Is It Safe to Live on a Volcanic Island?

Life for the 170 residents of Aogashima, an island about 200 miles (322 km) south of Tokyo, is relaxed, quiet, and beautiful. Fishing is a popular pastime, as are hiking and camping. There a few minshukus (bed and breakfast inns) for tourists, several general stores, and a helipad, but most of the island is unspoiled. In fact, little has changed since 1785, when a swarm of volcanic activity erupted, killing half the population -- approximately 140 people who weren’t able to escape the island in time.

Living with an explosive neighbor:

  • The island -- about 2 miles (3.5 km) at its widest point -- is essentially a giant volcano, with a smaller volcano sprouting from its center. The isle is considered active by the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

  • You can reach the island by helicopter or ferry. There are hiking trails that lead to the rim of the interior volcano, where you can cook eggs in the steam vents.

  • The island is home to a shochu distillery, which produces a liquor that is similar to vodka and is the national spirit of Japan.

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More Info: Smithsonian magazine

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