December 6, 2017

Shikoku Pilgrimage and gold panning

I got on a journey called Shikoku Pilgrimage (Junrei).

This is a journey around 88 temples in Shikoku Region (Island composed of 4 prefectures) and Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture, they are related to Buddhist monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi) who existed about 1,200 years ago.

Shikoku Pilgrimage has been done for ascetic exercises and faith since about 500 years ago, but recently there are many tourists and foreigners. The total distance is about 1,300 km, and there are various people who walk, use bicycles, cars and buses.

The pilgrimage is taking place in various countries, and Shikoku Pilgrimage is similar to the pilgrimage of Spain (Camino de Santiago) in Christianity. We visit the Buddhist temples, but there are no restrictions on the qualifications of pilgrims and their purpose, and you can do your own purpose (faith, atonement, confession, ascetic exercises) away from your daily life.

Mercury, mercury sulfide and copper mines were located in Shikoku related to Kukai. Mercury was used for gold plating by the amalgam method on the surface of bronze Buddha statue. Mercury sulfide is a red color and it was a precious substance used for painting shrines and temples. For this reason it is said that Kukai had knowledge of minerals.

Besshi copper mine which was the world's largest output was in Shikoku. Although it is closed now, it became a sightseeing spot called Maintopia Besshi. You can visit mine facilities and experience gold panning. Foil gold and granular silver are included in the sand and it is difficult to separate.

The red dot shows 88 temples, the blue line shows Median Tectonic Line(large fault).
Various metal deposits are near the Median Tectonic Line. 

Pilgrims usually have a cape, white coat, cane, but there are no rules on clothes.

The train used in the mine.

Gold panning pool

Gold and silver used in gold panning

October 28, 2017

Lecture and practice of gold panning in Japan

I went to Shonai-machi in Yamagata Prefecture because there was a class of "Gold Digging Experience". We gathered at the lodge "Kita- Gassan" near Dewa-Three Mountains.

The three mountains are subjects of mountain faith, and there are many shrines and temples in the surrounding area, and many Yamabushi are still practicing in mountain.

In this area, development of placer gold and gold mine has been done for a long time.

This class is held annually, and the instructor who is a master of “Yuri-ita” taught us the history and technology of gold digging in this area.

After the lecture, we practiced gold panning in the pool and dug placer gold in the nearby river. Each one got a small amount of gold and was able to spend a meaningful day.

Five-storied pagota of national treasure
The tower is weathered but  Japanese prefer this oldness

Lecture room scenery

Practice in pool

Gold digging in Tachiyazawa-river

Sluice mat knitted with plant fiber and Japanese shovel "Katcha"

August 29, 2017

2017 Gold Panning Championships sponsored by “The Yu-no-oku Museum of Gold Mining History”/Japan

I took up the topic of this museum before. This facility introduces the history and tools of gold mine to citizens. There is a large pool where more than 100 people can gold panning at the same time.

Here, the largest gold panning championships in Japan is held annually, and it was held for two days on 29 and 30 July 2017.

On the first day, the junior division, the proficient division and the unofficial division were held with 200 participants. On the second day, school competition with 8 schools of junior high school and high school were held, 136 people were played in school groups and 5 person team.

Panning technology of high school students has improved year by year, and the winner in this year was a female student. I think she can make a good result at the world gold panning championships.

<The 1st day>
1. Official Categories
   Standard plastic pan is used in this category.
  a. Juniors: 80 people, 6Kg
  b. Proficient(Men & Women): 120 people, 10Kg/10minutes
  c. Final: steal classic pan, 16Kg/15minutes
2. Unofficial Categories
   Unlimited kind of pan: 20 people, 7 Kg/10minutes

<The 2nd day>
1. School Competition: 8 schools, 136 people
   Standard plastic pan is used in this category.
   1 school 19 bucket
2. 5 person team
   Five different pans are used.

Gold panning in pool

Opening ceremony

Opening ceremony of school competition

Competition using 5 types of pan

The mascot of this museum(Each city in Japan has a mascot)

This year's winner is a female student

July 12, 2017

Gold panning in Juneau, Alaska

When I visited California in 2012, I decided to go to "One week Alaska cruise by luxury ship". Of course I took a cheap inner room. Seattle Juneau Sitka Ketchikan Victoria Seattle and the sights of the Tracy Arm fjord and Soyer Glacier are the main attractions.
I used the Holland America Line. As this company was said to be focusing on cooking, I was able to enjoy the food of many country.

In the middle of the cruise, there was a gold panning tour at Juneau and it was somewhat expensive but I participated.
We were guided by the bus to the river and panned the sand mixed with placer gold using an iron plate like in the western play. We finished so quickly that a guide dug the river with a scoop. Although the depth is shallow, a few grains of gold were collected and I was impressed by Alaska.

This area was rainy in 300 days of the year, we worked on a raincoat. I finished early, but young people were eagerly looking for gold until the end time. I was strangely reassured that people in any country were fascinated by golden magical powers. This gold panning is the moment when my dream for 40 years has come true, and I was obsessed with gold since then.

After that tour, I visited the old tavern named "Red Dog Saloon" in the town of Juneau. Pleasure of gold digger is common in the world. There were simple tables, chairs and a stage. Although it is a small bar, it is popular among tourists because there are few old things in the United States.
I was interested in strange places that wood chips are spreading on the floor as winter heating and slip prevention.

Town of Juneau and cruise ships

June 18, 2017

El Dorado is a magical word

Although it is a topic of 2012, my daughter who lives near San Francisco gave me an air ticket and I decided to go to The USA.

We moved toward Nevada State on Route 50 for the purpose of sightseeing in Lake Tahoe. I found a sign of “El Dorado” at a certain point. Is it only me that bloods stir with the word "El Dorado"?

I remembered that this area was California Gold Rush.

I stopped by a tourist mine in Placerville (Hangtown's Gold Bug Park & Gold Bug Mine). There were small tunnel, crushing factorie and shop. I found something that seemed to be gold on the wall of the tunnel, but left it as it was.
I bought a gold ore at a souvenir shop, but the place of origin was Nevada State or Colorado State. There was a pool for gold panning,but there was no trace of using it.

I visited Placerville again in 2016 after four years, I did not expect even in my dream at that time.

 The shop of Gold Bug Mine
 The tunnel of Gold Bug Mine
The crushing factory of Gold Bug Mine

June 8, 2017

Gold and ammonite in Yubari-river Hokkaido/Japan

About 40 years ago, there was information that placer gold and placer platinum (platinum group metal) was dug in Yubari-river Hokkaido.
I headed for Yubari-river with aluminum pan and a garden scoop. There were many coal mines around this area, but energy conversion to oil occurred and the coal industry declined.

While watching the ruined coal mine housing, I went to a river near the mountain trail of Yubari-dake. Information on gold digging was obtained only from books and I had no idea how to dig gold. I saw many fossils of ammonite in the neighborhood, so I switched to fossil collection. There was a part of the fossil taken by someone, but a spiral ammonite was not found.

At a later date, it was reported to the newspaper that the postmaster had nearly 50 cm of ammonite, so I visited his house with sweets. When leaving his house, he gave me the ammonite with beautiful crystal structure. This is still a good memory.

After that, although I was interested in gold, my hobby moved to river fishing. Regarding gold digging, there was a blank period of 40 years from this incident.

In recent years, a big dam was built and a part of the gold area was submerged, but it seems that gold and platinum are still being collected.
Yubari-city is the location of the movie "The Yellow Handkerchief " of Ken Takakura who died recently, there is a memorial hall in this place, many of his fans are visiting.

Fossil of ammonite taken in Hokkaido

The movie is a story at the coal mine housing. She raised many yellow handkerchiefs as an indication that she still waits for her husband returning from prison.

Movie poster of Ken Takakura's appearance

May 20, 2017

Production of Japanese traditional gold pan "Yuri-ita"

There is a traditional gold pan "Yuri-ita" in Japan.
Even now, the tool is lent out for the education of tourists and children in Usotan-nai gold panning park (Hokkaido) and Rekifune-river (Hokkaido) in order to convey ancient techniques.
Besides the Yuri-ita, there were Yuri-hachi(no riffle flat-pan) and Yuri-bon(tray), but they are only seen in museums.
Yuri-ita is not commercially available, but each one is making it. There are no standard dimensions, making it by each person's experience and idea. Approximate dimensions are shown below.

1.Dimensions of Yuri-ita
(1) Length: 600 to 650mm
   I think that it will be influencd by the shoulder width of the person using it. Since the length is less than 500 mm in the World Gold Panning Championships, it must be cut.
(2) Width: 300 to 350 mm
 If it is wide, we can handle a lot of sand, but it becomes difficult to discharge sand.
(3) Depth of curved part: 20 to 30 mm
   It is thought that shallow one is easier to escape gold, but the processing speed is fast.
On the other hand, when it is deep, the treatment action must be increased and the gold is easily escaped.
(4) Plate thickness: around 15 mm
   It gets lighter as it becomes thinner, but it is in balance with the strength of the wood.
(5) Height of edge frame: 3 to 5 mm
   Several riffles with height are attached in the plastic gold pan, but there is one riffle at the edge in a Yuri-ita.
An ordinary person thinks that if the height of the riffle is high, the recovery rate of gold will increase, but removal of sand will be delayed. It is good to carefully operate thinking that it is panning (board-ing) with a board.
(6) Width of head part:
   It is a part to hold, width and height should be decided by the size of each hand.
(7) Open part:
   One side of the Yuri-ita is open. It is for separating gold and sand at the final stage of processing.

2. How to make a Yuri-ita
   I tried making the Yuri-ita for the first time. The old man was made only with saw and chisel, but it takes time to work, so I used various power tools.
(1) Types of wood
   The material of the Yuri-ita is Willow, Katsura, Horse chestnut etc.
It is preferable to use a straight grain of wood dried for more than 2 years.
As it is used in the water, water resistance and corrosion resistance of the wood are important.
If broad wood is not available, there is a method of bonding with adhesive. I used  Japanese cypress that are readily available in Japan recently.
(2) Processing
   If you use a large machine, you can easily carve Yuri-ita, but ordinary people have to carve with small tools for a long time. Since there is no standard production method, so please try various methods for every one.
(3) Fillers and coatings
   Water resistant two-part epoxy is used for repairing scratches.
Painting are done only on the outer surface, the inner surface is not painted so that the gold is easy to stop.
It is difficult to find gold on the same color wood, so it is colored with black ink (Sumi). If you can’t get Sumi, I think it is good to polish with paper after applying dark stain
(4) Production point
   The points of the Yuri-ita structure are the height of the edge frame and the depth of curved part.
If the edge frame is high and the curved port is deep,beginners like me tend to think that the recovery rate of gold will be higher
However, the discharge of sand is important in separating gold and sand.
The theory of recovery with the Yuri-ita is basically the same as plastic gold pan.

3. How to operate the Yuri-ita
   Since it is difficult to write the operation method of the Yuri-ita in sentences, please refer to You Tube. The basic theory of the Yuri-ita seems to be the same as in the case of plastic gold pan.
(1) Stand in the position to see the downstream direction.
(2) Stir the sand and remove large stones. When holding the head part of the Yuri-ita, if you hold before the center line,the operability improves .
(3) Move the Yuri-ita right and left or seesaw type to generate fluidization phenomenon and settle the gold.
(4) Tilt the Yuri-ita slightly toward you and gently put water and remove the upper sand to the downstream side.
(5) Repeat the operations (3) and (4) until the sand reaches a small amount.
(6) Collect gold and sand on the head part side.
(7) Rotate 90 degrees and set the head part to the side of your body, rinse slowly with water and let sand flow.
(8) When only sand iron containing gold is obtained, tap the head part and move only gold to the upper side.
(9) Push the gold with a dry finger and collect it in a bottle or red cloth.