Tokyo Mineral Show June 2009

17 June 2009

Lois and I were very excited to this year accompany Wayne and Dona of Kristalle to the Tokyo mineral show - The Tokyo International Mineral Assocation (TIMA) Mineral Fair. The show is held each year at the end of May/start of June, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Kristalle was the first American dealer to be asked to join this show, and have been attending the show now for around 25 years. The show has dealers from all over the world and all that I spoke to loved coming to this show and to Japan.

TIMA Tokyo International Mineral Fair

TIMA Mineral Show

The TIMA mineral fair is relatively small compared to shows such as Munich, but it creates a compact show with lots of atmosphere, and it certainly gets packed with people and can take you a long time to get from one side to the other.

The show is held in an atrium one level below street level between the Century Hyatt Regency, and the insurance building next door. TIMA creates an enclosed area.

View from our booth
Our booth is situated in one corner where thankfully we get a breeze as it gets quite warm in the atrium.

Set up
View of the show area at set up - our booth is tucked away under to the left with the show area extending out either side and around beneath the steps behind me.

Normally Kristalle share a booth with the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, but this year they were unable to make the show, so we had a much larger booth than normal. We had a pretty display of higher end minerals and golds, plus miniatures, individual crystals, shells, fossils and half price material. The Japanese love their fossils and these and the shells created a lot of interest.

Fossil display
Our small fossil display

Lois with minerals
Lois behind the mineral display.

Mineral Display
Mineral display

Gold display
The Gold display, this was also very popular.

Our 'profit centre'

Not the sort of stock that you would expect of Kristalle, but these individual crystals were the most popular part of the booth. It was fascinating and very refreshing to watch the customers, particularly the younger ladies spend 10 or 15 minutes searching carefully through a tray to choose exactly the one crystal that they wanted to purchase - some of which I gathered they wanted to turn into jewellery, and to others it seemed to be pretty thing to be treasured. At times during the show it was 3 or 4 people deep trying to get to the trays.

Every day there was a queue of people waiting to get into the show:

Queue for the show
People queue for the show.

The show
The show in full swing.

Around the show there was lots to see. One thing I noticed was that there was a lot of very beautiful included Quartz specimens on display in different stands.

Paul Botha Minerals of South Africa had this wonderful selection of included Quartz crystals from Madagascar. Many had beautiful Amethyst colouring with inclusions of brick red Hematite/Iron oxides which created a very pretty effect. Paul deals mainly in minerals from South Africa, Namibia and Madagascar.

Included Quartz
Rows of included Quartz crystals
On the stand of Ausrox I met Andy Comas. He has a joint venture with Rob Sielecki called Ausrox Gold, and they source Gold nuggets directly from the Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie areas of Western Australia.  Andy had lived in Japan for several years, and is now based in my home town of Perth.

Andy of Ausrox Gold
Andy next to some of their Gold nuggets.

Golds by Ausrox Golds
Golds on display from Rob and Andy. In the top right (on the black background) is some beautiful Gold included Quartz. Rob and Andy are branching out to use this material in jewellery, and the resulting cabochons and slices are very attractive.

Skeletal Galena
There was some fantastic skeletal Galenas on display at the show from Bulgaria, and this one caught my eye in the booth of Bulgaria Minerals and Gems. They had many on display.

Tucson-based Zee's Gallery had a great booth with interesting specimens ranging from rare Meteorites from Canyon Diablo in Arizona, USA; to gorgeous Azurite or Chaorite lapidary work; to large art sculptures for decorators.

Rare Meteorites from Canyon Diablo in Arizona, USA

Decorator pieces by Zee
Large decorator pieces in Zee's booth.

It was lovely to see the smiling Francois Lietard, another regular at the show. He has these very beautiful and brightly coloured slices of Cuprite and Chrysocolla from Milpillas, Sonora, Mexico.

Cuprite and Malachite
Bright slices of Cuprite and Chrysocolla from Milpillas, Mexico

Gem France had this beautiful collection of agates. The colours are not all natural (the blues are from Cobalt salts) but they were very beautiful. These Agates were from an old collection - the material was from Brazil and they were cut in Idar-Oberstein in Germany.

Colourful agate cabochons
Beautiful Agates

In the booth of Aloha Minerals, based in Maui, Hawaii was this fantastic included Quartz crystal from Brazil. A dark brown phantom is seen in the Quartz, on which has grown Anatase crystals, and sprouting from the Anatase are grey hairs of Rutile. It was really stunning.

Included Quartz
Quartz crystal from Brazil, held by Reggie of Aloha Minerals

Included Quartz
Grey hairlike Rutile grows from angular Anatase crystals on top of the brown Quartz phantom.

Next to our booth was Flavio of Stoneage of Italy, caught in his booth waiting for the end of the day.

Flavio of Stoneage
Flavio of Stoneage

Stoneage had this huge and very well preserved Stromatolite from Morocco on display, approx 600 Ma in age, and very showy.

Rob Sielecki
Rob Sielecki of Ausrox visiting our booth.

Upstairs from the main show is the special exhibits. Here there are lots of large specimens on display from the different dealers, plus a special exhibit which this year focused on the history of different people after which minerals had been named. Unfortunately for me there was not much in English, but there was beautiful old books in Japanese on display.

There was this huge Emerald crystal on display, which was labelled as Giant Emerald #2 in the world - this had sold by the end of the show. The specimen was about 60cm or more across.

Massive Emerald in schist

Replica of a dinosaur
Replica of a Dromaeosaurus albertensis dinosaur, from Alberta, Canada

Fossil Trilobites
Selenopeltis, Sp. from the Sahara Desert - a rare and uncommonly aesthetic Trilobite. This plate is of Ordovician age, and all the trilobites are real and unaltered and in their original position. Beautifully prepared by Horst Burkard of Bonn, Germany

And then before you know it, the show is over and it is pack down time.

Show pack down
Packing up the show.

The Japanese food was definitely a highlight of the trip for me:

Robin with Bento box
A room nearby to the show opened only for lunch selling various Bento boxes, complete with microwaves for you to heat up your purchase.

Make your own noodles
Make your own noodles


Everything is beautifully packaged in Japan, with happy slogans such as this tasty sandwich to 'bring some joy into your life'

Happy Sandwich

We ate several times at revolving sushi bars - if you are up for the raw fish the tuna and salmon is melt in the mouth.

Dona, Lois, Wayne at sushi
Dona, Lois and Wayne at our favourite sushi bar which specialised in seafood. The plates go round in front of you and you help yourself - each plate is colour coded for the price, and when you are ready to leave they count up your plates to let you know your bill.

The biggest Oysters I have seen, bigger than the palm of my hand, they had to cut them up for you - divine.

They also had huge crab legs over 10cm long dwarfing the small square of sushi rice they were attached to which were delicious but at $14 a go, it was a treat I only had once.

The most special meal that we had in Tokyo was a traditional 'country style' meal at Robataya Roppongi. Here you sit around U shaped bar, and before you sit two chefs. The selection of food for you to choose from is laid out in front of you, and the chefs cook it on skewers over a grill in a trough in front of them. When the food is cooked (and carefully and beautifully presented) it is passed to you on a long wooden panel. The chefs are skilled and even pass tall opened bottles of beer to you on the paddles. Very skilful and a lot of fun.

Red Snapper
Our chef passes us a red snapper on the long wooden paddle. It was divine.

We had a short amount of time to get out and see some sights around Tokyo.

The show was located in the Shinjuku region of Tokyo, which is one of the commerical and administrative centres of Tokyo, and has many sky scrapers. It also has the world's busiest train stations, where they employ people to gently push everyone into the trains in order to get the doors closed.

View of Tokyo from the top of the Hyatt Regency:

View of Tokyo
Mt Fuji is lurking at the far right corner, I could just see the rising of the base, but the rest was lost in the clouds. This time of year it is rarely seen as the atmosphere is not clear enough.

View of the tall buildings of Shinjuku - this is the more typical haze of this time of year. This was taken from the viewing level of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.

The fabled Fugu - pufferfish - the delicacy that must be prepared correctly otherwise it is poisonous. Chefs must be qualified to prepare them. We didn't attempt them.

Plastic Food

Beer anyone? Actually these are all plastic replicas - including the incredibly realistic frosty cans. We had a quick trip to Kappa Bashi street which houses the kitchenware stores that sell to restaurants and there were many shops that just sold plastic display food - noodles, sushi, pizza slices, fried eggs - amazing!

Not far from Kappa Bashi is Tokyo's oldest and one of the most sacred and spectacular temples - Senso-ji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple. It dates back to 645 AD. It survived the 1923 earthquake, but not the WWII bombing, and therefore the main building was relatively new. The entrance to the temple is dominated by the Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate.

Thunder Gate
The Thunder Gate, entrance to the Senso-ji Temple.

We took a walk in the park next to the Hyatt Regency hotel, which was very beautiful and incredibly clean. Amongst the trees there are shanty towns where the homeless set up homes under blue tarps. This is something that would not have been seen 10 years ago. Often the people carefully and tidily wrap up their belongings on a trolley covered in their blue tarp and leave it at the edge of the park whilst they are off during the day, and return to it at night - this shows the trusting nature of the people, their trolley will still be there at the end of the day - this would never happen in many other countries.

Shanty town
Shanty towns in the local park

Smoking is still allowed inside most buildings and restaurants in Tokyo. The city is incredibly clean, with no litter seen on the streets and they have lots of these signs to stop people from smoking whilst walking along the streets, which must help stop discarded cigarette butts.

No Smoking sign

Tokyo comes alive at night, brightly lit everywhere by signs and atmospheric energy.

'Organ' Alley
This street next to the rail tracks of Shinjuku station is nicknamed 'organ' alley, I believe you can get all sorts to eat there - we gave it a miss.

One morning myself, Dona and Lois got up super early to go to the Tsukiju Fish market. It is an experience I fully recommend, although it sounds like it may not be open to tourists for much longer. This feels like the central hub of the food network in Japan. You need to get there early, about 5am as the auctions are all over by 6am. The market is split into sections - the inner sanctum where all the auctions are, and tourists may only enter one small area, then outside of this are the intermediate wholesale merchant stands - the 'inner market', with narrow alleys along which the workers zip up and down in their electric carts, you have to keep alert to keep out of the way. There is everything you can think of from under the sea on display and some things you can't. This is where restaurant and shop owners come every day to purchase their fish from the wholesalers.

I am not sure what these were.

Big abalone

Rows of neatly arranged octopus.

Electric carts whip around outside the market
Outside the market the electric carts and trucks whip around.

The auctions are for the tuna, brought in frozen from the deep sea trawlers from everywhere. The fish are lined up in sections by size, and they take a small drill core from each so that the buyer can see the quality of the meat. The auctions are quite quick and noisy. The big tuna can fetch up to US $20,000 each. It is astounding to the think of the money that then must flow through this market, and even more astounding to think that this happens every single day.

Tuna auction
Tuna lined up as a potential buyer checks the tuna meat quality

Once purchased the Tuna are whisked outside to the wholesaler's stand and cut up for sale.

A bandsaw is used to cut up the frozen fish

Dona's tuna
We were hardly suprised to find that this tuna already had Dona's name on it

At the next stall we watched as a buyer came to purchase a section of fresh tuna. The care taken to cut the tuna and keep everything clean was amazing.

Deciding on cutting the tuna
The cutter and his helpers size up the tuna.
Cutting the tuna
They measure up the tuna by the four finger method

cutting the tuna
The cutting of the tuna, using a knife that looks more like a sword, about a metre in length

cutting the tuna
Carefully wiping the tuna once cut, and the customer is happy with his purchase.

No trip to the market would be complete without a visit to one of the many sushi bars in the 'outer markets' located on the streets just outside the fish market for the freshest sashimi you will ever taste.

freshi sashimi
Fresh Tuna and Salmon, straight from the market.

We did however skip on the lightly toasted horse meat.

Sushi menu
Sushi menu

I absolutely loved my first visit to Tokyo. The people are incredibly friendly and appear very thoughtful. The parts of the city we saw were clean and well maintained, and it feels very safe to walk the streets. At night the areas are lit up by neon signs and there is an energy to the city. It is very easy to get around for non-Japanese speakers, with many English signs, and an easy to use subway system. And of course the food is fantastic! I hope to be back soon.

We had thought the flight home from Japan had been a bit bumpier than usual, and on our arrival back we found out the reason why......

(disclaimer - the plane was actually on the ground when this photo was taken! dont want to get anyone in trouble here!)

Author: Robin
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