There are no fewer than 110 active volcanoes in Japan, quite a number considering the country’s relatively small size. Although volcanoes can be extremely dangerous and are historically responsible for many deaths and damage to land, the existence of these mountains has also granted Japan many natural hot springs and some gorgeous scenery enjoyed by hikers, thrill seekers, and backpackers. Here is a list of six amazing volcanoes in Japan.
1. Mt. Mihara
Mt. Mihara's crater. Photo by Ippukucho on Wikimedia CommonsMt. Mihara is in the centre of Izu Oshima island, which is considered part of Tokyo but closer to Chiba and Kanagawa. It was revered as holy in ancient times and remains a fascinating sightseeing spot today. It is 758 metres high.
What makes Mt. Mihara particularly interesting is that for a while it was a popular place for people to commit suicide. It began when a student called Kiyoko Matsumoto leapt to her death in 1933 after suffering some unrequited love. After her suicide, 944 people jumped into the volcano within just one year. Now, it’s illegal to purchase a one-way ticket to the island and there is increased security in the hopes of stopping any more deaths.
Mt. Mihara erupts around every 30-40 years and the mountain’s shape is constantly changing because of this. If you’re up for a hike, you can reach the top of Mt. Mihara and look inside the crater. It is quite morbid standing there knowing that almost a thousand people have stood in the same spot ready to take their own lives.
2. Mt. Fuji
Mt Fuji. Photo by n-k on PixabayMt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan and the inspiration for many ancient and modern works of art. It is located on the border of Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures and stands at a proud 3776 metres high.
Mt. Fuji hasn’t erupted since 1707, and it is hoped that it doesn’t erupt again as the effects would be devastating on a large part of Japan, including Tokyo. Right now, it seems to be safe and many hikers enjoy climbing up this beautiful mountain in the summer season.
You can climb Mt. Fuji between early July and early September, and there are many places where you can see gorgeous views of Japan’s holy mountain. Hakone, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, and even Tokyo are places from which you can easily spot Mt. Fuji.
Sakurajima. Photo by Kimon Berlin on FlickrSakurajima is 1117 metres high and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the country. Sakurajima, which is located in Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Kyushu, erupts daily with persistent activity, sometimes as often as just four hours between eruptions. Kagoshima city is just 8km from this dangerous mountain which frequently spews ash onto the city.
If you’d like to visit Sakurajima, you can get there by getting the Sakurajima ferry to Kagoshima Bay. There are a few things to do around there including a hot spring footbath, an information centre, and some hiking trails. You can also rent a bicycle or a car.
4. Mt. Zao
Mt. Zao. Photo by Jacob Ehnmark on FlickrZao is a group of volcanoes at 1841 metres high located between Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures. Although it is considered an active volcano, Mt. Zao last erupted in 1940 and is considered to be fairly safe in terms of volcanic activity. Whether you visit in the summer or winter, you’re sure to find something that will interest you.
The nearby Zao Onsen on the Yamagata side is great to visit for the town’s hot springs. In summer, you can explore the area’s lush nature while hiking, and in winter, you can go skiing or try to spot the famous frozen trees, nicknamed the snow monsters.
5. Mt. Asama
Mt. Asama. Photo by ken H on Flickr.Mt. Asama is the most active volcano on Honshu, Japan’s largest main island, and stands at an impressive 2568 metres high. It overlooks the town of Karuizawa and is on the border of Nagano and Gunma Prefectures.
Mt. Asama last erupted in 2015 and is at high risk of erupting again. Although the last eruption was quite small (officials gave a warning of falling rocks but reassured people there were no signs of more activity), there would be devastating effects if this mountain had a larger eruption.
Thrill seekers can hike near Asama but it the mountain is officially closed because of its activity. The surrounding lush nature and cool weather, however, make Karuizawa well worth a visit.
6. Mt. Aso
Mt. Aso. Photo by tetedelart1855 on FlickrMt. Aso is in the centre of Kyushu and has one of the largest craters in the world with a circumference of over 100 kilometers. Mt. Aso is 1529 metres high and erupts often, the most recent eruption being October 2016.
Although its peak, where Mt. Nakadake stands, can be reached by ropeway or road, but is often closed off due to poisonous gases or dangerous activity. Mt. Aso is carefully monitored for this purpose.
It’s important to know that since the eruption in October 2016, the ropeway has been out of service and it’s not currently possible to reach the crater. However, this may change in the future as it becomes safer.
Japan remains a fascinating hub of volcanoes, some dormant and some very much alive and active. Hopefully, Japan won’t suffer any significant damage from any possible future eruptions. If you’d like to see one of these interesting mountains, book a trip to one of the above for a thrilling adventure!