PLANETSKI GOES HIKING IN VOLCANO COUNTRY
26th September 2019 | James Cove, Hokkaido, Japan
Last modified on December 19th, 2019
We’re in the mountains of Hokkaido in Japan. The snow is yet to fall so time to put the hiking boots on.
Probably well over a hundred, possibly more.
In fact, undoubtedly more.
But this is my first cable car ride in Asia.
Mt Usu filled that gap in my mountain experiences.
It was worth the ride just for the views across Lake Toya from the top of the station.
But I had come for more than the tourist views.
Stunning though they were.
I was off to hike to a volcano crater.
First it was down a steep wooden staircase that went on forever.
The only thought in my mind was that in a few hours I would be huffing and puffing my way back up it.
Next it was a stroll along a gentle footpath that could have been on the South Downs Way in Sussex.
Only in Sussex you don’t get views to one side over a Japanese bay that leads into the Pacific Ocean.
Or volcano craters on the other.
With some smoke and steam being released.
Or views ahead like this to Mt Yotei in the distance.
Mt Usu last erupted in 2000.
It has erupted nine times since 1663 and four times since 1910.
The 1997 eruption was one of the largest and changed the shape of the mountain.
The older, taller Mt Usu has stood for 20,000 years.
There are 110 active volcanoes in Japan.
Of those around 50 are watched especially closely because they have erupted recently or shown worrying signs, such as seismic activity, ground deformation or emission of large amounts of smoke.
Mt Showa-Shinzan emerged from a farm field only recently, in 1943.
Its name means “new mountain,” and it is active to this day.
These two volcanos are some of the most active in Japan, with eruptions every 30-50 years.
Now, though, it looks rather benign.
<Though there are hard hats on hand at the edge of the crater should things suddenly change.
Now when skiing I often, er, liberate, food from the hotel breakfast table if I know I’m going hiking into the backcountry or it’s going to be a powder day.
I did the same today.
Though instead of a ham or cheese roll and a crushed up croissant I had something for my mountain picnic all the more appetising.
And another first – a picnic with chopsticks:
Then it was time to head back – along the South Downs Way.
And as I walked back up the aforementioned stairs at the end of my hike I counted 589 steps and it took me just shy of 20-minutes.
I wonder what time I would have made it in if the smoking had turned into something more threatening….
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