Volcanoes in Japan   火山

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A view of Mt Fuji from Mt Takao

Another view of the slopes of Mt Usu.

Hakone Onsen

A hot spring, or onsen, in Hakone

Several hiking trails allow you great views of the mighty Mt Aso

A Country on Fire

90% of volcanoes are found along tectonic plates, and Japan has a record number of them. Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, there are 110 active volcanoes in Japan, some, like Mount Fuji, famous worldwide.

Legend has it that the Japanese islands were created by the couple Izanami and Izanagi and their heavenly spear, but it is more likely that plate movement about 15 million years is the cause. The Japanese landscape is naturally conducive to the formation of volcanoes, as it is located where four tectonic plates meet.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) lists 110 active volcanoes, including 47 likely to awaken in less than a century. To be considered active, a active volcano must have experienced at least one eruption in the last 10,000 years. The JMA closely monitors their activities and releases warning bulletins in case of unusual phenomena. Five alert levels exist, the highest being, of course, evacuation of a premises due to an impending eruption. Beyond the population living in the area, there are also travelers and many hikers that need warning. This is why a new warning system used since 2015 alerts people by phone or loudspeaker five minutes before an eruption. When this happens, it is important to remain calm, follow the instructions of the local authorities, and communicate your position or that of your group to your country's embassy as soon as possible. 

Famous volcanoes

On the island of Honshu, Mount Fuji or Fujisan is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. A symbol of Japan, popular among Japanese authors and illustrators alike, it is also popular with hikers. Each year, thousands of visitors flock to climb the stations leading to the summit, at an altitude of 3776 meters. Seemingly peaceful, it is difficult to imagine that one day it could erupt. During its last eruption in 1707, slag and volcanic ash spread as far as Tokyo, about 100 km away.

On the island of Kyushu, the largest caldera in activity in the world (with a diameter of 25km), draws curious crowds. Mount Aso most recently erupted in September 2015. Since then, the alert is maintained at level 2, which strictly prohibits access to the crater. Gas emanation and the risk of projectiles have led the authorities to build concrete bunkers to protect visitors.

Back on the island of Honshu, Mount Hakone was carefully monitored in spring 2015. It is particularly popular for the view it offers of the neighboring Mount Fuji. You can also sample the local specialty while you're there: black eggs boiled in sulphurous pools.

Sakurajima, facing the city of Kagoshima, smokes constantly and often acts up: the city's sidewalks are covered with a thin layer of ash 365 days a year.

If the relief volcanoes leads to beautiful hiking trails, volcanic activity has in turn led to the development of the famous Japanese onsen. More than 3,000 hot springs can be found throughout the country. Each has its own properties and benefits. Baths can be separate or mixed sex, interior or along a river or lake, full bath, or just for feet... Choice abounds for visitors looking for a relaxing time. The onsen are also key to the economic and tourism success of some more remote areas. It may be one reason why volcanoes have been revered since time immemorial...

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