Evolution of the Sanbagawa and Shimanto high-pressure belts in SW Japan: Insights from K-Ar (Ar-Ar) geochronology

Tetsumaru Itaya, Tatsuki Tsujimori, Juhn G. Liou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


The Sanbagawa belt sensu lato in Japan is one of the world's classical high-pressure (HP) metamorphic belts and has long been considered to be a coherent HP belt of the Cretaceous age. However, recent progress in detrital zircon geochronology together with the accumulation of abundant phengites K-Ar (Ar-Ar) ages revealed that the belt is comprised of two petrotectonic belts-Sanbagawa sensu stricto HP belt and Shimanto HP belt. These two belts have distinctly different ages of peak metamorphism and different P-T conditions of metamorphism. The Sanbagawa schists sensu stricto were metamorphosed in the conditions of the pumpellyite-actinolite facies through the epidote-blueschist to epidote-amphibolite facies and up to the eclogite facies during a prograde stage in a subduction zone at 120-115. Ma. Phengite K-Ar geochronology revealed that the subsequent exhumation after the peak metamorphism took placed in a manner that the higher-grade rocks exhumed more rapidly in comparison with the lower-grade rocks; this is supported by a positive correlation between age and apparent metamorphic gradient that have formed during the post-metamorphic peak hydration/recrystallization. Moreover, the schists have experienced intense ductile deformation and long-term exhumation; it took longer than 31. m.y. to reset the phengite K-Ar system. In contrast, the Shimanto HP schists were metamorphosed in the epidote-blueschist/greenschist transitional facies to the epidote-amphibolite facies and have experienced a short-term deformation for less than 13. m.y. This short deformation formed a negative correlation between K-Ar age and apparent metamorphic gradient. These two contrasting age-temperature relationships suggest different exhumation processes between the two HP belts, most likely due to a change in subducting oceanic plates in the Cretaceous along the paleo-Japanese convergent margin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1075-1090
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Asian Earth Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Nov 11
Externally publishedYes


  • Argon depletion
  • Exhumation process
  • Phengite K-Ar ages
  • Sanbagawa metamorphic belt
  • Shimanto metamorphic belt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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