Sunday, May 18

Our local friendly volcano

Here's a photo I took in April while riding my bike to the grocery store. Just another eruption that no one paid much attention to. The kilometers-high cloud of ash was swept away into the wind within 30 minutes or so, with very little of it reaching the city, as far as I could tell. I don't know how often this happens, since some of the eruptions of ash occur when it's dark or simply when I am unaware, indoors. I don't believe they all get reported in the local news, but I don't watch that regularly, either. If you miss the eruption, its consequences can be wiped away within an hour. And, unless the wind pulls the ash into the city, which usually only risks happening in summer and only a couple of times a year, then you would have no idea it had occurred.

I live 7 or 8 kilometers from the volcano's base. Only a couple of times over a few years has it exploded with noise that reached me, shaking the windows the building where I work. I took a ferry to the volcano a couple of weeks ago to visit a friend who lives along its base and it was steaming and belching low clouds of ash. If you show enthusiasm about an ongoing eruption of ash to locals, you risk getting an impatient glare in return. Unbridled displays of joy, however, are common at the sight of the faintest winter snowflake, a far rarer occurrence.

The school children who live on it all wear yellow hard hats when outside. The volcano also spews lava, but I have not seen that or heard of it happening in recent years. Its last massive eruption was in 1913 or 1914, when it went from being an island (thus it's name: Sakurajima, meaning "Cherry Blossom Island") to its current status as a peninsula (no name adjustment was bothered with).

Especially when you're on the volcano, you may feel that you are in some pre-historic era. Ferns, gawky sea birds, palm trees, and the tumultuous volcano above... only dinosaurs are wanting.