Volcanos are both creators and destroyers. They can shape lands and cultures, but can also cause destruction and loss of life. Two of the best-known examples are found at opposite ends of the world, separated by the Pacific Ring of ire. Fuji: Japan’s Sacred Summit It’s almost sunrise near the summit of Japan’s Mount Fuji.
Exhausted climbers, many of whom have hiked the 3,776 meters through the night to reach this point stop to watch as the sun begins its ascent, spreading its golden rays across the mountain. For everyone, this is an important moment: they have witnessed the dawn on Mount Fuji – the highest point in the Land of the Rising Sun. Located in the center of Japan, Mount Fuji, whose name means “without equal” is a sacred site. Japan’s native religion, Shintoism, considers Fuji a holy place. Other people believe the mountain and its waters have the power to make a sick person well. For many, climbing Fuji is also a rite of passage. Some do it as a part of a religious journey; for others, it is a test of strength. Whatever their reason, reaching the top in order to stand on Fuji’s summit at sunrise is a must for many Japanese – and every July and August, almost 400 000 people attempt to do so. Fuji is more than a sacred site and tourist destination, however. It is also an active volcano around which four million people have settled, and sits just 112 kilometers from the crowded streets of Tokyo. The last time Fuji exploded, in 1707, it sent out a cloud f ash that covered the capital city and darkened the skies for weeks. Today, new data have some volcanologists concerned that Fuji may soon erupt again. According to MotooUkawa and his associates at the National Research Institute for Earth and Science and Disaster Prevention, there has been an increase in activity under Fuji recently, which may be caused by low frequency earthquakes. Understanding what causes these quakes may help scientists predict when Fuji, the biggest of Japan’s 86 active volcanoes, will come back to life. In the meantime, locals living near Fuji hold special festivals each year to offer gifts to the goddess of the volcano – as they have for generations – so that she will not erupt and destroy the land and its people below.