Crystals and precious stones have been found in Yamanashi for thousands of years, and in the late 1800s a thriving jewelry industry grew up around the polishing of gemstones and crafting of precious metals. One third of Japan’s jewelry manufacturers are located in Yamanashi Prefecture, so if your taste in souvenirs runs to jewelry, you will enjoy checking out the jewelry shops in Kofu City.
Yamanashi is also home to the Yamanashi Prefectural Jewelry Art College, and several gemstone museums including Crystal Sounds in Shosenkyo Gorge. This free museum has a collection of precious stones from all over the world on display including crystals, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, tourmaline, and more.
Even before you enter the museum you can see precious stones on display in the garden, including a 2 ton piece of white quartz from Brazil, and a colorful display of stone ‘slices’.
Battle of Kawanakajima
One of the most impressive things on display are the life-size statues of a mounted Uesugi Kenshin attacking seated Yamanashi warlord Takeda Shingen in the famous battle of Kawanakajima. The statues were created by six gemstone artists over a period of two and a half years, and are entirely covered with gemstones – 6 million carats of them!
Precious stone ‘paintings’
Also displayed are a number of ‘paintings’ made entirely of different colored precious stones. This style of art was developed in Yamanashi to make use of large quantities small stones which were not desirable for jewelry.
Crystal ball and birthstones
Ascending to the second floor you will find a display of birth stones, a fantastic crystal ball which looks quite spooky glowing in its dimly lit corner, a collection of meteorites, and many other interesting things.
The museum shop is pretty big and I found it almost as interesting as the museum. Beads and jewelry making supplies, raw crystals, gemstones and power stones can all be bought here. Exquisite carved stone ornaments, all hand made and unique, are also for sale. Of course there is also finished jewelry, much of it original and unique to Yamanashi. Maybe you can find a perfect souvenir of your Japan adventure here!