Japan from the inside out

Getting ready for a rumble?

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, May 8, 2010

THE PHOTO at this link to an article in the New Scientist shows two of Japan’s most recognizable visual symbols: cherries in bloom and Mt. Fuji.

Kaneko Takayuki at the University of Tokyo’s Volcano Research Center is starting to wonder how long one of those symbols will remain in its present form.

Prof. Kaneko has been conducting research into the dormant volcano’s structure and composition. As a result:

He says the deep rumble of low-frequency earthquakes beneath Fuji in 2000 and 2001 suggests movement inside the basaltic magma chamber, and adds he would not be surprised if Fuji erupts in the very near future.

Meanwhile, Phil Shane of the University of Auckland in New Zealand thinks not enough is known about Fuji to make that suggestion.

It might not erupt, but that’s by no means out of the question. Mt. Unzen had been dormant for 199 years until its 1991 eruption killed 43 people, including three scientists. Fuji-san has been quiet since 1707. There have been 10 volcanic eruptions in Japan during the last decade, one of which occurred last year at Sakurajima just offshore Kagoshima City. Its 1914 eruption was said to have been the most powerful in Japan in the 20th century.

Kagoshima City is an attractive place, and I once asked my wife what she thought about moving there. She nixed it immediately—Sakurajima regularly emits enough ash that hanging clothes out to dry can make them dirtier than before they were washed. We live about a two-hour drive from Unzen, and that eruption covered our car in ash like a light snowfall.

In addition to the lives lost or property destroyed, however, the disaster of a Mt. Fuji eruption would be compounded by the psychological impact of disfiguring a national icon.

One Response to “Getting ready for a rumble?”

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