Aogashima: The Sleepy Japanese Town Built in an Active Volcano


230 years ago the last eruption killed half of the population. But the inhabitants of Agoshama won’t let the volcano dictate their future.

Image credit: Charly W. Karl

1785 was a year the residents of Aogashima, an island about 200 miles due south of Tokyo in the Philippine Sea, will never forget. On May 18, the ground began to shake, and the island’s volcano started to emit giant plumes of gas and smoke, shooting rocks, mud and other debris into the sky. By June 4, the island’s 327 residents had no choice but to evacuate, but only about half succeeded and the rest perished.

Aogashima is known for having a volcanic caldera within a larger caldera, which makes the island’s unique shape resemble a tropical scene from the set of Jurassic Park or Lost. The volcano, which basically makes up the entire island, is still registered as active by the Japanese Meteorological Agency, the governmental agency responsible for monitoring the nation’s 110 active volcanoes. The locals know that there’s always the chance that history could repeat itself, but they are willing to take the risk. Instead of pondering about the possibilities, they focus on the benefits of living in this lush paradise.

Image credit: Norio Nakayama

Much of the village is located inside the outer crater wall. There are several roads, with the majority zigzagging throughout the island’s center, but apart from that, Aogashima stands in stark contrast to life on Japan’s mainland. You can reach Tokyo by a ferry that makes a 200-mile journey across the sea, or by helicopter. However, the crush they feel being just a speck amongst Tokyo’s some 13.4 million residents, is often enough for islanders to crave the solitude they experience back home on their island.

Every new day is another one in paradise for islanders – at least for now.

Image credit: unknown
Image credit: unknown
Image credit: unknown

via Smithsonian

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