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Serving The Meteorite Community Since 2002

Nihon Inseki or Japanese Meteorites – Co-authored with Jesse Piper


Carleton and Mitch inside the ASU meteorite vault.

 

Dedication to Dr. Carleton Moore

I dedicate this article to my good friend, Dr. Carleton Moore. For those of you who were fortunate enough to know Carleton, I need not write anything more about him. For the others, Carleton was a pioneer in meteorite research and assisted with training the NASA Apollo astronauts on what type of samples to collect while on the moon, as well as, being one of the first scientists to study lunar samples brought back from the Apollo missions. He was Emeritus Regents Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. He was the founding Director of the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies, which houses the world’s largest university based meteorite collection. His accomplishments are too many to list here. Carleton was friends with Nininger, LaPaz, Monnig, Fales, and countless others. Dr. Laurence Garvey discovered a new mineral in the Norton County meteorite, and named it in honor of his close friend as Carletonmooreite. More importantly, Carleton was selfless and generous with his time enjoying and attending numerous outreach programs until the end and answering questions and being a friend to all who reached out to him and enriching all the lives he touched. Many years ago, when I started collecting meteorites, I reached out to Carleton with my novice questions. He patiently answered my questions, and that was the start of our long friendship. It was apropos, and I was honored to have written my first article for Meteorite Times about my friend with his blessing and assistance. It can be found here in the January 2021 Meteorite Times article Dr. Carleton Moore | Meteorite Times Magazine (meteorite-times.com) Carleton was the biggest supporter of my articles. He wrote me the following messages on various articles: “As you might expect the first thing I did was read your contribution to meteorite times . Thanks for your wonderful contribution. Smile” “Very glad to see your article. As usual a super job with lots of good information !! Cheers” “Just reread your article. Again thanks for your efforts. What’s next?” “This is super interesting! I wonder how good Howard’s analysis was? Also maybe only meteorite type named after a person (not important in your essay) didn’t go through with a fine toothed comb but think benedictine misspelled once??? Your research is really nice. Yes, of course I knew Ursula Marvin. She did a great job of assuming the meteorite historian’s position. Think she was at Harvard because her husband Tom had been a student there and they wandered back after his/ their field geology days were over. I’ll read again and again thanks and best wishes” There were other messages of praise and encouragement. Many times when I spoke with Carleton, the subject of meteorites never came up. With the passing of Carleton, the meteorite community’s loss is immeasurable, and Heaven’s gain is infinite. I am grateful for my friendship with Carleton, and I will miss him immensely.

Being of Japanese ancestry, I collect Japanese meteorites or in Japanese – Nihon Inseki. Since the Japanese revere meteorites and many are kept by institutions or shrines, they are very difficult, if not impossible, and expensive to obtain. I have been fortunate to have obtained a few of them in my collection. I asked my friend, Jesse Piper, who has an extraordinary collection, to assist me as co-author of this article. Without Jesse’s help, this article would not be as rich, detailed and enjoyable as it is now. There are others who come to mind when I think of collectors who have collected and appreciated Japanese meteorites – Jesse Piper, Mike Bandli, Dirk Ross Tanuki, Corey Kuo, Steve Schoner, Justin Boros, Martin Horejsi, Jay Piatek, Mendy Ouzillou, Russ Finney, John Shea, and Allan Lang (R.A. Langheinrich) to name a few.

Few natural objects have been worshipped by humans, more than meteorites. The Krasnojarsk meteorite weighing 1,500 pounds was regarded by the Tartars (native people of Siberia) as a holy thing fallen from heaven. The Emperor Maximilian brought the Ensisheim meteorite to a neighboring castle, and a council of state was held to consider the message from heaven the stone had brought them. In Casas Grandes, Mexico, a meteoric iron was found in a middle of a tomb. They probably worshipped the meteoric iron and hoped the meteorite would accompany the person and transition them smoothly into the afterlife. The myth about the Elbogen meteorite was that if it were thrown into the castle fountain, it would come back to its former place. In Australia, at the Henbury crater, the Aboriginal people warn: Don’t drink the rainwater that pools there, or a fire devil will fill you with iron. In Central Australia, meteors are believed to contain an evil magic which is harnessed in ceremonies to inflict harm or death upon someone that breaks a taboo, like infidelity. There are many other examples of meteorite folklore, but I wanted to give a brief history, so that when comparing Japanese myths, there is some history to compare it to and not compare it to the current knowledge of meteorites from people around the world today. Folktales were used to explain the unexplainable due to lack of experience, knowledge and technology.

Japanese folklore, myths and legends regarding “fallen stars” is a complex mixture of animism, Buddhism, Shinto-ism, Confucianism and folklore. Japanese historic literature often mentions astronomical phenomena, such as, meteors and comets. Legends are found in various prefectures in Japan. In the Yamaguchi Prefecture, it is called Kudamatsu which means pine where stars have fallen. In Okayama Prefecture, it is called Bisei-cho which means beautiful star. In Osaka, it is called Hoshida which means village of the star. A prefecture is a district. Think of it like a state in the United States, a province in Canada or a region in European countries. Examples of Japanese folklore below were used to explain things centuries ago before modern science and technology.

 

Nogata (19 May 861 A.D.)

When I say, impossible to obtain, Nogata (Japan) comes to mind. Many people incorrectly assume that Ensisheim which fell on 7 November 1492 was the first meteorite fall recorded and preserved. Nogata, a 472 gram, stony L6, fell on 19 May 861 A.D. over six centuries before Ensisheim, and Nogata was the first meteorite fall that was recorded and preserved. It was witnessed by villagers who recovered the meteorite. The priests never doubted the fact that it fell from the sky, and preserved it in a Shinto shrine in Suga, Jinja, Fukuoka Prefecture (Kyushu, Japan). The stone was kept in a wooden box inscribed with the date of 19 May 861 A.D. The wood box and style of inscription correspond to the 9th century. The box was also carbon dated, and the fall date is in the range results. Old literature also confirmed the date of the fall.

The historic Nogata meteorite has been preserved for over a millennium by the priests of the shrine, and I am grateful and comforted to know they will preserve it for eternity. They appreciate and comprehend it is on loan to them by future generations. It is publicly seen every five years at the grand shrine festival, when it is carried in a decorated ornate cart, at its rightful place, at the head of the parade. There are several shrines dedicated to various different Japanese meteorites that were recovered, which evidence the wide spread acceptance in Japan that rocks fall from the sky. Whether it is because the Japanese people are trusting, forward thinking or ahead of their time, from no later than 861 A.D., they accepted the fact that stones fall from the sky. It would take the Siena (1794), Wold Cottage (1795), L’Aigle falls (1803), and Ernst Chladni’s 1794 book to start to convince the western world that stones fall from the sky. It is true that the falls of Siena, Wold Cottage and L’Aigle were scientifically studied at the time of their falls, but there could not be any meaningful scientific study on Nogata in 861 A.D. (or even for many centuries after its fall). The microscope was not invented until about the 16th century and not widely used until the 18th century. In the Journal of Geochemical Society, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 1965 vol. 29, Dr. V.F. Buchwald acknowledges the limitation of early microscopes when he states, “It should also be borne in mind that during most of the 19th century it was quite common to etch the polished specimen by heat-tinting; with the microscope of those days it was not possible to see any influence on the structure, so the method was found quite adequate.” Modern chemistry did not begin until the end of the 16th century (metals were not even considered an element in the 16th century, and the earliest attempt to classify the elements was not until 1789), and many chemists believe that chemistry became a proper science in the 18th century; therefore, it would be unfair to claim that because Nogata was not scientifically studied until later, that it should not be credited as the first recorded fall in which people accepted the fact that rocks do fall from the sky. More importantly, the people of Japan did not doubt that the stone had fallen from the sky, so it was not necessary to try and prove it. In addition, those near Nogata, who were alive at the time of the fall, their children, grandchildren, and even their great-grandchildren were long gone when any meaningful scientific research could be done on it. Modern meteorite classification was not worked out until the 1860s by Gustav Rose and Nevil Story-Maskelyne, over half a century after the first scientific research on Siena, Wold Cottage and L’Aigle. Nogata was studied in 1922 by K. Yamada, a principal of the Chikuho Mining School, who recognized it as a meteorite. In 1979, Nogata was studied by Masako Shima and Sadao Murayama, National Science Museum Tokyo, Japan, Akihiko Okada and Hideo Yabuki, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Hirosawa, Saitama, Japan, Nobuo Takaoka, Department of Earth Sciences, Yamagata University, Yamagata, Japan and again confirmed to be a meteorite.

Nogata should be credited, as not only the first recorded fall, but the first preserved one that started people believing that stones do fall from the sky. It earns its rightful place among the short list of the most historic meteorite falls.

 

Ogi (8 July 1741)

On 8 June 1741, after sounds like thunder, four H6 stones weighing 14 Kg fell in the city of Ogi of the Saga Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu, Japan, where it was witnessed and collected and put in a temple in Ogi. A Japanese myth explains the fall of stones from the sky. The two largest stones were preserved in a temple in Ogi, where they became part of an annual offering to Shokujo at a festival on the 7th day of the 7th month over the centuries. The festival celebrates the rendezvous of the goddess Shokuja and her companion or spouse, who are identified with the constellations Lyra and Aquila and separated by the river of heaven, the Milky Way. No bridge spans the river, but on the festival night a huge jay spreads his wings across it and permits the two constellations to meet. Stones, once used to steady the loom of Lyra, the weaver, fell from the skies of the Milky Way to earth. In 1882, the two largest specimens were studied by Divers and Shimizu. In the 1960’s, Mason (1963) and separately Van Schmus and Wood (1967) studied Ogi, and classified it as an H6 chondrite. The fours stones weighted approximately 5.6, 4.6, 2 and 2 kg. Unfortunately, the two smallest specimens of approximately 2 kg each were lost. Tragically, the largest stone of 5.6 kg, which had been the property of the Nabeshima family, was destroyed by American incendiary bombs in World War II. The Catalogue of Meteorites by Monica Grady does list the Nabeshima family being in possession of a 69.3 gram piece which is now the largest specimen outside the British Museum. The remaining 4.6 kg stone was purchased by the British Museum in 1884. M.H. Nevil Story-Maskelyne, Curator of Minerals at the British Museum, goal was to make the meteorite collection at the British Museum the finest in the world, so he employed a strategy of asking museum trustees to prod government officials to get involved in obtaining meteorites. This was the case in the acquisition of Ogi.

 


An 11.6 gram slice of Ogi obtained from my friend Corey Kuo. It now resides in the Mitch Noda collection.

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper. A 2.01 gram piece of Ogi residing in the Jesse Piper collection.

 

Yonozu (13 July 1837)

A 30.44 kg meteorite fell at about 4:00 pm on 13 July 1837 in into a rice paddy in Yonozu-mura, Nishikambara-gun, Niigata Prefecture, Honshu, Japan. The H4 meteorite was observed by witnesses in the lowest portion of its trajectory as a black object flying in from the southwest accompanied by a noise like thunder. The meteorite penetrated about ten feet into the wet muddy ground of the rice paddy. The main mass has been preserved at the Japanese National Museum in Tokyo. There is a memorial at the place where Yonozu fell. A 63.5 gram specimen was sent for study to the University of New Mexico from the Japanese National Museum in Tokyo. The only previous study of the meteorite was a chemical analysis done by M. Kodera of the Imperial Geological Survey of Japan, and a general microscopic study by Y. Otsuki leading to a classification of the meteorite as a crystalline chondrite. The University of New Mexico analysis shows the Yonozu exhibits the chondritic structures to a high and varied degree and numerous irregular fragments of the metallic phase are visible in a completely random arrangement. A thin section analysis shows the non-metalic portion of this meteorite is composed primarily of olivine and hypersthene. On the basis of various studies, the Yonozu meteorite was classified as a hypersthene-olivine chondrite following the Leonard classification. The Meteoritical Bulletin Database lists Yonozu as an H4/5. In accordance with the meteorite-planet hypothesis for the origin of meteorites, Yonozu would have its origin in the exterior mantle of a planet. The planet would be constituted much like Earth with a nickel-iron core and an exterior mantle of silicate minerals. The amount of nickel-iron would decrease from the interior of the planet to the exterior. Therefore, meteorites with a small percentage of nickel-iron scattered throughout a silicate phase are believed to have come from relatively near the surface of the planet. You can see a marker of Yonozu where it fell at https://goo.gl/maps/mv916MzT25Nx3Mdx6

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper. A 1.58 gram fragment of Yonozu from the Jesse Piper collection.

 


A 13.49 gram slice of Yonozu from the Mitch Noda collection.

 

Kesen (12 June 1850)

On 13 June 1850, the Kesen meteorite fell in a swamp in the city of Rikuzentakata, Kesen District in the Iwate Prefecture, island of Honshu, Japan. The H4 meteorite initially weighed 135 kg (298 lbs), however, some local residents cut off pieces for charms or souvenirs resulting in its current weight of 106 kg (234 lbs). Henry Ward (Ward’s Natural Science) was informed by a friend who was traveling in the main island of Japan, that he thought he saw a stone meteorite in a temple in Iwate. After much effort, Ward was able to obtain a specimen about six ounces in weight. The sample was accompanied by a letter in Japanese which was translated to English. It mentioned the date of the fall, and that there was a loud sound like thunder at the village of Kesen which accompanied the fall. The letter claimed the meteorite entered the ground five feet and remained hot for two days. Besides the main mass there were ten or more pieces of it. O.C. Farrington noted that Kesen was preserved in a temple for many years and worshipped as an idol. I think it may have been seen as a sacred item and not worshiped like an idol. An analogy would be a crucifix or an altar which were seen as sacred items and not worshiped as idols. Kesen was moved to Tokyo and held at the Imperial Household Museum. It is currently housed at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo. Records of the fall are recorded in documents of the Yoshida family. In 1976, a monument of the “Heavenly Meteorite Falling Site” was built at the location of the fall. Sadly, the Great East Japan earthquake damaged the Yoshida records and replica of the meteorite. Here is the marker at the Chogoji Temple dedicated to Kesen https://goo.gl/maps/JLh5TVREZzVc2mFH8

 


Photo courtesy Jesse Piper. A 2.79 gram slice of Kesen with crust from the Jesse Piper collection.

 


An ASU vial containing chips of Kesen obtained from my friend Matt Morgan. The vial with Kesen samples now resides in the Mitch Noda collection. I wonder if ASU had done some experiments on the chips.

 


An 11.74 fragment of Kesen with University of New Mexico number and corresponding label. Previously held in the collections of my friends, Jay Piatek and Mike Bandli and now resides in the Mitch Noda collection.

 


A 5.9 gram specimen of Kesen with Nininger American Meteorite Laboratory label and corresponding number on the piece. This AML Kesen has crust. It is part of the Mitch Noda collection.

 

Fukutomi (19 March 1882)

On 19 March 1882, three stones (1.7 kg, 2.5 kg and 16.4 kg) of the Fukutomi meteorite fell in Fukutomi-mura, Kishima-gun, Saga-ken, island of Kyushu, Japan. Later, one of the stones was missing. The Fukutomi meteorite was the first Japanese meteorite to enter in a Japanese museum. The research on Fukutomi shows it is a L5 olivine-hypersthene chondrite. The most conspicuous feature (peculiar structure) of the Fukutomi meteorite is the occurrence of lithic fragments. The occurrence of tridymite creates a lithic fragment in this meteorite. In stony meteorites, tridymite is often found in pyroxene-plagioclase achondrites, but it is rare in ordinary chondrites. The two stones are housed at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. Michael J. Frost of the British Museum wrote a paper in Meteoritics in December 1967, “The Term “Meteorite” which said their modern usage of “meteorite” may have started around 1820, but not generally accepted until much later. He says, that “a fallen meteor” was used more frequently. Interesting that he does not mention “aerolite.” Frost referred to “recent” papers using the term: “The Fukutomi meteorite consists of two stones . . . .” (Miyashiru et al 1966). The other paper, (Keil et al 1964) “This . . . meteorite fell . . . as a shower . . . .” did not mention a meteorite by name. Interesting that a paper about the Fukutomi meteorite was one of the first uses of the modern term “meteorite.”

 


Photo courtesy Jesse Piper. A 0.53 specimen of Fukutomi which resides in the Jesse Piper collection.

 


A 11.52 gram slice of Fukutomi which is from the Mitch Noda collection.

 


A 7.2 gram piece of Fukutomi with a University of New Mexico label. This was obtained from Bruno Fetcay and Carine Bidaut of France. It is part of the Mitch Noda collection.

 

Tanokami Yama (Tanokami Mountain) (1885)

Tanokami means god of the rice fields, and the god is believed to observe and bring a good harvest. Yama means mountain. There are two stories of who found the meteorite. The first was a mass of 170.75 kg was found in 1885 by a farmer on the slopes of the mountain Tanokami in Kurimuto, Shiga on the island of Honshu, Japan. The other version is that Mr. Takizo, a mineral broker, who was hunting for quartz and topaz in the valley of mount Tagami. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kosokichi and others, it was confirmed to be a meteorite. Tanokami Mountain, the largest meteorite in Japan, was purchased in 1899 by the Imperial Museum in Tokyo. Very little has been cut and distributed from this iron. The Smithsonian Museum holds 65 grams of Tanokami Mountain. The small specimens in the Smithsonian Institution were examined and indicates that Tanokami is a somewhat unusual coarse octahedrite, with its anomalous kamacite morphology and a significant amount of carbide roses. Tanokami Mountain is classified as a IIIE iron – one of fifteen.

 


A 9.69 gram specimen of the ultra-rare Tanokami Mountain with University of New Mexico label and corresponding number. This piece of Tanokami Mountain graced the collections of Mike Bandli and Jay Piatek before finding its home in the Mitch Noda Collection. According to Grady’s Catalogue of Meteorites, The National History Museum in Tokyo holds the main mass of approximately 175kg, the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History has 65 grams, the Smithsonian has 90 grams and the University of New Mexico holds a 174 gram slice.

 


The other side of the 9.69 gram specimen of Tanokami Mountain.

 

Satsuma (Kyushu) (26 October 1886)

In Japan, the name for the Kyushu meteorite is Satsuma. On 26 October 1886, after a detonation, Kyushu fell in the Satsuma and Osumi provinces on Kyushu island, Japan. The largest stone was 29 kg with numerous other stones recovered. Allan Lang (R.A. Langheinrich) traded some Peekskill for a 3.7 kg of Kyushu with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York. His specimen was larger than any the Japanese held. Al was honored to take it back home to Japan, and it was placed in a museum in the city of Kyushu. In Meteorite Times, Al said, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than to “institutionalize” my specimens, where they can be safe from the fiends who like to cut them up, in order to maximize profit.” The main mass is held by the Natural History Museum in London. The Catalogue of Meteorites, by Monica Grady lists the second largest specimen at 3.6 kg at the Science Museum in Tokyo (as of 2000) with the AMNH holding the third largest piece at 2kg. The marker for Satsuma (Kyushu) is at https://goo.gl/maps/tWy5nhEuMZe97AK69

 


Sibling Satsuma (Kyushu) specimens from the University of New Mexico with corresponding labels and numbers. These siblings found a home in the Mitch Noda collection.

 


Photo courtesy Jesse Piper. A desirable crusted 2.77 gram specimen of Satsuma (Kyushu) from the Jesse Piper collection.

 


A 8.08 gram slice of crusted Satsuma (Kyushu) with University of New Mexico number and corresponding label. It has Mike Bandli and Jay Piatek pedigree. Now part of the Mitch Noda collection.

 


A closer look at the 8.08 gram slice of Satsuma (Kyushu).

 

Shirahagi (1890)

The Shirahagi iron is a fine octahedrite of group IVA iron and is the second largest meteoric iron ever found in Japan. The iron is folded or curled like an ocean wave or the letter “C.” Dr. Sadao Murayama of the National Science Museum in Tokyo thought the Shirahagi iron was probably distorted during its flight thru the atmosphere although Dr. Vagn Buckwald thought it was due to a cosmic shock event. It is a peculiar and interesting meteorite with an extremely distorted Widmanstatten pattern, evidence of a violent cosmic collision.

There are two versions of where and who found the Shirahagi meteorite. One version is that it was found in April 1890 in the stream of the Kamiichi-gawa river in Shirahai-mura, Toyama prefecture, Japan, by a mine worker, Sadajiro Nakamura, and preserved by Issei Kobayashi, a mining engineer, who employed Nakamura. Initially, they did not know what they had, and in 1895, it was discovered to be a meteorite by Kwaijiro Kondo of the Geological Survey of Japan.

The other version of the story is that in 1890, a farmer was digging for potatoes and came across the unusual iron specimen. Curious as to what it was, the farmer presented it to a few appraisers. Not even the Osaka mint knew what it was. It spent the next several years being used as a weight in the pickling process of vegetables. In 1895, geologists from the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce determined that it was a meteorite.

The two versions of the story then merge. The 22.7 kg (50 pounds) Shirahagi meteorite was purchased in March 1895, by Enomoto Takeaki, a Samurai, who would go on to play a key role in the creation of Japan’s first modern navy and serve as Minister of various departments. Takeaki stayed in Russia as a special envoy, where he was fascinated by the Russian “meteor sword” – James Sowerby’s sword made from the meteorite Cape of Good Hope for the Czar Alexander I.

Since Takeaki was a Samurai, he must have been inspired by the “meteor sword.” According to the Samurai code or “Bushido” literally “way of the warrior,” a Samurai’s main sword represented his soul. “Bushido” was an ethical system, rather than a religion. The principles of Bushido emphasized honor, courage, skill in the martial arts, and loyalty to a warrior’s master (“Daimyo”) above all else. The Samurai usually carried two swords. The “Katana” or long sword (blade length about 100 cm or 40 inches) was mainly used in battle. The second companion sword was either a “Wakisazhi” or short sword (2/3 – 1/2 the length of the “Katana”) which was the Samurai’s back up sword used for close quarter combat, or a “Tanto” (blade about 8 inches or 21 cm) which was more like a long dagger.

The “Katana” was a two handed sword while the “Wakisazhi” and “Tanto” were one handed swords. The scared swords were handed down from one generation to the next.

Takeaki enlisted the services of master swordsmith, Okayoshi Kunimune, and commissioned the creation of five blades collectively known as “Ryuseito” literally “Comet swords.” Two “Katana” or long swords and three “Tanto” or short swords, were forged from the Shirahagi Meteorite. About four kilograms (8.8 pounds) of Shirahagi iron meteorite was used to create the five blades. The swords were difficult to work with due to higher nickel content, less carbon, more impurities, such as, schreibersite which required higher temperatures during forging, and the blades were comparatively resistant to hardening during quenching. It took three years to create the swords, and they were finally finished in 1898. The blades were made with 70% Shirahagi meteoric iron and 30% “Tamahagane” or iron sand-rich metal used for regular “Katanas.” The blades have a beautiful, and unusual dark swirling similar to a combination of tiger stripes and leopard spots “Hamon” or tempering pattern to them due to the meteoric content. The inner hilt of the swords had been engraved with solid gold inlay reading “Seitetsu,” or “Star Iron.” The remaining main mass (18.2 kg or 40.12 lbs.) was presented to the National Science Museium in Tokyo. The higher quality “Katana” was donated by Enomoto to the crown prince of Japan, who later became Emperor Taisho, who was the 125th Emperor and reigned from 1912 to 1926. The remaining four swords were handed down to Takeaki’s heirs. The other Katana or long Samurai sword is owned by Tokyo University of Agriculture which grew out of an institution Enomoto founded. As for the three “Tanto,” one is housed at the Toyama Science Museum in Toyama city, another was donated by Enomoto’s great-grandson and is in the Ryugu Shrine as a “shrine treasure” in Otaru, on the island of Hokkaido, and the last space sword’s whereabouts are unknown.

Shirahagi is a historic meteorite with a royal connection and wonderful story. The swords created from the Shirahagi meteorite can also be called “Tentetsutou” or “Sword of Heaven.” Jesse and I would like to think that we obtained our specimens due to “Kami unmei” or “Devine destiny.”

 


An 11.7 gram piece of Shirahagi with University of New Mexico label and number. It is Mitch’s favorite Japanese meteorite in his collection.

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper. A beautiful 4.26 slice of Shirahagi with ASU number on it. It resides in Jesse Piper’s collection.

 

Okano (7 April 1904)

On 7 April 1904, at 6:30 am, the 4.74 kg Okano meteorite fell in the village of Okano, in the neighborhood of the town Sasayama, in the province of Hyogo, island of Honshu, Japan. A noise resembling a distant cannon was heard. The fall was witnessed by a teacher and a farmer. Mr. Katsuzo Hata witnessed the fall and landing behind the temple near an Oak tree and recovered the meteorite. The iron was in a small forest with a long point upwards, imbedded about 80cm (31.5 inches). The meteorite was given to Professor Tadashi Hiki of Kyoto Imperial University. The 4.74 kg mass was acquired by the Metallurgical Institute of Kyoto, Japan. Okano is a normal hexahedrite, a single ferrite crystal larger than 10 cm. It is classified as a IIAB iron. A replica is on display at the local elementary school. On March 6, 2021, a celebration took place to preserve and share the history of the Okano meteorite, and a monument and information sign were erected at the fall site https://goo.gl/maps/NdLhwStjtpcFdR5X9

 


A 10.6 gram block of Okano with Corey Kuo label. This piece is from the Mitch Noda collection.

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper and Takeshi Inoue, Akashi Planetarium Director. The Okano meteorite marker in Japan.

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper. A 5.2 gram Okano specimen residing in the Jesse Piper collection.

 

Kobe (26 September 1999)

In the evening of 26 September 1999, a large number of people witnessed the Kobe meteor which struck a roof of a house in Tsukushigaoka, Kita-ku, north of the city of Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, island of Honshu, Japan. The meteorite penetrated the tile roof and bedroom ceiling. Ryoichi Hirata, the homeowner, noticed about 20 pieces of the fragmented 136 gram meteorite on his daughter’s bed upstairs. The largest pieces were 64.9, 32.9 and 13.6 grams. My friend, Dirk Ross, was teaching English in Japan at the time, and a student told him about the Kobe fall. Dirk contacted the owner, Mr. Hirata, who was annoyed at all the people contacting him. After the passing of time and people ceasing to contact Mr. Hirata, Dirk, with his persistence, was able to meet with Mr. Hirata. Mr. Hirata decided to keep the meteorite fragments, and loaned some of them to museums and researchers. Dirk asked how they cleaned up the mess, and Mr. Hirata told him that they vacuumed the mess after collecting the fragments. Dirk purchased the vacuum cleaner bag. Luckily for Dirk, the bag was new, so he did not have to go through a lot of other materials to find small pieces of Kobe. Mr. Hirata’s daughter, who was in junior high, informed her father, that she wanted to sell her specimen. Dirk purchased, from Mr. Hirata, the small fragment which was 1-3 grams. The family of four used the money to go on a trip to Hawaii.

Kobe is a CK4 (Karoonda-like) carbonaceous chondrite. It is the first fall of a carbonaceous chondrite in Japan. Kobe is only one of two observed CK falls. In order to shed light on the ambiguous history and nature of CK chondrites, the Kobe Meteorite Consortium was organized by sixteen leading laboratories in Japan and the United States. Two large fragments of Kobe were on loan from Mr. Hirata and used in the study. The noble gas study confirmed the meteorite as a CK carbonaceous chondrite.

 


Capsules containing a rare crusted 0.068 gram and 0.014 specimens originating from Dirk Ross in Tokyo, then Jesse Piper and now in my collection.

 


A closer view of the rare crusted piece of Kobe.

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper. A very nice 0.392 gram crusted specimen of Kobe with plaster evidencing its piercing the ceiling of the house in Japan. It now resides in the Jesse Piper collection.

 


Photo courtesy of Justin Boros. A 0.142 gram specimen of Kobe with a chondrule rarely seen in the Kobe meteorite. Formally from the Jesse Piper collection, and now part of the Justin Boros collection.

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper and Takeshi Inoue, Akashi Planetarium Director. A photo of meteorite displays at the Askashi Planetarium in Japan. The display with the microscope is of a Kobe specimen donated to the Askashi Planetarium by Jesse Piper.

 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Piper and Takeshi Inoue, Akashi Planetarium Director. A close up photo of the Kobe display at the Askashi Planetarium in Japan.

 


Carleton at the ASU University Club.

 

References:

Phone call, emails and messages with Jesse Piper

Carleton B. Moore Obituary – The Arizona Republic (azcentral.com)

For a good list (not a complete list) of Japanese meteorites as of September 2012 by Nagatoshi Nogami, please go to Microsoft PowerPoint – NOGAMI-Meteorite in Japan.ppt [Compatibility Mode] (imo.net) (hit Ctrl and click while curser is on the link).

Cosmic Debris Meteorites in History – John G. Burke

American Journal of Science, Vol. 249, November 1951, “The Yonozu, Japan Stony Meteorite, Carl W. Beck and R.G. Stevenson, Jr.

Handbook of Iron Meteorites – Vagn F. Buchwald

Meteorite Times Magazine – Martin Horejsi – Ogi Japan: Meteorite Worship Then and Now – March 1, 2021

Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (metmuseum.org)

“Description, Chemical Composition and Noble Gases of the Chondrite Notata” Masako Shima and Sadao Murayama, National Science Museum Tokyo, Japan, Akihiko Okada and Hideo Yabuki, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Hirosawa, Saitama, Japan, Nobuo Takaoka, Department of Earth Sciences, Yamagata University, Yamagata, Japan 1983Metic..18…87S Page 87 (harvard.edu)

Wikipedia – Nogata meteorite

https://www.facebook.com/Historyofmeteorites/posts/the-stone-of-nogata-japan-861-on-the-night-of-19-may-861-a-brilliant-flash-and-d/14679073386

History of Microscopes

Development of the periodic table (rsc.org)

Wikeipedia – Meteorite Classification

Oliver C. Farrington, 1900 “The Worship and Folk-Lore of Meteorites” Journal of American Folklore

Bull. Natn. Sci. Mus., Tokyo, Ser. 4, December 22, 1981 – “The Petrography and Chemical Composition of the Ogi Meteorite, from Ogi-machi, Ogi-gun, Saga-ken, Japan” by Hideo Yabuki, Masako Shima and Sadao Murayama.

Fallen star legends and traditional religion of Japan: an aspect of star lore – NASA/ADS (harvard.edu)

Yonozu meteorite, Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture, Japan (mindat.org)

Catalogue of Meteorites 5th Edition – Monica M. Grady

Preliminary note of a new meteorite from Japan | American Journal of Science (ajsonline.org)

Kesen meteorite – Wikipedia

Bull. Natn. Sci. Mus., Ser. E (Phys. Sci. & Engineering), 2 Dec. 22, 1979 – The Chemical Composition, Petrography and Mineralogy of the Japanese Chondrite Fukutomi by Masako Shima, Dept. of Physical Sciences, National Science Museum, Tokyo, Akihiko Okada, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Wako, Saitama, and Sadao Murayama, Dept. of Physical Sciences, National Science Museum, Tokyo.

1967Metic…3..253F Page 253 (harvard.edu) The Term “Meteorite” by Michael J. Frost, British Museum (Natural History), London

Kyushu meteorite, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan (mindat.org)

Meteorite Times Magazine Articles – Meteorites & Tektites, Meteorite Dealers, Links & Classifieds (meteorite-times.com)

Fallen star legends and traditional religion of Japan: an aspect of star lore – NASA/ADS (harvard.edu)

The Early Years of Meteor Observations in the USA – American Meteor Society (amsmeteors.org)

Our Astronomical Column | Nature

Memoirs of the College of Science and Engineering, Kyoto Imperial University, Vol. v., No.i, September 1912, Messrs. Masumi Chikashige and Tadasu Hiki

Kobe Meteorite (biglobe.ne.jp)

Kobe meteorite, Kita-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan (mindat.org)

Meteoritical Bulletin: Entry for Kobe (usra.edu)

2001AMR….14…61M Page 62 (harvard.edu)

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