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Kokuyoseki Taiken Museum (Obsidian Experience Museum) |A Precious Stone Used by People Since the Stone Age

Obsidian gemstone Hoshikusotoge Activities

In the town of Nagawa in Nagano Prefecture, there is an obsidian mining site called Hoshikuso Toge. Here you can learn about obsidian and its history at the Kokuyoseki Taiken Museum (Obsidian Experience Museum).

Since the Stone Age, obsidian has been a precious stone that is essential for human life.

This article describes my visit to the Kokuyoseki (obsidian) Taiken Museum.

 

About the Kokuyoseki Taiken Museum (Obsidian Experience Museum)

What is obsidian?

Obsidian is a natural, black-colored glass made from lava. Humans have been using obsidian as a tool for a long time, from the Stone Age to the Jomon Period, before the use of metals began.

There are several obsidian-producing areas in Nagano Prefecture, and obsidian has been designated as the stone of Nagano Prefecture.

 

A museum where you can learn about obsidian

Kokuyoseki Taiken Museum

 

The Kokuyoseki Taiken Museum (Obsidian Experience Museum), located in the town of Nagawa in central Nagano Prefecture, is a museum that displays stone tools made from obsidian gemstones. At the museum, you can learn about how humans have been using obsidian.

This is the entrance to the museum. Next to the building is the Obsidian Research Center of Meiji University.

The museum is located in the middle of a remote mountain. As it was a weekday, I thought there would be few people visiting the museum, but there were already dozens of cars in the parking lot after the museum opened.

 

Visiting the Museum

First, we visited the obsidian exhibition room

People picking up obsidian

 

First, we visited the obsidian display area.

During the Paleolithic period, as you can see in the photo above, pieces of obsidian were found everywhere in Hoshikuso-toge. This made it easy for people to pick up obsidian at places like riverbanks.

In the Jomon period, when the number of fallen obsidian became fewer, people began to dig underground and actively mine for obsidian.

 

The clarity of obsidian varies depending on where it is mined

This is the obsidian excavated in Hoshikuso-toge. Obsidian from Hoshikuso-toge is known for its high transparency compared to obsidian from other regions.

Not all obsidian is the same, and there are differences in color, clarity, and even patterns depending on where it comes from.

 

Hands-on Classes at the Museum

Hands-on Classes

 

After you have finished looking through the exhibition, you may want to participate in a hands-on obsidian accessory making class.

If there are seats available on the day, you can sign up and start right away.

This time I participated in a hands-on class to make a key ring from obsidian gemstones.

You can read more about it in this article.

 

Carving Obsidian Gemstones to Make Arrowhead-shaped Keyrings
Have you ever seen an obsidian gemstone? Obsidian ("黒曜石" in Japanese) is, as the name suggests, a "black, shiny stone". Obsidian was used as a stone ...

 

Museum Shop

Store for obsidian souvenirs

Obsidian Souvenir Shop

 

This is the souvenir shop inside the museum. You can buy obsidian necklaces, bracelets, netsuke, and other items here.

 

Obsidian souvenirs from Hoshikuso-toge

There are two types of obsidian sold at the museum store, one from Hoshidoge and the other from Hokkaido, so if you want obsidian taken from Hoshidoge, you may want to choose the one with high transparency. The obsidian used in the making experience is said to be from Hokkaido.

The one in the photo is a netsuke key ring made of obsidian from the Hoshidoge Pass, which I bought for 300 yen.

 

Museum Summary

An interactive museum where you can learn about obsidian

Obsidian has been used as a stone tool for longer than iron.

I knew that obsidian was a stone of Nagano Prefecture, but to be honest, I haven’t had many opportunities to see or touch it. In this museum you will not only learn about the different types of obsidian and how they are used, but you will also be able to touch and cut obsidian.

 

Access, parking and entrance fees for the Obsidian Experience Museum

 
Access It takes 3 hours to reach the Museum by car from Tokyo by highway. It is 45 minutes from the Suwa Minami interchange and 50 minutes from the Saku Nakasato interchange.
Entrance fee Adults 300 yen, children 100 yen
Map
Opening hours 9am-4:30pm
Parking Available (free of charge)

 

 

Sights in the area

Right in front of the Kokuyoseki Taiken Museum (Obsidian Experience Museum) is the Blanche Takayama ski resort.

 

Carving Obsidian Gemstones to Make Arrowhead-shaped Keyrings
Have you ever seen an obsidian gemstone? Obsidian ("黒曜石" in Japanese) is, as the name suggests, a "black, shiny stone". Obsidian was used as a stone ...

 

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