Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sakura-jima, the back 40, part 3

Good morning again. Here's a view of the northeast side of the volcano.

Sakurajima looks like a Shar-Pei.

I'm now getting back to "civilization", which is a strange thing to say because all that's here in this immediate area is a kindergarten school, and a couple supporting buildings. The real town isn't for another mile or so south. But, I'm almost due east from the main body of the mountain.

Nearby is Geo Park sight #16, which consists of a viewing platform, a couple signs marking the lava field (mostly paved over or hidden under grass now) and the bomb shelter under the viewing platform in case there's another big eruption and you need to hide. Unfortunately, if you're ON the platform when you hear the explosion, you may only have 5-10 seconds to get to cover before the rocks hit...) I think it was about 3 PM when I got here, and my half-liter bottle of can coffee was long gone, as was the hot dog sandwich. I set the camera on one of the posts on the viewing stand, with a few coins stuck underneath to prop the camera up to center the volcano in the middle of the shot. Then I let it record for 10 minutes as I transferred water from the 2 liter bottle to the 500 milliliter one, which was easier to carry. I also finally got around to putting on sunscreen, because I now had access to a mirror in the restrooms in the area. It was a bit late, because I was already burned, but better late than never.

"Whole villages helplessly engulfed
Slithering black lava smothers Arimura district
"The shapeless black mass slithered silently down into the valley burying roads, fields, orchards and pine forests. The villagers saw that if they did not make preparations to move quickly it would not be long before they too would be buried, so they started leveling out new land, dismantling their houses and moving their furniture and food." Thus ran a report from the Kurokami and Arimura district in 1946.  Although the eruption itself was comparatively small, the amount of lava was unexpectedly large and flowed 2,000 meters into the sea at Kurokami and 1,000 meters at Arimura. As feared, the lava flowed through the village and on to the vast Arimura beach.

The flow continued till May 25, destroying the whole of Kurokami and over half of Arimura. The villagers could do nothing but watch the houses that they had been born and brought up in slowly disappear from view."

"The Fury of Nature
Gatepost buried by eruption
There were signs that something was going to happen for three days. At first the villagers thought it might be Kirishima or Aso, but gradually the tremors became more frequent and violent until rocks and ash began thundering down from the northern peak of Sakurajima. The moment they had all been fearing came on January 10th 1914 (Taisho 3).

The gatepost was completely buried in ash, pumice and lava which was so hot that any houses it touched burned to cinders. 200 m south of this gatepost a torii was also buried in the eruption. In 1958 both were designated Prefectural Cultural Property. They are testimony to the fury of nature."

Here's the buried torii gate again. Originally, there was another several feet of lava on top of this area - the whole valley had been filled. Then, around the 1950's, excavation work began to dig out a base for the elementary and junior high schools the city planned to rebuild here. When the top of the torii was cleared off, the mayor decided to leave it as-is as a reminder of the village that had been here before, and the schools were moved to be on either side of the torii. The torii itself is still under another 6-7 feet worth of rock, indicating just how much lava must have been pouring down here back in 1914.

About 3 years ago, one of the people I know, who lives on the island and is very proud of it, drove me around in her car. At that time, the street had been very narrow and the opposite side was lined by old restaurants that had gone out of business. There was no parking, and crossing the street was dangerous because of the tour buses going back and forth. At some point, 2 of the buildings were torn down to make room for the parking lot, marker signs and restrooms. This is probably a good thing, except that I only saw one tour bus the entire 5 hours I was walking out here, meaning that there aren't many tourists right now.

I'm now at the south end of the east side of the island, very close to where the lava flow built the land bridge to the peninsula. Up ahead of me is a national road that runs from the peninsula (left) to the ferry port (right). The hills straight ahead are on the peninsula. This point is what's called Sakura-jima Guchi (Entrance to Sakurajima).

At the bottom of the hill is Geo Park site #18. From the sign:

"Sakurajima is connected
Sakurajima Guchi
This is a normal area at first glance; however it is one of the most important geo sites. The ground under your feet was part of the sea a little while ago. Seto strait (which is 300 to 400 meters wide and 70 to 80 meters deep) separated Sakurajima and Osumi Peninsula (In Japanese, "jima" means island, hence the name Sakurajima since it was once an island.) However, when the huge eruption occurred in 1914, big amounts of magma buried the sea in 2 weeks. Sakurajima and Osumi Peninsula were connected in this way. The right side of the national road is Sakurajima. Short trees can be seen on the new lava. On the other hand, deep green forest spreads over the old lava. The land changes often with huge eruptions yet the plants survive in this environment. You can witness the story of repeating eruptions and regeneration in this kind of place."

A bridge to nowhere.
I guess that at some point a road ran alongside the hill of the peninsula and went up to where I'm standing to go to Sakura-jima, and that maybe another road came out of a tunnel above it and crossed over the bridge to this side. Now, though, there's no bridge, and the lower road goes another 100 feet before reaching a couple buildings and a chained off gate. It would make more sense to upgrade the lower road and turn it into a hiking trail, if there were enough visitors here to justify it.

The national road running to the left crosses over to the peninsula and then shoots north up to Kirishima. This is the first point where I've been able to see the bay at the east end in maybe 2 hours.

Continuing on from Geo Park #18 heading west, there's really nothing interesting for maybe 1 mile. Trees, hills, street, cars, more trees on hills. I could see a steam cloud rising up to my right from the volcano, through breaks in the trees, but the hills, and part of the mountain itself blocked my view of the cone. I really did want to get video of the steam cloud at this point, but there was nothing to see. When I got to the turnoff for Tarumizu, I could see the cone again, but the steam cloud was gone. Anyway, I'm starting to make the turn west at the south end of the island now. Shown above is the view of the bay just a few blocks before the turn-off. I don't know the name of the fishing village just ahead in the picture.

Also, I'm back on the Kagoshima side of the bay, past the land bridge, heading away from Osumi Peninsula.

This shrine is alongside the cliff next to the road leading to Tarumizu, at the intersection for the turn off. There's a metal staircase from the shrine running down the cliff to the bay, but it's fully overgrown with plants halfway down, and there's no indication that there ever was a landing dock for rowboats at water level.

All that remains is to keep going west until I encounter a bus stop, and I can check the schedule. This takes another 15-20 minutes, and I get my last view of the volcano from the south end of the island. And yes, the steam cloud is long gone.

I get to the bus stop at 5:04. The schedule says the next buses will be at 5:14 and 5:34. I don't really want to keep walking farther and running the risk of missing both buses, but I also want to see if I can reach the stop where I gave up last year. I'm tired and it's getting late, so prudence wins out over curiosity. The 5:14 bus arrives at 5:13, and I get on. The road splits and the bus takes a different route from what I was expecting, and after 5-10 minutes gets to an intersection I recognize. So, if I had kept walking, I probably would have taken the wrong road and gone the long way, maybe missing the bus. So, prudence was the best choice this time. But, I think there's maybe 3-5 kilometers of the island that I still haven't walked. Then again, as mentioned at the beginning of this series, there's nothing in that missing stretch that I'd want to walk to.

So, the bus gets to the terminal at 5:35 PM, and the fare comes to 440 yen. I get inside the terminal and the next ferry is just about to leave at 5:40. I pay the 160 yen fare and run on board. The trip across the bay to Kagoshima city takes 15 minutes.

All I've eaten so far has been a hot dog, 5 hours ago. So, I go to the concessions counter and buy a small mango soft ice cream cone for 300 yen. It's really good. Then I go up to the top deck of the ferry, and the sunset is looking pretty nice. I decide to dig the little camera back out of my backpack and see what I can get. Turns out that the camera does very well with oranges, but not so good with light blues and pinks. The sunset is good, but the clouds lost their appearance of pink cottage cheese.

The sunset ended quickly and all the really spectacular colors faded before we got to port. I hit landfall at 6 PM, and returned to the apartment by 6:30 PM. By then, the sky was black.

And that's all, folks, except for the video of the volcano.

Direct youtube link

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