You live on a tiny island off the coasts of some of Japan’s biggest cities. Your little town only has about 3000 residents. Everyone knows each other intimately. Your little island has some beautiful beaches and is famous for its taiko drum performances. You live an idyllic life. Until a horrifying alarm, that can be heard throughout the island, goes off suddenly and you quickly pull out your gas mask, that every person is required to have with them at all times, and put it on so you don’t die. Welcome to Miyake Island.
Miyake island lies about 180 km south of Tokyo. It is one of the islands of the Izu island chain. The whole island has a land area of about 55 km². The most prominent part of the island and the cause of its denizens’ worries is Mt. Oyama.
Mt. Oyama is an active volcano that has erupted several times in the recent past. In 1940 it erupted and lava flow killed 11 people. The volcano also erupted in 1962 and 1983. The most recent eruption occurred on July 14th, 2000. Miyake was completely evacuated for 5 years. Due to the eruptions the volcano emits poisonous gases, hence the necessity for all the residents for carrying gas masks with them at all times.
Residents don’t have to wear the gas masks at all times but had to carry one with them until the 30th of June 2013 in case gas levels got to a dangerous level. However, from the 1st of July 2013, it is not necessary to carry gas masks anymore except when you go to the off limits or dangerous areas.
The islanders of Miyake do not bewail their plight, far from it. They have turned living on a deadly gas covered island into a hot tourist attraction! Tourists come from all over Japan to experience Japan’s deadliest island. Tourists enjoy the hot springs and take tours in areas of the island that were destroyed by the volcano.
Miyake Island is very interesting and well worth the visit should you have the time. Just don’t forget your gas mask.
Click here for more information about visiting the island.