The shore of the Boso Peninsula provides the venue for Yasutaka Fukuda’s classes on creating “jewelry” from the sea.
It’s a fairly simple activity requiring basic materials--the main ones being clamshells, even those used after cooking. But the 44-year-old Fukuda takes the task seriously. And his method of making clamshell jewelry is being used to cheer up victims of last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
"Any sort of shell will do, as long as you feel it's the one for you," Fukuda says, at the Qkamura (pronounced "kyu-kamura") Tateyama hotel in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture.
He said durable, thick shells, like “hamaguri,” are the easiest to polish.
But along the shore, many other shells are available, including fanshells and conches.
"These treasures are all around us," Fukuda says.
The polishing involves three types of water sandpaper (a kind of waterproof sandpaper) of varying roughness.
The main action is moving the shell on the wet sandpaper, placed on a towel folded into thirds, for example.
"Work like you're reproducing the shell's journey from the ocean floor to the beach," Fukuda says, explaining the polishing procedure.
The 320-grit sandpaper is used for about five minutes.
"Adjust your strength as if you're grinding a daikon radish, and (polish) like waves coming and going on the ocean floor," Fukuda says.
Polishing with the 600-grit sandpaper is done in the same way, again for around five minutes. The grinding sound should disappear and the shell will feel smoother.
Thoroughly soaked 2000-grit sandpaper is used until the shell becomes soft.
"Be calm and don't press too hard,” Fukuda says. “(Polish) as if floating in waves lapping up on the beach."
The finishing touches consist of wiping the shell with a towel and polishing with the 600-grit sandpaper to remove any spots, switching every minute or so between the two tasks.
The entire job takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
"It's smooth and shiny, like a mirror," says local sixth-grade student Nana Okazaki, 11, who recently took one of Fukuda’s classes.
Dr. Hiroshi Komatsu, director of the Pearl Science Laboratory in Tokyo, said: "A shell can reflect light very well if you get rid of the countless cuts and unevenness on the surface. What makes them interesting is that each one has a unique color and pattern."
Fukuda is also involved in the Kaientai Project, which was started by professional surfer Yuri Saito, 32, of Kanagawa Prefecture. Under the project, shells are collected from around Japan for polishing by victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
So far, around 100 people have joined Kaientai Project events, including one in December that invited children from disaster-stricken Fukushima Prefecture to Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture.
"I can't go to the sea because it scares me, but polishing shells makes it fun," a female tsunami survivor said.
The Kaientai Project is still collecting shells. For more information about the project, such as where to send your shells, send an e-mail to: email@example.com.
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