It has been a long time since I actually worked on putting a tank together. Simply put, between going back and forth between Japan and home for school/work and eventually moving back to Japan for my new job-- I've been busy, and totally unable to put together the 3 months in 1 place needed for a layout. But, I've recently started back on one! And it's starting off with a real adventure!
For anyone who has looked at an ADA magazine, book or catalogue, you probably know these rocks:
These stones are called Hakkai-Seki
八海石, and it comes from Hakkai mountain in Niigata prefecture (yes, the same prefecture as the the ADA Headquarters and Gallery). It also happens to be where I call home now.
Now if you have ever looked into getting your hands on Hakkai seki, you know it is . . . near impossible. Even if you scour bonsai and aquarium stores throughout Tokyo, you simply will not find it . . . well, it would be extremely
rare, I've tried. At the last IAPLC, Jeff Senske also told me about some crazy adventures about getting the chance to pick from Amano's private stash (lucky bastard, but he's definitely earned it!).
Stories . . . involving huntind down and shipping Amano a rare $2000+ aerobics machine made only in the states . . . and stuff . . . wow Amano . . . that man is crazy . . .
. . . but I might be equally crazy.
Knowing the rarity of this stone, while arranging a tank shipment with ADA vender Seventh Heavens in Joetsu, I asked the shop owner on a whim-- is there anyway to get your hands on Hakkai stone? He gave me a laugh . . . a very long laugh . . . before we actually got down to talking. He smiled. I busted out a detailed map of niigata prefecture and he busted out a highlighter.
The next day I started the 2 hour drive on route 291 heading for Uonuma City and Hakkai Mountain, burning rubber at Japan's 46 MPH speed limit (which is about all my little "K-Car" can manage for a long period anyway). After a nice long drive, head banging to some tunes and taking in the beautiful scenery of Niigata's countryside (rice fields, rice fields and more rice fields-- that's what they're known for), I finally got to route 265. 265 heads up into the mountains and it gets more and more beautiful-- and it finally reaches a stretch where, according to my source "there is a small
chance of finding a few
nice Hakkai Seki."
As I drove up the winding road into the Hakkai mountain range, I reached what I thought must be the "secret stretch." Below, there was a fast flowing stream chock full of rocks that could be seen through the thick forest. I decided to park and hike down to it.
I watched my car disappear into the background as I descended through the brush and forest to reach the stream bed. Finally, I freed myself from the forest after climbing down a 3 meter stretch of sheer drop. I sprinted out of the brush and gawked at the stunning sight before me.
Now if only I was a better photographer!
To say the least, the scene before me was stunning. Hakkai Mountain's range rising into the distance, thick green forest, and the stream-- utterly stunning!
The water was crystal clear. If there were rocks to be had at the bottom, I could even see them from my the top. If it's rocks you wanted to see-- there were plenty! The place was full of inspiration for iwagumi, even if you weren't there specifically to collect rocks. I guess good rocks come from beautiful places though!
After running around like a maniac for awhile taking photos, I stripped down to my board shorts and reef walkers; with a bucket in one hand and a long net in the other, I ran off to enjoy an afternoon of swimming, netting Medaka (common grey Japanese Rice Killifish), and of course-- hunting for the rare hakkai seki!
After only 15 minutes, I found what looked to me, like a very good sign:
. . . though that one was way WAY too big for me to take. If anyone has a 100g tank, a ticket to Japan, and a forklift, tell me and I'll show you where it is. That rock will definitely still be there. I though, needed to go for smaller.
I hiked long and hard, searching the stream edge as well as diving into deeper ends of the stream to look at the stream bed (no mud, all rocks).
Finally, I put together what looked like a decent set of rocks. I picked out 3 that I wanted to take (really, I couldn't find much, and then few that looked nice-- they really are rare!) and prepared to take them home.
. . . this, was no
easy feat. My main rock was ~80 lbs, and it was a long hike back to the car! I had climbed down from my car at an angle and then doubled-back down the river to look for rocks, so it would be a 200 yard walk back to where I had descended from the forest, and then a longer hike back to the car!
. . . That was not the biggest problem? Remember how I mentioned there was a 3 meter drop between the forest and the bottom of the ravine? That was the easiest
point to get back to the forest. 3 meters is nothing for an average person to climb up or down, especially with roots and branches to hang onto with his hands.
. . . with his hands . . . you know, the hands I needed to use to life that 80 lbs rock with?
. . . hah . . . hah . . . hahaha . . . lol
. . . 3 hours of hiking and lifting the likes of which I never have (and never will again) experienced, I lifted the main stone into the trunk of my car, and howled a crazed cry of victory!~!
Now let's back track. Before I show you pictures of the prize, let me show you some other nice photos:
I love you Kuro-Neko delivery service! <3 Seventh Heavens sent me my new Do!Aqua 60x45x45 Cube Glass Aquarium, and its stand. Can you believe that in this country, you can pay the delivery man, in cash
-- and they will pay the store for you!? It's crazy! Oh the Japanese and their crazy system of trust . . . they're crazy . . . but I'm probably not one to talk.
There she is baby, all waiting for setup. This weekend I will go back to the shop and pickup a Solar II, some extra goodies to refit my ADA CO2 system for a standard Japanese large canister and timer, Aquasoil, and some other goodies I'll need to set this baby up properly. Seventh Heavens also arranged to get together all the plants I wanted. Gotta love Japanese service!
Anyway, without further ado, rock photos:
I'm not sure if this is the genuine Hakkai seki nor if it even if it deserves to be mentioned in the same breadth as the quality stones Amano has-- but I know these rocks are genuinely
from Hakkai-san, and that I worked my ass to find and bring them back! Them's also nice rocks.
Also, to me, an almost equally important topping on this cake, a bucket full of grit/rubble from the same stream bed as these rocks:
There's sure a mixed bag of rubble in there, but imo rubble genuinely from the location of the rocks you use is incredibly valuable in putting the mid-ground of a tank together. This is a perk that comes with rock hunting as opposed to rock purchasing (although you can skip the ridiculous hike and life-risking stupidity by just shelling out the money for those manten stones).
You can also find some nice stuff in the rubble too sometimes:
Will be setting her up this weekend! Please stay tuned!
Oh, and anyone who is planning to come up here for IAPLC, shoot me a contact if you please.