Don’t be Scared of Japanese Volcanoes!

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(Photo by (c) KimonBerlin)

01_桜島の噴火と鹿児島の街並み

Here is a sightseeing spot. Suppose when you point your camera lens at the mountain, it suddenly erupts! So what would you do? Would you escape at the head, be petrified, leave a note for your family or take that opportunity and push the shutter button? In this case, I recommend you should take photos of the eruption.

If I knew nothing about the knowledge of the mountain named “Sakura-Jima”, (A link to the location) I must be petrified. However, people in this city of Kagoshima, the southern end of Kyushu, with population of approx. 600,000 just feel that “Ho-hum. It’s again and a bother to clean up volcanic ashes”. The reason why they remain calm is that this mountain has repeated explosive eruptions about one thousand times a year in average during this five years. And people’s behavior is not from force of habit. All kinds of updated technology always observe this volcano. In this way, climbing is prohibited in real dangerous volcanoes in Japan.

Just following the regulations enables you to continue a safe trip.

Anyway, why don’t you set down your tripod and shoot pictures of the elemental power?

Famous Volcano Mt. Aso and Big Caldera

 

 

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02_雄大な阿蘇のカルデラ

 

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(Photo by (c) Viento Office)

03_中岳火口

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(Photo by (c) asakawa kohji)

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The beautiful landscape is the green meadow surrounded by mountains. It is not a mere basin. This land form is one of the largest calderas in the world created by several great volcanic eruptions. The largest eruption was 90,000 years ago. It is said that pyroclastic flow covered half of Kyusu Island. The term of caldera refers to a collapse basin which is formed by volcanic eruption. They gradually decreases subterranean magma and causes largescale land sinking. However, continuous supply of magma has prompted uncountable eruptions. Mountains over there are the volcanoes upheaving in the center of the basin after the caldera collapse and they are called Mt. Aso (A link to the location).

The volcanic activities have continued all up until now and always carefully observed. However, when it is silent for a while, you can see the vent which has an emerald green crater lake sending up the volumes of water vapor. It has a tremendous impact on you.

If you can see the overwhelming volcanic vent, you are a lucky tourist. The reason is that this area sometimes becomes off limits to people as soon as the density of volcanic gas exceeds certain standards. Or all you can do is to take a far view of enormous smoke when it erupts. (See the image 4)

But then, this view of the big scale volcanic smoke beyond grass land must give you a good experience and memories of a trip. So I have a good news for you. This pastureland has many cows for meat whose beef steaks are excellently delicious.

 

Why does Japan have many volcanoes?

 

 

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(Photo by (c) Japan Meteorological Agency)

05_活火山の分布

Active volcanoes in Japan

 

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(Photo by (c) Japan Meteorological Agency)

06_日本近海のプレート

As you can see the image 5, there are unbelievably a lot of volcanoes. When many earth’s plates move into the mantle, friction heat melts peripheral earth crust into magma. In Japan, the total number of active volcanoes amounts to 110! Of those, 47 volcanoes require constant monitoring.

“I don’t want to go to Japan because I’ m so scared of this many volcanoes”. I think some feel like that and you have a point to some extent.

However, think! The total population in Japan is as many as over 120 million people. If this country were really too dangerous to live, why would so many people lead a daily life? Of course, Japanese people are also on guard for volcanoes while at the same time they has enjoyed the gifts of natural wonder.

 

 

Blessings of Volcanoes

 

 

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Public Domain

07_地熱エネルギーの活用

Perhaps surprisingly, Japan used to be a country which was blessed with many gold mines and accounted for considerable portion of output in gold, though the story was several hundred years ago. “The Travel of Marco Polo” in the 13th century describes Japan as “The Golden Country”. His saying was not altogether false.

Not only gold but also silver and copper abounded. All of these is actually the gifts from volcanoes. Although heavy metals are usually buried deep under the ground, they move upward with magma ascent to the earth’s surface nearby. This is why Japan was a resource-rich country. Unfortunately, terrestrial mineral resources have been almost depleted, but now attention is paid to the extraction of ocean bottom resources.

 

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(Photo by (c) Ashinari)

08_温泉

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09_温泉に入る猿たち

 

Today, it is hot springs that volcanoes endow Japan with. There are over 3,000 hot spring areas with accommodations almost anywhere in Japan. Hot springs act as hubs in spa towns and attract many tourists. These natural endowments can be defined as recreation areas as well as the resources supporting the domestic demand related industry.

 

In the future, great expectations are placed in commercial use of geothermal power generation. Using fossil fuels has a problem of carbon dioxide emission. As for nuclear power, it is probably impossible to build new plants due to the accident in Fukushima.

In these situations, much attention is paid to geothermal generation as a stable energy source in Japan depending on imports of petroleum. Looking at the map of volcanoes almost everywhere in this country, some of you are scared stiff. As optimistic my opinion is, if a great amount of heat drives turbines to create electricity, fossil energy may be not necessary. It means Japan is potentially resource-rich.

 

 

Birth of the New Island

 

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(Photo by (c) Japan Coast Guard)

10_西之島空撮

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(Photo by (c) Japan Coast Guard)

11_西之島拡大図

The dotted line region in black was an original Nishinoshima.

 

In November 2013, a submarine volcano erupted close to an uninhabited island named “Nishinoshima” (A link to the location) in the Pacific Ocean.

An upraised small island was recognized, but the same volcanic phenomenon often happen. And when activities stop, upheaved islands like this will fade out by wave erosion.

Contrary to our forecast, the eruption doesn’t stop. This new island has continued to extend and merged an original Nishinoshima into a huge one. For only two years, the total area of “new” Nishinoshima has now become ten times larger than that of the original. It is almost equal to 50 big baseball stadiums. For the time being, this volcano has no sins of ending its activities. I wonder how large it will extend.

In the future, human beings can inhabit the new land, and if so, I will work on the development of big resort facilities. Investors all over the world! Would you invest your funds in my dream project?

 

 

 

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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)

12_桜島

The volcano says “Your place is secure!”