Tag Archives: volcano

Deadly Eruption at Mount Ontake

Mt. Ontake erupted on Saturday. Here’s what I had to write about it.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

Mt. Ontake.  Looks beautiful, doesn't it? Mt. Ontake. Looks beautiful, doesn’t it?

Such a tranquil-looking mountain isn’t it?  Well, Mt. Ontake is Japan’s second tallest volcano, and it erupted on Saturday.  There were around 300 people on the mountain at the time, and 31 are suspected to be dead, as there were many at the summit around the caldera during the eruption.

I live around 190 km from the mountain (Tokyo is 200 km from it), which is on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures.  At 3,067 metres tall, it’s a fairly tall stratovolcano with a somewhat frequent history of eruptions.  It’s interesting that it’s often climbed considering how often it does erupt.

Another volcano, at 3,776 metres, is Mt. Fuji.  It’s visible from my area, and is the tallest mountain in Japan.  It occasionally has earthquakes around it, and in recent years, the lakes around it have been getting a bit warmer.  There…

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Exploring Miyagi

We return this week to Tohoku in Exploring Japan with Miyagi Prefecture.

Miyagi Prefecture is on the Pacific coast of the northern Tohoku region of Honshu, and was one of the most severely damaged areas during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  It has a population of 2,337,513.  The capital and largest city is Sendai.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Sendai (1,045,986)
  2. Ishinomaki (164,294)
  3. Osaki (135,129)
  4. Tome (84,070)
  5. Kurihara (74,932)

Due to the casualties suffered in coastal cities, there is no current population information.  Some of these may be outdated.  Both Sendai and Ishinomaki were hit by the tsunami.

Castles

Shiroishi Castle in Shiroishi is a recent reconstruction.  It was rebuilt using traditional methods, so should be quite faithful to the original.  It doesn’t appear to be very big.

Aoba Castle in Sendai consists of ruins and some reconstructed buildings.  There is currently some reconstruction or restoration going on. It’s also known as Sendai Castle.

Sports

In professional baseball, Sendai is host to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. In J-League soccer, Vegalta Sendai in Sendai city is in the top tier.

Things to see and do

Due to the tsunami in 2011, some of the following places may be unavailable due to reconstruction or lack of reconstruction.  However, most of the prefecture is business as usual, so I definitely recommend going there and supporting the local economy.  It’s very important to help them out.

Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku region, so is the central hub for the area.  It’s a very green city that’s close to both the ocean and mountains. Osaki Hachiman Shrine is an important and attractive shrine in Sendai and holds the Donto-sai Festival.  Just outside the city is a large statue of Kannon. Rinnoji is a nice temple with a big garden. Zuihoden is the mausoleum of Date Masamune.  Miyagi Museum of Art is good for some modern art and a garden. Sendai Mediatheque has interesting architecture. SS 30 Observation Lounge is an observation deck on the 29th and 30th floors of an office building that’s free to the public. Sendai City Museum should be interesting. The Museum of the Forest of Depths of the Earth sounds quite interesting, featuring the stone age. Yagiyama Zoo is the local zoo. Benyland is a small amusement park that should be fun. You can take a tour at the Nikka Whisky Distillery and finish with free whisky. You can enjoy the Michinoku-Yosakoi Festival, as well.  Finally, Sendai hosts the largest Tanabata Festival in Japan during August. Sendai has some natural sites, too.  Akiu Great Falls is one of Japan’s top 3 waterfalls. There are also hot spring areas in Akiu and Sakunami.

Ishinomaki is a famous fishing city.  It hosts a few interesting things, but not a large amount.  There’s a full-sized replica of the Japanese galleon San Juan Bautista.  You can also visit the Ishinomori Manga Museum. There are some interesting islands, as well.  Tashirojima is known as Manga Island. Kinkasan is considered a very holy site, and it hosts a shrine, as well as many hiking trails.

Kesennuma is a city that was hit very hard by the tsunami.  It’s begun to recover, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead.  It has an attractive natural spot, though. Oreishii is a rock that attracts a lot of people.

Matsuhima is a town that was hit by the tsunami, but the main sights were not damaged. Matsushima Bay is one of Japan’s top 3 best views.  Zuiganji temple is a top Zen temple with a long history. Kanrantei Pavilion is a large teahouse with a great view of the coast. Fukuura Island is a good place to take a walk, and is accessible by a bridge. Otakamori is a great place to see the bay, and requires a 1 km walk up the hill.

Osaki has an area called the Naruko Hot Spring Villages.  Naruko Gorge is a great viewing spot in autumn. Taki no Yu is a traditional bathhouse that uses water from two separate springs and creates artificial waterfalls.

Zao Quasi-National Park is on the border of Miyagi and Yamagata.  It has the complex volcano Mount Zao, which is also host to a ski resort. This is the most volcanically active area in Tohoku.

Food

Miyagi, especially Sendai, is famous for gyu-tan, or grilled slices of cow tongue.  You can also get shark fin soup in Kesennuma.

Have you been to Miyagi?  What did I miss?  Do you have any recommendations?

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Exploring Kumamoto

In this week’s Exploring Japan, we return to Kyushu with Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kumamoto is situated in central Kyushu with a west-facing coastline.  It has plenty of mountains and volcanoes.  It has a population of 1,812,255. The capital city is also named Kumamoto.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Kumamoto (734,474)
  2. Yatsushiro (133,630)
  3. Amakusa (89,065)
  4. Tamana (69,541)
  5. Uki (62,678)

Most cities are dropping in population, as is the prefecture, but the city of Kumamoto is steadily growing.

Castles

Kumamoto Castle is a reconstruction, and a lot of restoration work has been done recently.  It’s one of the most impressive castles in Japan, and is quite extensive.  The Uto Yagura was originally the keep of Uto Castle, which is elsewhere in Kumamoto prefecture.  Even more restoration work is planned.

Yatsushiro Castle in Yatsushiro has well-maintained grounds.  Mainly the stonework and walls remain, but it appears to be quite nice.

Kikuchi Castle in Kikuchi is extremely old.  Some restoration work has been done, but from what I’ve heard, it’s very nice.

Hitoyoshi Castle in Hitoyoshi is another well-maintained ruin.  No buildings remain, but excellent walls and stonework remain, as well as the main gate.

Sashiki Castle in Ashikita is an interesting one.  It was rediscovered only recently, in 1997.  A lot of restoration work has been done on the grounds, and though small, it looks to be very interesting to see.

Sports

There’s one notable professional team in Kumamoto, and that’s the J-League division 2 team Roasso Kumamoto.

Things to see and do

Kumamoto is famous for a few things, namely Mt. Aso, one of the largest active volcanic calderas in the world, hot springs, and beaches.  Seems like a hot place.

Kumamoto, the capital city, is famous for its castle.  But there is more to see. Suizenji Jojuen is one of the country’s best formal Japanese gardens.  Shiki no Sato Park has hot springs and an animal park. Honmyoji temple seems to be very interesting, and is one of the most famous temples in Kumamoto. Fujisaki Hachimangu is Kumamoto’s best-known shrine. Hosokawa Gyobutei is the family home of the Higo daimyo, and is located near the castle. Hanaokayama is a hill near Kumamoto station with a great view of the city and Mt. Aso.  Mt. Kinpo has a great view of Kumamoto and Nagasaki. Kumamoto City Hall has a free observatory on the 14th floor with a nice view of the castle and city.  You can also visit the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art, the Kumamoto Prefectural Theater, and the Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center.

Yatsushiro doesn’t have a lot to see, though you can check out the 777 Steps, where you can walk up the hill on a staircase that has 777 steps.  You can also visit the Hinagu Hot Spring.  The Myokensai festival in November has a lot of horses parading through the city, and there is also a very large fireworks display in the fall.

Hitoyoshi is a small city with a few historic sites.  Eikokuji is known as the Ghost Temple.  It has a scroll of a ghost drawn on it to keep the ghost away.  Aoi Aso Shrine has several National Treasures of Japan.  Hitoyoshi Craft Park Ishino Koen is a place where you can see traditional crafts as well as make them.  Kuma Kudari is a traditional boat cruise down the river. Mukashi Mukashi is a popular traditional crafts market.

Amakusa is a city located on the Amakusa Islands.  It’s accessible by car, ferry, or plane.  It’s also one of the fastest depopulating cities in Japan.  It’s well-known for Amakusa Dolphin Marine Land, where you can watch dolphin performances, see sea lions and penguins, as well as touch dolphins.  You can also see the Alegria Gardens.

Yamato town’s Yabe area is known for its 48 waterfalls and 17 stone bridges.  It seems interesting to see.  One bridge, Tsujun Bridge, is the largest stone aqueduct in Japan.

Yamaga has several places to see. You can enjoy kabuki at the Yachiyoza Kabuki Theater.  Fudougan is an interesting rock formation that looks like a person’s face.  It’s illuminated twice a year. Yamaga Hot Springs are quite old and well-known for their clear water. The Yamaga Lantern Dance Festival has a thousand women dancing to traditional music with lanterns on their heads. The Kumamoto Prefectural Ancient Burial Mound Museum is located in Yamaga.

Aso city has a lot to see.  Of course, it is home to Mt. Aso, a very large and active volcanic caldera.  There are many volcanic cones within the caldera. Aso Kuju National Park is the main attraction, including Mt. Aso, the Mt. Aso Ropeway and the Aso Volcano Museum. There’s a lot of hiking and many hot springs resorts to visit.  Aso Shrine is a well-known shrine.

Food

Kumamoto has several famous local foods.  I’ve tried one of them, and that is basashi.  Basashi is raw horse meat that’s served with soy sauce and ginger.  Karashirenkon is a popular food, with the holes of lotus root filled with hot Japanese mustard coated with flour and fried.  Ikinaridango is a dumpling filled with sweet potato and anko, a sweet bean paste.

Have you been to Kumamoto?  Have I missed anything? Please leave a comment!

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2012 Picture of the Week (38/52) – Mt. Fuji appears peaceful

Mt. Fuji is the symbol of Japan.  It is so recognizable, and is an example of a nearly perfectly shaped stratovolcano.  At 3776 metres tall, it is the tallest mountain in Japan.  I’ve been to the top and peered down into the summit crater.  Very exhilarating!  Today, I took this picture shortly after sunset, and you can see the peaceful cone of the volcano on the left.  Or is it peaceful?  It seems that recent measurements have shown that the pressure in the magma chamber is 16 times the minimum amount for an eruption.  But it doesn’t mean that an eruption will happen soon.  Other factors are involved for an eruption.  So for now, enjoy the view!

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Mt. Fuji is always an amazing sight to see and photograph. When it’s clear, I’m lucky to be able to see it from work, on the train, and at the park near my apartment. The Tanzawa Mountains are in the foreground.

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Filed under Asahi-ku, Japan, Kanagawa, Mountains, Picture of the Week, Yokohama