Japan Temple and Metamorphic Rocks

Jen here –

Rinsing our hands in the river before nearing the shrine. Notice the dark coloration of the stairs. These are some of the greenschist rocks at the complex.
I experienced a more non-traditional field experience that I would like to share with everyone. I recently traveled to Japan for the 16th International Echinoderm Conference and during this conference there was a mid-week field trip to the Ise Grand Shrine. Before we left we were given a brief history on the shrine and what it symbolizes. Basically, it is meant to symbolize eternity. This shrine is rebuilt every 20 years from the ground up rather than patching issues as they arise. This ensures that the shrine ages as a whole! It is also built adjacent to the current standing shrine so every 20 years the shrine moves locations.

The primary shrine at the temple complex.
The shrine is built of very specific building materials and no nails are used during the construction. The rebuilding of the shrine ensures that the next generation learns the skills required to construct the temple to continue to pass along this tradition. It’s a really interesting concept and I really enjoyed getting to wander around the complex. There were also very interesting rocks as you walked up to the shrine!

The steps were mostly made of metamorphic rocks that are likely greenschist. This type of metamorphic rock is created from igneous rocks that undergo transformation under particular temperatures and pressures. The heat and pressure often comes from different land masses colliding with one another throughout time, caused by plate tectonic movements. Greenschist rocks are normally dominated by minerals that exhibit a green color such as chlorite, actinolite, and epidote. Japan has an incredibly complex tectonic history and I won’t attempt to explain it but if you are interested in learning more check out this report and the Geology of Japan by the Geological Survey of Japan.

Close up of some of the stairs containing the greenschist rocks.

Whenever you are traveling or even in your hometown, make sure to look out for what buildings, stairs, and more are made of! You’ll be surprised at the extraordinary details you will uncover in the rocks that surround you in your daily life.

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