Sakurajima is one of the most active stratovolcanos in the world. Located on the island of Kyushu in Japan, it is part of the Aira caldera, or a cauldron-like hollow that formed about 20,000 years ago after a large explosive eruption. Nearly 18 kilometers (11 miles) across and 130 meters (430 feet) deep, Sakurajima itself refers to the most active part of the caldera.
Sakurajima has been steadily erupting for thousands of years. The first recorded eruption of Sakurajima occurred in 963 AD, and there have been numerous eruptions since then. The most recent major eruption took place in 1914 and dramatically altered the shape of the coastline. The eruption produced an enormous lava flow that spilled into the ocean. Upon cooling, the lava flow hardened into solid land, connecting Sakurajima to the mainland. As a result, the once-island of Sakurajima is now considered a peninsula.
Today, more than 1,000 people call Sakurajima home, and more than 600,000 people live in Kagoshima city just 9 kilometers (5.6) away. The volcano is closely monitored by the Japanese government and local authorities, who issue warnings and advisories to the public when necessary, as well as host evacuation drills. Despite the challenges of residing next to an active volcano, the people of Kagoshima have learned to live with Sakurajima and even developed a sense of pride in the volcano. Many local businesses and products are branded with the volcano's name, and it has become a symbol of the region's resilience and determination.
A fascinating geographic landmark, Sakurajima offers visitors the following experiences:
- Observe an eruption: Sakurajima is known for its frequent eruptions, and visitors can often spot ash plumes and lava flows. Catch a glimpse from one of the safe viewing points dotted around the volcano, such as the Yunohira Observatory or Arimura Lava Observatory.
- Stop by the Sakurajima Visitor Center: The visitor center provides information about the geology, history, and activity of Sakurajima. It also houses free exhibits about the volcano and a small souvenir shop featuring goods produced in Sakurajima, including soap and artwork made from ash.
- Unwind at the Yogan Nagisa Park Footbath: Just across from the Visitor Center, there is a free 100-meter-long footbath fed by a natural underground hot spring. Enjoy a view of the ocean while soaking your feet in hot water!
- Take a boat or kayaking tour: Many tour companies offer unique ways to experience Kagoshima Bay, such as boat cruises and kayak rentals. From the water, you’ll be able to experience up-close views of the volcano.
- Harvest and eat Sakurajima daikon: Sakurajima holds the world record for the largest daikon, weighing in at 31.1 kilograms (68.6 pounds). It is said that the unusual properties of the volcanic soil produce exceptionally large, sweet, and crisp daikon. Visit a local farm to wrest a comically large daikon from the earth for yourself, or stop by Cafe Shirahama to sample a variety of daikon-themed dishes.
About the author:
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.
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