Hakone is by far one of the most important touristic destinations in Japan. Its close proximity to Tokyo makes it an ideal location for those living in the big metropolis, allowing locals to go there on weekends and even take 1-day trips just to enjoy the nature and the hot springs. Therefore, going to Hakone is the perfect thing to unwind before having to go back to work.
However, this area is also home to Mount Hakone, an active volcano, and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has raised the volcanic alert to 2 on May 19, 2019. Last time the alert had been raised this high was in 2015, when Mount Hakone erupted.
Considering how popular Hakone is, one should always know what to do if Mount Hakone erupts and whether raising the alert means one should not visit.
The 2015 eruptions marked the first time Mount Hakone had awoken in 800 years. The two eruptions that occurred in June and July were very small, and volcanic activity receded afterwards; this resulted in authorities lifting the warning in November. In the end, tourism had ended up decreasing by 18% compared to the previous year.
Despite decreasing the danger posed by the volcano, the town felt that they had not been as prepared as they should have during the months of high volcanic activity and during the minor eruptions.
The 2015 eruptions had a significant effect on Hakone, and having learned from the lessons of those eruptions, local business are now prepared. They have prepared evacuation measures, and hotels and inns have manuals so they can quickly and easily distribute evacuation information to their guests.
Furthermore, the Hakone has installed volcanic gas monitoring systems and has carried out regular evacuation drills to ensure locals and business are ready in case of an emergency.
Visitors are urged to follow those instructions, and to stay up to date with the information authorities are providing. Additionally, it’s important to stay out of the high-risk areas.
Authorities, including the Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, Yuji Kuroiwa, emphasised that the affected areas are near the crater. This means that some of the most visited attractions remain unaffected, and thus people can go to inns, hoteles, and the town itself. They can also go to popular Lake Ashi and enjoy the area’s nature. However, the ropeways and some roads will remain temporarily closed.
While experts think the situation is not serious enough to affect tourism, they maintain that it’s important to be informed and prepared for the worst. This time the volcanic alert was raised to 2 (meaning, “do not approach the crater”) because of the number of tremors near Mount Komagatake. The volcanic alert JMA uses has a 5-point scale.
As a reminder, it’s crucial to know the latest information. Japan is an archipelago with multiple volcanoes, and the Japan Meteorological Agency lists their latest warnings so people know which areas are considered dangerous.