Japanese Ibi River Waterfall Stones

 by Tom Elias

Gravel bars on the Ibi River, Honshu, Japan


Many of the nice Japanese waterfall and hut stones are from the Ibi River that begins in the mountains of Gifu prefecture and flows South through Mie prefecture where it merges with another river . In places, this river is broad and shallow with numerous gravel bars. Stones found here often have one or more light-colored veins of quartz or calcite. If oriented correctly, these stones can resemble a mountain with a waterfall. Unfortunately, the whitish colored veins often stop before they reach the bottom of the stone. Very few stones have veins running the entire length on one side of the stone to make a convincing waterfall. As a result, some stone dealers have the stone cut at the end of vein. This results in the suggestive waterfall reaching the bottom of the stone. Often the cut base is then worked to make it appear natural. These stones can be displayed in wood bases or in ceramic or metal trays. As with the popularity of hut stones, waterfall stones are especially appealing to those new to stone collecting. .



Two ibi River waterfall stones: left, a stone cut from a larger piece so the waterfall vein reaches the bottom; right, a natural uncut waterfall stone in a daiza.


There are several features of good waterfall stone. The shape and form of the stone should make a convincing mountain, bluff, or natural-appearing landscape for a water feature. The “water” should fall straight towards the ground and appear as a natural phenomenon. The waterfall should not appear to be flowing sideways along its course. Over time, flowing water will cut into the rock forming a channel. Thus, rocks with a slightly to deeply recessed mineral vein will make more convincing waterfalls than  quartz veins on the surface of stones. In nature, water flows down from its highest point on only one side of a mountain, but not from both sides of a watershed. Unfortunately, some nice waterfall stones have the mineral vein running through the rock so it can be seen on both sides. When looking at these stones, look first at the front of the rock, then look on the back to see if the same vein is present. A rock with a waterfall on both sides is less valuable and less convincing.

A completely natural stone that has not been altered is best. Consider all of the alternatives to displaying a stone, before making a basal cut to a stone to create a more natural looking waterfall stone. The very attractive stone below has a deep gorge near the top where the water originates, then falls sharply towards the ground. The mineral veins stops before it reaches the bottom of the stone. When displayed in a hand-carved wood base, the waterfall seems to disappear in the stone. However, when the stone is displayed in a deep tray with sand,  it can be positioned deep enough in the tray so the water appears to reach the ground.

The width of the waterfall stone can vary greatly. Some waterfall stone only have a thin thread-like waterfall, while others have narrow to broad waterways. It is also possible to have stones that resemble seasonal waterfall stones. A dry waterfall stones requires more imagination, but may be an indication of a more advanced level of stone appreciation.

A waterfall form less frequently encountered is a cascading stone where the water appears to be flowing over boulders in a declining river channel. In nature, these are seen in the higher elevations in mountains. Excellent cascading waterfall stones are rarer than those with sheer drop.




A beautiful Ibi River waterfall stone displayed in a diaza (left) and in a deep metal tray (right). This stone is 16 cm high but appears shorter when displayed in a deep tray so that the mineral vein appears to reach the base.



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