealer’s in Sedona, Arizona, and my life changed.

――So that was when the door to the world of minerals opened for you.

Yes. Every landscape I had ever seen was there in that tiny stone. I could feel the power of the earth through the mineral, and the awe that I felt then is what drove me to become a stone buyer.

Minerals twinkle like stars scattered across the cosmos.

Books exploring the relationship between Kenji and minerals are also on display.

――そもそも鉱物とは何なのでしょうか? 宝石や岩石との違いを教えてください。



――Let’s go back to basics. What exactly are minerals? Could you tell us about the difference between minerals, precious stones and rocks.

Rocks are all the stones or larger rocks that exist in our surroundings. They are formed when lava or sand or mud has hardened. Minerals are what rocks are made up of. The academic definition of a mineral would be “crystals with a definite chemical composition”. In a mineral, the atoms, i.e. the building blocks that make up all substances, are lined up in orderly arrangements with repeating structure. In comparison, a normal rock is a cluster of various different minerals that are randomly mixed together.

Precious stones are a kind of mineral. Minerals that are decorative or rare, have beautiful colors and are hard and thus easy to carve, are referred to as precious stones.

A close-up of azurite. The combination of cobalt blue and emerald green resemble the surface of the earth viewed from space.

Sparkling pale purple Amethyst was one of the minerals that Kenji loved.





――You have visited mineral mines all around the world, have you not?

Yes. When I travel overseas to procure minerals, I contact local miners and ask them to show me the mines. The mines in Namibia in southern Africa were particularly impressive. Namibia has some of the largest mineral deposits in the world, and so visiting Namibia is an ambition of many mineral fans. In particular, amethyst mined from Brandberg, or the “fire mountain”, is said to be the most beautiful in the world. I’ll never forget the beautiful magenta, blue-purple and brown phantom that I saw glimmering inside a crystal-clear Brandberg amethyst.

I also visited the crystal mines in the Alps where humans have been extracting rock crystals for centuries. Most of them were taken to Italy and polished to be used in chandeliers, or carved into cups. They are still highly valued by collectors today due to their beauty and I had always wanted to see where they are mined from.

The Alps are covered in snow for eight to nine months of the year meaning mining has to be done during the short period of time when the snow is melted. Luckily, I was able to time my visit to be there during that window. It was a great learning experience for me to see the work of professionals who continue to mine despite the dangers of the job.

(左)採掘者は危険な絶壁を何時間も登らないといけない。 (右)採掘数が極端に少ないことから、アルプスの水晶はとてもレア。
(Left) Miners have to climb dangerous cliffs for hours. (Right) Alpine crystals are extremely rare due to the very small number mined.




――Can you tell us more about what a mineral show is like?

A mineral show is basically a “mineral market” where buyers from all over the world come to procure minerals. Tucson in the USA, Sainte Marie aux Mines in France and Munich in Germany all have world-famous mineral shows. I also sometimes go to more local mineral shows. In some cases, a whole hotel will be used as the venue and you go around each individual room buying different stones.

There are approximately 5,000 different kinds of minerals in the world, and new ones are still being discovered. So, when you go to a mineral show there are always new discoveries to be made, and the best thing about going to a show is being able to see minerals that I have never seen before. For example, even two minerals that have the same name can look completely different depending on the environment in which they were formed. No two stones are ever the same. This is also one of the fascinations of minerals.

Pictures from the Tucson mineral show.



――I heard that you will have alpine crystals on display as part of this exhibition.

Yes, I’m planning to exhibit a precious collection. I’m hoping that it will be an opportunity for people to view crystals that would impress even a collector, in a relatively casual environment. Incidentally, rock crystals can also be found in Kenji’s home prefecture, Iwate, and in other places around Japan. At the exhibition, I will also display other minerals from all around the world, including stones that are featured in Kenji’s literary works, such as amethysts, rubies and emeralds.

Alpine crystals are highly valued by collectors.


The attraction of minerals is that one can discover whole earthly landscapes within these tiny, beautiful stones. I think that Kenji probably also let his imagination soar as he stared into them. I hope that people who visit the exhibition will be able to explore the world of minerals in a similar way.


USK MINERALS (ユーエスケー ミネラルズ)

Attracted to the artistry of the natural world, USK MINERALS procures gemstones from all around the globe for top class mineral specimens and fine jewelry. Wanting to promote the beauty of minerals to more people, USK MINERALS has also been involved in the planning and management of the Tokyo International Mineral Fair since 2015.

text Yuka Uchida
photography Patrick Reith (@mineralien_surselva) , Anton Watzl Sen
photography Kiyoshi Kiikuni Photography. , Machiko Fukuda(exhibition space)
translation Yuko Caroline Omura