Volcanic eruption doesn’t panic Japanese: ‘There wasn’t even any lava’

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Plenty of residents went out to film the eruption of Mount Aso on October 20 in Japan. They told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that – despite the impressive photos and videos of the eruption – the episode did not incite panic in a country with more than 110 active volcanoes. 

Located on the island of Kyushu – the southernmost of Japan’s main islands – Mount Aso is one of the most active volcanoes in the country. The eruption took place at 11:43 am local time and was captured by a livestream camera filming from the roof of the volcano’s museum and broadcast on YouTube. The plume of ash rose up to 3.5 km above the mouth of the volcano. 

The astonishing images of the eruption also made the rounds on social media networks in and outside of Japan. Filmed by residents or visitors at the popular tourist destination, the videos show a huge column of black smoke which rolls down the side of the mountain. 

An accelerated clip of the eruption filmed by a live stream camera belonging to Japanese channel RKK. The camera is located on the roof of the volcano’s museum.

On October 20, Nanami (not her real name) was in Takamori, south of Mount Aso, near a playground with her daughter. While taking photos of her daughter, she managed to capture the beginning of the volcanic eruption. 

Vidéo prise à 11h30, mercredi 20 octobre, près de la ville de Takamori, au Sud du Mont Aso © Les Observateurs de France 24

One person was just 2km away from the volcano with his car at the moment of the eruption. The video he filmed from his car which shows the black cloud went viral on Twitter. 

Japanese authorities told residents not to go within two kilometres of the volcano, at risk of being hit with rock debris, or inhaling toxic gas.

However, the eruption did not merit an evacuation.

‘We live amongst volcanoes’

With its beautiful hiking trails and hot springs, the Aso volcanic site is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. The priority for the local authorities has been to ensure that no hikers were trapped. As of the evening of October 20, no casualties were reported.

Some people got up close to the volcano the day before the explosion, such as our Observer, Japanese photographer Showgo Westfield, who had taken photos at the site on Monday, October 18. He was not able to get close to the volcano’s crater, as the alert level was at 2, before increasing to 3 during the eruption, out of a scale of 5. 

Photo of the volcano taken by Westfield.
Photo of the volcano taken by Westfield. © GQ_Official / showgo westfield

Westfield hiking on Mount Aso.

He was already back home in Osaka when the volcano erupted. Worried by the news, he immediately contacted a friend who lives near the volcano. 

We live amongst volcanoes, and Japanese people are used to visiting them. When I heard the news, I was still worried about my friend who lives very close to Mount Aso. But he didn’t care at all. To be honest, when I called him, he hadn’t even noticed that there was an eruption.

Indeed, the people living near the volcano that we contacted all said they were not too worried about the volcanic eruption. 

‘I wasn’t afraid, there wasn’t even any lava’

Miyuki Inoue was working when the eruption took place. She sent the FRANCE 24 Observers team several photos and videos of the eruption filmed from her home, which she posted on her social media accounts to reassure her relatives. 

I have lived near Mount Aso since I was a little girl, and I’ve experienced several big eruptions. Wednesday’s eruption didn’t really impress me. I wasn’t afraid, there wasn’t even any lava, and my house wasn’t affected by the ash or rocks. Plus, it’s practically over. 

Video taken by Miyuki Inoue in front of her home, late morning on October 20.
Video taken by Miyuki Inoue in front of her home, late morning on October 20. © Observers

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