Life Inside an Active Volcano: Aogashima Island, Japan

Around 200 people (205 at the 2009 census) live on the Aogashima volcanic island in the Philippine Sea. The island is part of the Izu archipelago, being administered by the city of Tokyo as part of the Hachijo Subprefecture. Located 220 miles south of Tokyo and 45 miles south of the nearest populated island, Aogashima is the most isolated populated island in the archipelago and is also considered the least populated municipality in Japan.

The island is extremely beautiful and intriguing, especially with its donut shape and with the small volcano in the center, a miniature copy of a volcano. According to geologists, the island was born from the remains of four submarine calderas, while the steep cliffs surrounding it were formed by volcanic deposits.

Aogashima Island, Japan

The volcano is currently classified as a Class-C active volcano, with last eruption taking place in 1785, when 140 people were killed, about half of the total population. However, current residents don’t seem to care so much and enjoy life on the island, with fishing and agriculture being the inhabitants’ main occupations. Additional income also comes from the small number of tourists and sports fishermen visiting the island. They have a department store, a post office, a school, a small port, a helipad and even a website. The small port is usually used by fishermen, since it’s too small to handle large ships and rough weather often makes it unusable. And even though the island can be reached by sea (there are daily ferrys from Hachijojima, but rough weather often gets the trips canceled), the helicopter is the most convenient way to get to the island (Toho Air is one of the companies offering helicopter service to Aogashima and a ticket costs around $130 per person).

Tourists visiting the volcano can also enjoy a geothermal sauna located right in the center of the island, while other activities include scuba diving and hiking (since the island is so small, any point can be reached walking).

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