A dense nationwide seismic network recently constructed in Japan has been yielding large volumes of high-quality data that have made it possible to investigate the seismic structure in the Japanese subduction zone with unprecedented resolution. We introduce a precise configuration of the Philippine Sea and Pacific plates subducting beneath the Japanese Islands, which was recently obtained by seismic tomographic imaging, precise earthquake hypocenter determinations, and focal mechanism studies. Seismic tomographic studies show that the Philippine Sea plate subducting beneath southwest Japan is continuous throughout the entire region, from Kanto to Kyushu, without disruption or splitting even beneath the area north of the Izu Peninsula. The estimated geometry of the subducted Pacific and Philippine Sea slabs shows a broad contact zone between the two slabs located directly beneath the Kanto plain. It further shows the wavy configuration of the Philippine Sea slab subducting beneath the entire region of southwestern Japan. Contact between the Philippine Sea plate and the Pacific plate causes anomalously deep interplate and intraslab earthquake activity in Kanto. Moreover, the interplate coupling coefficient estimated from repeating earthquake data shows a distinct change across the northeastern edge of this slab contact zone, suggesting that the overlying plate controls large-scale interplate coupling. High-resolution studies of spatial variations of intraslab seismicity and the seismic velocity structure of the slab crust strongly support the dehydration embrittlement hypothesis for the generation of intraslab earthquakes.
Water is known to play important roles in earthquake generation and volcanic activity. Consequently, the presence of water and its heterogeneous distribution in subduction zones may contribute to the variability of subduction seismicity and arc magmatism. In this study, we infer water distribution, including aqueous fluids and hydrous minerals, based on the seismic tomography beneath Japan, and discuss subduction processes in terms of water circulation in subduction zones. Two distinct oceanic plates, the Pacific plate and Philippine Sea plate, are subducting beneath Japan. These plates have quite different characteristics. The Pacific plate is old (∼130 Ma) and is subducting beneath northeast Japan as rapidly as 10 cm/year. In contrast, the Philippine Sea plate is relatively young (∼20-50 Ma) and is subducting at ∼3-5 cm/year beneath southwest Japan. The subducting old Pacific plate results in cold environments beneath northeast Japan, whereas the thermal structure beneath southwest Japan is relatively warm as a result of the young Philippine Sea plate subduction. Most water is released by eclogite transformation in the subducting oceanic crust, and the expelled water infiltrates into the mantle wedge, forming hydrous minerals such as serpentine and chlorite. The seismic tomography beneath northeast Japan shows that eclogite transformation occurs at depths of ∼80-100 km, and above these depths, a low-velocity anomaly and high Vp/Vs are detected in the mantle wedge. In southwest Japan, eclogite transformation occurs at much shallower depths (50-60 km) due to a warm subduction geotherm. The down-dip limit of interplate seismicity is likely to be controlled by a brittle-ductile transition in southwest Japan, whereas such a limit beneath northeast Japan coincides with the low-velocity anomaly at depths of 60-70 km, suggesting that the presence of serpentine inhibits earthquake activity at the plate interface. The double plane of intraplate seismicity is probably caused by dehydration of eclogite forming reactions in the upper plane and serpentine/chlorite dehydration in the lower plane, although seismic activity is absent at the mantle wedge where water is released by serpentine breakdown. Low-frequency tremors above the Philippine Sea plate are mostly located at the interface between island arc Moho and subducting plate surface. Abundant aqueous fluids in this region due to permeability contrasts may trigger low-frequency tremors. A slab parallel low-velocity zone beneath northeast Japan is interpreted as a melt-filled upwelling flow in the mantle wedge. Such an anomaly is not detected in southwest Japan, and slab melting of the subducting Philippine Sea plate is probably the source of the arc magmatism in this region.
Cenozoic western Pacific is characterized by numerous subduction volcanisms, opening of back arc basins, and within-plate volcanisms in backarc regions. These phenomena suggest that thermal disturbances induced by mantle flow caused mantle melting and eruption of magmas in back-arc regions, although diverse modes have been proposed for the mantle condition. To constrain the origin of the magmatism, it is important to clarify both the geodynamics and physicochemical conditions of the mantle in the arc-back arc system. Cenozoic back-arc volcanisms and tectonics in northern Kyushu are key objectives. This paper focuses on the dynamics of the upper mantle in relation to the tectonics of the area. Cenozoic volcanism of the northern Kyushu district is characterized by eruptions of a number of alkaline volcanisms. This volcanic province extends some one hundred kilometers along the Japan Sea coast and includes the Chugoku area. Although the volcanism has been regarded as a large single volcanic province, the northern Kyushu activity is distinguishable from that in Chugoku by geochemical characteristics. Cenozoic basalt volcanism in northern Kyushu occurred mainly in the Tertiary sedimentary basins, which is common to Cenozoic volcanism in the Japan Sea Basin. The sedimentary basin deposits underwent intensive folding with extensive inversion tectonics occurring mainly around the end of Miocene. Studies on dykes and thrust faults also indicate a compressional stress field dominated in northwestern Kyushu during the late Miocene. Initiation of the basaltic activity took place in Kita-Matsuura area and expanded outwards. Basaltic rocks from the Kita-Matsuura are mostly hypersthene-normative and sub-alkalic, whereas rocks from peripheries, such as North Kyushu and Goto Islands, are predominantly less normative-hypersthene and thus are alkalic. From spatial and temporal variations and genetic conditions of basalt magmas, a most plausible source was a small-scale mantle diapir with a potential temperature of more than 1400°C. Combined with an inversion tectonic background after the Japan Sea opening event, the origin of the back-arc magmatism was unrelated to large-scale mantle upwelling. Fluid-fluxed melting of the mantle is not supported by the chemistry. My proposal is active upwelling of a small-scale mantle diapir, probably from the depth of stagnant slab or mantle transition zone.
The first attempt to make a crustal-scale cross-section of a trench-arc-backarc sea system has been successfully accomplished from the Nankai trough to the northern margin of the Yamato basin across Southwest Japan, using three seismic profiles: Nankai trough to Japan Sea coast (Ito et al., 2009), Oki trough (Tanaka and Ogusa, 1981), and Yamato basin (Sato et al., 2006). The section contains much new information that will be useful for research on the structural development of the Japanese island arc. The highlight of the information is the substantial difference in the structure between the Outer and the Inner zones. The Outer zone is constructed mainly by N-dipping accretionary complexes in its upper crust with a poorly developed lower crust. On the contrary, the Inner zone exhibits predominantly horizontal structures in its upper crust, beneath which thick horizontal lower crustal laminations occur as in the continental lower crust. Furthermore a 10-km-thick lens-shaped olivine-pyroxene cumulate body underlies the lower crust. The N-dipping Median Tectonic Line juxtaposes two substantially different zones from the upper to lower crusts The section, however, has the following serious defects caused by the poor specifications of the seismic profilings used here: (1) Shallow structures (<about several km) are poorly imaged, which makes it difficult to interpret geological structures. (2) Seismic images beneath the on-and-offshore zones of the Japan Sea coast are missing, which also makes it difficult to understand the rifting process associated with the opening of the Japan Sea. Thus, a new crustal-scale cross-section that is free from these defects is necessary. Fortunately, both the theory and the techniques of seismic profiling have advanced tremendously recently. This situation enables us to conduct seismic profiling along a long seismic line simultaneously on both land and sea (so-called “integrated land-and-sea seismic profiling”), and to provide a new section. The new section is expected to replace the former one soon.
Hitachi metamorphic rocks located in the southern part of the Abukuma Mountains, Northeast Japan, distinctively contain meta-volcanic rocks and meta/sheared granitoids. The igneous ages of meta-granite and meta-porphyry from the Hitachi metamorphic rocks were determined by the SHRIMP zircon method. In this paper, we describe occurrence, petrography, and petrochemical characteristics of these studied rocks. Meta-porphyry, with an igneous age of 506 Ma, intrudes into the meta-volcanic rocks of the Akazawa Formation of the Hitachi metamorphic rocks and has a micrographic texture and a spherulitic texture of an igneous origin. Previous studies have already reported an igneous age of 491 Ma for meta/sheared granitoids using the SHRIMP zircon method. Cambrian meta/sheared granitoid samples occur widely as a granitic body in the northeastern part of the Hitachi metamorphic rocks. (A) Meta-granite of the same age (498 Ma) as the sample used for the above dating is found as boulders in meta-conglomerates. The meta-conglomerate, which is found in the Daioin Formation of the Hitachi metamorphic rocks, lies unconformably on a Cambrian meta-granite body. Both meta-volcanic rocks and meta/sheared granitoids have chemical characteristics commonly associated with island arc volcanism. As such, the Akazawa Formation is likely to have originated in the Cambrian era, although we have no SHRIMP age for meta-volcanic rocks of the Akazawa Formation.
The Japanese Islands have grown through the formation of igneous rocks and accretionary prism caused by subduction of oceanic plates. However, the timing of the initiation of the subduction is not well defined. The South Kitakami Belt (SKB) in NE Japan is the best field to solve this problem. Here, basement igneous rocks are covered by successions of Ordovician to Early Cretaceous beds (450-100 Ma). We obtained LA-ICP-MS U-Pb zircon ages from the following localities. Along the Yakushigawa-Valley section in the northeastern part of the SKB, we examined the ages of (1) trondhjemite of the Kagura Complex of basement igneous rocks, (2) felsic tuff of the Koguro Formation conformably covering the Kagura Complex, and (3) Yakushigawa Formation covering the Koguro Formation and lying under the Silurian Odagoe Formation. In the Ohasama area in the northwestern part of the SKB, we examined the age of (4) Nameirizawa Formation, which probably lies below the Silurian Orikabetoge Formation. Moreover, we examined the ages of four samples from the Hikami Granite body in the central part of the SKB. The ages of trondhjemite (08331-5: 466±6 Ma) of the Kagura Complex and felsic tuff (08331-4b: 457±10 Ma) of the Koguro Formation indicate that the subduction of an oceanic plate had already started at 466 Ma, and that the Koguro Formation is the oldest age-known formation of the SKB. The tuffaceous sandstone of the Yakushigawa Formation (08331-3) has detrital zircons with the youngest age cluster of around 425 Ma, and is probably a Silurian formation. The tuffaceous sandstone of the Nameirizawa Formation (08331-9) has detrital zircons with the youngest age cluster of around 430 Ma. The formation is probably a Silurian formation and is correlated with the Yakushigawa Formation. Precise ages of around 412 Ma were obtained from the Hikamiyama body of the Hikami Granitic Rocks (08330-1,-3,-4), clearly suggesting that at least some parts of the body are not pre-Silurian basement.
The Hitoegane Formation, with the Middle Ordovician conodont, in the Hida marginal belt, Southwest Japan, represents the oldest sedimentary unit in Japan. In order to date the lowest part of the formation, U-Pb age of igneous zircon from tuff beds was measured by LA-ICP-MS. A felsic tuff bed from the lower part of the Hitoegane Fm was newly dated 472 Ma (latest Early Ordovician) that marks the oldest age for sedimentary unit hitherto reported from Japan. This result suggests that the basement of proto-Japan was probably older than the Ordovician. The Iwatsubodani Formation, an apparently underlying unit below the Hitoegane Fm, however, yielded U-Pb zircon age of 280 Ma (Early Permian). Thus this unit is too young to be the sedimentary basement of the Hitoegane Fm. Newly added also were some pieces of information on the U-Pb ages and stratigraphy of the Paleozoic-Mesozoic sedimentary units of the Hida marginal belt.
This paper examines the early stage of the geotectonic history of the Japanese Islands on the basis of finding hydrothermal jadeitite including zircons of ca. 520 Ma in serpentinite mélange of the Itoigawa-Omi area of the Hida-Gaien belt, Central Japan. Hydrothermal jadeitite contains euhedral jadeite in natrolite veins and patches, and consists of jadeite-albite and jadeite-natrolite without quartz. These minerals were crystallized from an aqueous fluid phase at the low-pressure and high-temperature side of the reaction boundary of albite = jadeite + quartz in the system NaAlSiO4-SiO2-H2O. The occurrence of rounded relict hornblende mantled by omphacite rimmed by fine-grained aggregates of jadeite in the matrix of jadeite and albite suggests a pervasive hydrothermal fluid flow, through which metabasite was extensively replaced by jadeitite. This rather high-temperature hydrothermal activity of ca. 520 Ma did not occur in an ordinary subduction zone but in a newly-formed mantle wedge suffering severe hydration from a subducting slab. Recently accumulated U-Pb ages of zircon of ca. 450-500 Ma from paleozoic sediments and granitic rocks of the Hida-Gaien belt were due to initiation of subduction followed by subduction zone magmatism. Protolith of serpentinite in the Hida-Gaien belt includes highly depleted harzburgite, thus requiring tectonic setting of a high-temperature-rift zone rather than a low-temperature-slow spreading ridge. Subduction was initiated at ca. 520 Ma along the boundary between low-density harzburgitic rift zone peridotite and lherzolitic spreading ridge peridotite with a slightly higher density, resulting in the common occurrence of harzburgitic serpentinite in the oldest part of the accretionary complex of Southwest Japan. An area including the Japanese Islands was born around the Yangtze block by the breaking up of the Rodinia supercontinent, because the oldest K-Ar age of biotite actinolit rock of 672 Ma (Matsumoto et al., 1981) and the subduction initiation of ca. 520 Ma are in accord with the paleogeographic history of the Yangtze block, and because ca. 300 Ma Renge schists of the Hida-Gaien belt did not suffer the ca. 280-200 Ma collision-type metamorphism of the Hida metamorphic belt that is an eastern extension of the suture between the Sino-Korea and Yangtze blocks.
The Japanese islands were formed during a long-sustained active Pacific-type orogen resulting from subduction, oceanward-accretion, and landward-erosion, which began in the early-Paleozoic. The earlier stage of the accretion of oceanic and continental materials took place between 500-300 Ma, reflecting the convergence of two or more paleo-Pacific plates and the stable, non-subducted Middle and Late Proterozoic continental lithosphere. In Japanese Paleozoic geo-tectonic units, two different high-pressure metamorphic rocks with the Pacific-type protoliths are associated with serpentinite bodies of Early Paleozoic Oeyama ophiolite: blueschist-facies pelitic and mafic schists with phengite K-Ar ages of 350-280 Ma (Renge) and high-pressure epidote-amphibolite-facies amphibolite and pelitic schist with 480-400 Ma hornblende and phengite K-Ar age (Kitomyo-Fuko Pass). The Early Paleozoic Kitomyo-Fuko Pass high-pressure metamorphic rocks provide a petrotectonic constraint on the earliest subduction event in the Japanese orogen. The presence of Middle to Late Paleozoic Renge lawsonite-blueschist and glaucophane-eclogite provides evidence of a cold geotherm in the paleo-subduction zone. Metamorphic and geochronologic data provide important constraints on tectonic development during the earliest stages of orogenic growth associated with the subduction of the paleo-Pacific oceanic plates. The lack of Paleozoic batholith belt and fore-arc sediments coeval with either Renge or Kitomyo-Fuko Pass metamorphism and the presence of blueschist-facies metamorphosed fore-arc ophiolititic materials (fragments of the Oeyama ophiolite) in the Renge metamorphic rocks suggest that a significant landward subduction erosion has occurred since early-Paleozoic time; the eroded material must have been recycled back into the mantle during subduction of the paleo-pacific plate. Thus, the early history of subduction-related orogenesis—after the dramatic tectonic conversion from a passive to active convergent margin—in the Japanese islands is comparable to the modern island arc system occurring worldwide. To further our understanding of the continuous paleo-subduction record in the Japanese Paleozoic geotectonic units, a more detailed and comprehensive approach to geology, petrology, and geochronology of high-pressure metamorphic rocks and associated rocks is required than that documented in previous studies.
The Sanbagawa metamorphic belt in SW Japan was previously considered to extend in the E-W direction from the Kanto Mountains to Kyushu Island, a distance > 800 km. However, Aoki et al. (2007) recently demonstrated that protoliths of metamorphic rocks in the Oboke area of the belt in central Shikoku accumulated at the trench after ca. 90-80 Ma. Furthermore, Aoki et al. (2008) showed that these rocks suffered blueschist metamorphism at 66-61 Ma, which differs from the timing of the Sanbagawa metamorphism. Thus, these results show that the Sanbagawa belt in Shikoku is a composite metamorphic belt. We, therefore, redefine the traditional Sanbagawa belt; the structurally upper part is the Sanbagawa metamorphic belt (sensu stricto). It formed as an accretionary complex at ca. 140-130 Ma and subsequently experienced BS-EC facies metamorphism at ca. 120-110 Ma (Okamoto et al., 2004). By contrast, the structurally lower segment termed the Shimanto BS facies metamorphic belt, formed as an accretionary complex after ca. 90-80 Ma and experienced peak metamorphism at ca. 60 Ma. Our observations have important implications for the lateral extension of these two metamorphic belts in SW Japan. The accretionary ages of the traditional Sanbagawa belt in the Kanto Mountains are younger than the Sanbagawa peak metamorphic age (Tsutsumi et al., 2009), clearly indicating that the entire region of Kanto Mountains Sanbagawa must belong to the Shimanto metamorphic belt. The same timing relationships were also found for the Sanbagawa belt on Kii Peninsula (Otoh et al., 2010). These results, therefore, indicate that the Shimanto metamorphic belt is exposed in Shikoku, Kii, and Kanto, thus the spatial distribution of Sanbagawa belt (ss) is less than half of its previous extent. The metamorphic grade of the Kanto Mountains in the Shimanto metamorphic belt ranges from pumpellyite-actinolite facies to epidote-amphibolite facies. Therefore, the higher-grade rocks of the Shimanto metamorphic rocks are exposed in the Kanto Mountains in comparison with Shikoku and Kii Peninsula. Hence, these two distinct BS-EA-EC (?) metamorphic belts are virtually equivalent in terms of spatial distribution, metamorphic range of grade, and facies series. Pacific-type orogenic belts typically comprise accretionary complex, high-P/T metamorphic belt, fore-arc sediments, and batholith belt landward from the trench (Maruyama et al., 1996). In SW Japan, the Sanbagawa belt (ss) is paired with the Ryoke low-P/T metamorphic belt and with the ca. 120-70 Ma Sanyo TTG batholith belt. Furthermore the related fore-arc basin may have developed penecontemporaneously with the Shimanto BS-EA orogeny, which is paired with the late Cretaceous to early Tertiary San-in TTG belt, which extending along the Japan Sea coast. In-between the intervening Izumi Group, a fore-arc basin deposit formed during the Campanian to Maastrichtian. Thus, these two groups of orogenic units, which formed during independent orogenies were both extensively modified during the opening of the Japan Sea ca. 20 Ma. The southward thrusting of the Ryoke and Cretaceous TTG belts over the Sanbagawa extended beyond the southern limit of the Sanbagawa, leading the up-down relationship of the Sanbagawa (ss) and the Ryoke belts.
We measured the 206Pb/238U age distribution of detrital zircons in five psammitic schist samples from the Sanbagawa Belt in east-central Shikoku and the western Kii Peninsula to constrain their depositional age. The age-distribution diagrams for the five psammitic schist samples all show that detrital zircons of 100 to 90 Ma are most abundant and the age of the youngest zircon in each sample is less than 80 Ma. Considering the age of the retrogressive metamorphism of these psammitic schists, ca. 80-60 Ma, the protoliths age of the psammitic schists is constrained to 75-70 Ma, correlative to the age of the sandstone of the Middle Shimanto Belt (Yanai, 1984). A similar age-distribution has already been reported for two psammitic schist samples from the Central Unit of the Sanbagawa Belt in the Kanto Mountains (Tsutsumi et al., 2009). Thus the Sanbagawa Belt is most widely occupied by metamorphic rocks originating from rocks of the Middle Shimanto Belt. We also measured the 206Pb/238U age distribution of detrital zircons in Turonian sandstone from the Northern Shimanto Belt in the central Kii Peninsula. The age-distribution diagram shows that detrital zircons of around 128 Ma are most abundant and the age of the youngest zircon in the sample is about 100 Ma. A similar age-distribution has already been reported from a psammitic schist sample from the Southern Unit of the Sanbagawa Belt in the Kanto Mountains, overlying the Central Unit (Tsutsumi et al., 2009). The protolith age is still younger than the metamorphic age of the eclogites in central Shikoku, ca. 120-110 Ma (Okamoto et al., 2004), which occupy the uppermost portion of the Sanbagawa Belt. Although some previous studies suggested that the Sanbagawa Belt consists of metamorphosed Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous accretionary complex, the present study shows that the belt is largely occupied by metamorphosed Late Cretaceous rocks: the Shimanto Metamorphic Rocks of Aoki et al. (2007). As a result, the Sanbagawa Belt consists of the following three units with different protolith ages: (1) Lower Unit of Shimanto Metamorphic Rocks with protoliths ages of 75-70 Ma and metamorphic ages of 70-60 Ma, (2) Upper Unit of Shimanto Metamorphic Rocks with protoliths ages of 95-85 Ma and metamorphic ages of 85-75 Ma, and (3) Sanbagawa Metamorphic Rocks (s.s.) with protoliths ages of Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous and metamorphic ages of 120-110 Ma. The protoliths of the Upper and Lower units of the Shimanto Metamorphic Rocks are most likely rocks of the Northern Shimanto and Middle Shimanto belts, respectively.
Studies on geologic structures including some deformation microstructures in both areas along the Median Tectonic Line (MTL) in western Shikoku and of the South Fossa Magna indicate that N-S trending horizontal compression tectonics prevailed in these areas during the earliest Middle Miocene (ca. 15 Ma). Also, a review of structural development in Nankai province indicates that similar compression tectonics prevailed during the periods from the Early to earliest Middle Miocene (ca. 20-15 Ma). These periods are nearly coeval with the timing of the Japan Sea opening. Although there is uncertainty about the reactivation of the MTL around this time, south-dipping normal faults were formed in the Sambagawa belt truncating the MTL to produce the Kuma basin (18-16 Ma), which were later reactivated as thrusts (Tobe and Hanayama thrusts), indicating inversion tectonics. In the South Fossa Magna region, not only a large amount of shortening—as much as 40-50%—was caused in the Momonoki Subgroup (earliest Middle Miocence, 16-15 Ma) by folding strata, but also the constituent quartz grains were moderately plastically deformed and microcracked followed by healing (i.e. healed microcracks), indicating deformation under brittle-ductile transition conditions (ca. 300°C) at ca. 15 Ma. Furthermore, slaty cleavage caused by pressure solution developed in the strata constituting the Oligocene-Early Miocene (>20 Ma) Southern Shimanto belt, and forearc sediments (18-15 Ma) as thick as 4000 m overlying these sediments with angular unconformity (e.g. Tanabe and Kumano Groups in the Kii peninsula) were also deformed by folding with a shortening ratio of 10-20%. All these onland geological facts in the forearc region indicate that the forearc region was in a regime of compression, while the back-arc region was in a regime of extension at the same time during the Japan Sea opening. Similar tectonics also occurred in Italy, where the Tyrrhenian Sea (back-arc basin) has opened since the Pliocene (5 Ma), while shortening tectonics shown by the development of fold and thrust belts and deep (>7 km) basins occurred at the same time in the forearc region. Although these concurrent back-arc extension and forearc shortening are difficult to interpret, they may be caused by ridge push force (i.e. gravity tectonics) after back-arc spreading commences so that extensional force is no longer sustained in the arc.
This paper proposes a new model for the evolution of geologic structures in forearcs concerning subduction erosion after tectonic accretion. The model was generated from a high-pressure (HP) metamorphic unit, in which the early history of frontal offscraping accretion is recorded, in the Kamuikotan Zone of central Hokkaido. It was transported from the trench to the interior of the subduction zone during a non-accretionary stage, and the process is regarded to be subduction erosion and subsequent underplating re-accretion at greater depths. This mode of material transport persuasively explains the common and abundant occurrences of terrigenous meta-clastic rocks in HP subduction complexes, in spite of common evidence that sediments had been scraped off at much shallower depths as seen in coeval non-metamorphic accretionary units. It is thus suggested that significant amounts of HP metasediments originated from tectonically eroded materials of the frontal accretionary complex, instead of rocks directly underplated from the subducted slab. Subduction erosion in Hokkaido occurred contemporaneously with the exhumation of a higher-grade HP unit with similar rates of vertical movement of opposite senses. It suggests that exhumation was a counter flow of subduction erosion: the higher-grade rocks were lifted up by the insertion and accumulation of tectonically eroded rocks at depths, and were unroofed by lateral extension of the oversteepened non-accretionary wedge. This model can also explain common flat-lying structures of accretionary and subduction complexes exposed on land. They originally had rather high-angle structures formed by lateral shortening during early accretionary stages, and then were tilted trench-ward by the removal of materials near the trench by subduction erosion and their underplating at rear-side portions during the subsequent non-accretionary stages.
A new historical review is presented on the progress of the geological sciences in Japan since the Meiji revolution in 1868. Geological knowledge, particularly studies of the geotectonic evolution and orogenic aspects, of the Japanese Islands has progressed through three distinct phases; (1) non-science stage, (2) colonial science stage, and (3) independent science stage, as modeled by Basalla (1967), who demonstrated a general pattern of transplanting cutting-edge scientific/technological knowledge from western Europe to the rest of the world. During the “non-science” stage from the 1860s to the 1890s, major geological aspects of the Japanese Islands, together with discoveries of unusual rocks, fossils etc., were initially described by foreign geologists (e.g. E. Naumann). In contrast, almost nothing was contributed by domestic geologists. During the “colonial science” stage, from the 1900s to the 1980s, research and education systems were transplanted effectively from western European countries. For example, applying the purely imported concept of geosyncline, the geotectonic history of the Japanese Islands was summarized for the first time by domestic geologists (e.g., Kobayashi, 1941; Minato et al., 1965 etc.). The almost unidirectional acceptance of plate tectonics also followed at this stage, with the exception of the rare but outstanding contribution of A. Miyashiro during the 1960s-1970s. During the “independent science” stage from the 1980s, various new ideas and original techniques in geology were proposed by Japanese geologists with lesser help from the western countries than before; i.e., practical criteria for identifying ancient accretionary complex, exhumation tectonic of ultrahigh to high-P/T metamorphic rocks, and subhorizontal growth framework of subduction-related orogens. Furthermore, in the first decade of the 21st century, the geological science in Japan entered stage of (4), “exporting science” with the introduction of new paradigms, such as the application of detrital zircon chronology to subduction-related orogens, which efficiently recognizes new geotectonic subdivisions and allows paleogeographical reconstruction with much higher resolution than before. These new paradigms (ideas, techniques) from Japan are now on sale for applying to the rest of the world.
Various characteristics of podiform chromitites, an enigmatic mantle rock member, are reviewed in this article. Chromitites are composed of chromian spinel, with the general formula (Mg, Fe2+)(Cr, Al, Fe3+)2O4, and silicates (mainly olivine). The Fe3+ content is generally very low, being less than 0.1 to all trivalent cations, in mantle chromian spinels. The Mg/(Mg + Fe2+) ratio (= Mg#) changes inversely with the Cr/(Cr + Al) ratio (= Cr#), which increases with an increase of degree of partial melting of mantle peridotites. The Cr# of chromian spinel is generally higher than 0.4 (generally 0.6 to 0.8) in podiform chromitites, varying widely from 0.1 to 0.9 in the mantle peridotite. The podiform chromitite forms pod-like bodies (dimensions of up to 1.5 km × 150 m for an individual pod) with a dunite envelope, totally set within mantle harzburgite. In well-preserved ophiolites, they occur in the uppermost mantle, especially in and beneath the Moho transition zone, which is dominated by dunite. The Cr# of chromian spinel is relatively low (0.4 to 0.6) around the Moho transition zone, and high (>0.6) at deeper levels in the mantle section. Chromitites are denser and less anisotropic in Vp than peridotites, and the Vp is 8.5 to 9 km/sec depending on the proportion of chromian spinel, and higher in the former than in the latter. The podiform chromitite has been interpreted to be one of melt/rock interaction products within the uppermost mantle harzburgite; hybridization of relatively Si-rich melt formed by the breakdown of orthopyroxenes of the wall harzburgite and subsequently supplied primitive melt cause oversaturation in chromian spinel, giving rise to formation of chromitite with a dunite envelope. The fractionated melt leaving high-Cr# podiform chromitite is possibly of arc-magma affinity. Chromitites with low-Cr# (0.4 to 0.6) chromian spinel can be in equilibrium with MORB. Recently found ultra-high pressure minerals, such as diamond, moissanite, Fe-silicides and Ni-Fe-Cr-C alloys, within chromian spinel of podiform chromitites make the genetical history of chromitites highly enigmatic. A new story, which incorporates the genesis and involvement of these highly reducing, ultra-high pressure minerals, is required.