Articles

(No.19) From Interest to Passion and Finally to Occupation

Dr. Michiaki Bunno is an old friend. His family heritage is as a Shinto flute court musician; this ancient Asian flute has multiple bodies. He and his ancestors have held the honor for more than 1000 years, but even so, he and his family are relative newcomers, according to Mr. Tadamaro Ohno, also an ancient court musician family member. His family name, Bunno, is rare, because 400 years ago, one of his ancestors changed from the more common family name Toyohara. Changing the family name to a single Kanji was popular at the time.

When Dr. Bunno was in elementary school, his science teacher led him on field trips to collect minerals, which piqued his instinctive curiosity, leading to a university major, doctoral thesis and career as a mineralogical researcher. This meant he had to forsake the family job of court musician, which later caused him some concern. Mineralogical research covers a wide field, but his specific interest was mineralogical field studies and findings. His last official position was Director of the Geological Museum of Geological Survey of Japan at Tsukuba until his retirement in 2003.

A "mineral" is simply defined as a crystal found in nature. There are more than 4000 mineral species in the world, and more than 1000 in Japan. In fact, the discovery of several species has been attributed to Dr. Bunno himself. During his career, he personally collected thousands of minerals, and he has donated more than 3500 samples to the Chinese Geological Museum.

The story of these donations began when he visited China for research to identify the ancient pigment source of the cinnabar used in Japan. Chats with Chinese researchers revealed that the Chinese museum had no Japanese mineral samples. As he had been pondering a home for his 50-year collection, he proposed to donate it. His proposal was well received by the museum director, arrangements were made, and a ceremony feting the Bunno Collection was held September 22, 2006. In the year before this ceremony, Dr. Bunno often visited Beijing to rearrange his samples to convey more informative meanings. The trips were often at his own expense.

I learned of his voluntary activities and was much impressed. To let others know what he had done, I planned a Geological Observation trip to coincide with the ceremony. Luckily, Ricoh accepted my plan and Nippon Yusen later signed on to support the trip. The Chinese Geological Museum also assisted this activity by giving me valuable location data guide services during the trip. More than forty members, including eight from Japan, participated.

Photo 1a is a marble mining site at Zhoukoudian, in the suburbs of Beijing. The power shovel at the right-of the photo testifies to the size of the site. Marble is metamorphic rock transformed from limestone by heat. Zhoukoudian is well known because of Peking Man, but before his discovery, it had been known as a site for good marble since the Qing Dynasty, more than 2000 years ago. This marble was used in many historical buildings, including the largest carving in the Forbidden City (Photo 1b), the largest columns of Kong's Shrine at Qufu, Shandon province. Today, the marble is exported to Japan. Photo 2 shows a discovery of beautiful quartz crystal in the middle of a marble block. This specimen is rare because of the water bubble inside, which was noticed by one of the Japanese visitors. Marble is crystallized limestone, comprising calcium carbonate, CaCO 3. Quartz crystal, on the other hand, is made of silicon oxide, SiO 2; it is uncommon for a silicate crystal to coexist in the middle of a large body of calcium carbonate. This is a good exercise to explain the mechanism of crystal growth. The person who noticed it was rightfully proud.

Photo of a marble excavation site (Zhoukoudian)
Fig. 1(a)

Photo of the famous marble carving in the Forbidden City
Fig. 1(b)

The left photo shows the mining site of marble blocks on which one of the most famous carving in the Forbidden City was curved (right).

Photo of a crystal in the marble block
Fig. 2
A single quartz crystal found in the marble block mined from Zhoukoudian. The crystal has clear cusps on both ends, which is about one centimeter apart, and has a water inclusion within the crystal which is not clearly visible in this photo. The photo was taken by Dr. Bunno.

For many, a hobby starts merely with interest. It may start with a surprise discovery, followed by more detailed information and, perhaps, result in a certain amount of fame and respect. This is much more likely if the object in question is beautiful. In this context, a beautiful yet hard (not soft) mineral is called a gem. With Dr. Bunno, this process repeated itself splendidly, and became his occupation. Deep knowledge of an object engenders passion and love.

The current educational system is often criticized as making knowledge acquisition a geeky pursuit. In such an environment, a child will shy away from the pursuit of knowledge. Conversely, if the pursuit of knowledge is esteemed and considered trendy, the child will proudly give chase. Students begin to hate science in the late elementary years, and ultimately lose interest. It is lamentable that Japan's current educational system has helped discourage interest in nature. Preservation of the natural environment should start with the cultivation of interest toward nature in the young.

Most people start their professional careers after receiving final diplomas, whether high school, university, or advanced degrees. As professionals, everyone tries hard to brush up their knowledge. Without deep knowledge and passion, survival in the job is unlikely. Knowledge and passion equate to the same thing.

The purpose of the current field excursion was to shine light on the knowledge of nature. This basic knowledge may increase interest in and love of nature and, one hopes, stimulate scientific interest. Ricoh manufactures copiers and printers, which ultimately encourage customers to use more paper. It takes about one kilo calorie of energy to manufacture a typical A4 size sheet of paper. This may seem small in our individual lives, but when considered on a worldwide scale, it is anything but trivial. Users and those employed by manufacturers alike must be vigilant.

Dr. Bunno has found new joy as well. His son Takeaki Bunno has carried on the family tradition in traditional music. His daughter Asumi has also learned ancient music. She organized the Japanese and Western music instrument group and is a key playing member. She has pursued this separate path because court musicians are traditionally male.

(Ej, 2006.10)

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