Japan’s Active Volcanoes: Owakudani, Mount Hakone

Owakudani

Hakone’s “Great Boiling Valley”

Apparently, before getting the name Owakudani, “Great Boiling Valley,” this area of Mount Hakone was known as Ojiguko, “Great Hell.” Both work, though the latter fits better with the pictures I took on the day R. and I visited: hooded figures moving slowly through sulphurous steam and boiling milky mudpots.

Mount Hakone last erupted in 950 BC. “However, solfataric activity can still be found at four places on the northern and northeastern sides of Kami-yam and the northeastern side of Komaga-take, just southeast of Kami-yama.”

BTW, if you’re interested in a guidebook that combines detailed  — if dated, it was last updated in 1988  — explanations of Japan’s volcanic geography, check out Paul Hunt’s Hiking in Japan: An Adventurer’s Guide to the Mountain Trails. The book is out of print, but you may be able to check it out of your library. Or, if you’re stuck, you can borrow mine 🙂

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Volcanoes of Japan

View from Fujisan
View from Fujisan

Climbing Japan’s Active Volcanoes

Many people know already that mountains make up 72% of Japan’s landmass. It’s one reason we all live together in such crowded cities!

Less well known is the fact that 110 of those mountains are actually active volcanoes, including Mount Fujisan, the highest peak in Japan. Wikipedia offers a complete list of volcanoes in Japan on their webpage, appropriately named “List of volcanoes in Japan.” Turns out I’ve climbed a few of ’em in addition to Mount Fuji: Asahidake, Meakandake, Rishiridake, and, not on Wikipedia’s list but on the JMA’s, Tokachidake (I did a lot of climbing when I lived on Hokkaido). Also Oshimadake on Oshima-jima Island and Hakonedake in Hakone, near Fujisan.

Apparently, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) maintains a “watch list” of 47 of the most active volcanoes, monitored 24 hours a day. Again, that includes Fujisan.

So what’s it like to climb on an active volcano?

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