There is no language barrier when it comes to Yooperlite rocks.
That’s what Erik Rintamaki, the Newberry native who discovered Yooperlites, has learned. Rintamaki is currently in Tokyo, Japan for the 2019 Tokyo Mineral Show and has seen show guests react in amazement when his rocks light up.
Yooperlites, as he calls them, are a sodalite-rich syenite rock that Rintamaki made famous after discovering them on the shores of Lake Superior years ago. He has dazzled rockhounds across North America since then and earlier this year traveled to Canada to find the original source of Yooperlites.
Rintamaki’s dream job took another fascinating turn last week – he arrived in Tokyo on December 10 after dealer Satoshi Yui asked him to come to Japan for the show. Yui bought Yooperlite rocks from Rintamaki and sold them at the show; Rintamaki sold some UV flashlights and is seen somewhat as a celebrity.
“I am recognized quite a bit,” Rintamaki said. “Even from the airport to the show. I get my picture taken a lot! And sign many autographs.”
Like most people, the Japanese show attendees are amazed at his Yooperlite rocks.
“People’s eyes go wide and they get very excited,” Rintamaki said. “The excitement on their faces is incredible.”
His favorite guests are the children getting their first glimpse at the glowing rocks. “It’s like magic to them,” he said.
The Japanese love stones and minerals, he said. “But unlike in America, the Japanese believe more in the metaphysical aspect of stones and minerals,” Rintamaki said. “Yooperlites are a power stone in Japan. And they are very adamant about it.”
Rintamaki is making a real visit out of his trip to Japan – he’s mastering chopsticks, loving the ramen, exploring the many vending machines, and even visited Mt. Fuji.
It’s the trip of a lifetime, he said.
“Everyone is so nice. The city is so clean and I never once felt in danger, scared, or lost,” Rintamaki said. “[It’s] the nicest big city I have ever visited.”