Mike's Japan HTML version

10 Visit a Volcano
Japan sits on the Pacific Rim of Fire and owes its existence to volcanoes. They spew
out the stuff that Japan is made of. You can see them in the far-north island of
Hakkaido and at the very tip of the southern island of Kyushu.
The top picture is of Mount Unsen in Kyushu. It has a long history of eruptions. The
town of Shimabara, on its slopes, was destroyed in1792 with the loss of 15,000 lives.
More recently, in 1991, 43 people died in a pyroclastic flow (avalanche of superheated
gas and dust) that suddenly erupted and sped down the mountainside. Most were
newsmen and volcanologists. The town‟s population had previously been evacuated.
An impressive museum, in Shimabara, is built of land buried in that eruption and
preserves partially-buried houses. Other exhibits include videos of the pyroclastic
event, shot by newsmen as the gasses raced towards them. They died but their
cameras survived.
Kyushu has many active volcanoes. You will see them puffing out smoke and ash as
you travel around. Occasionally, you may be treated to a distant display of red-hot
lava. Don‟t expect to get close. As soon as volcanoes start to get really interesting,
you are not allowed to go anywhere near them … unless you are a newsman or
distinguished volcanologist.
One way round the problem it to take a trip in a site-seeing aircraft. Even then, you will
be severely restricted in how close you can get.