Kirishima: the Volcano that Almost Destroyed the City

Kirishima Japan: The City

Kirishima Japan Guide: Things to remember about Kirishima City Japan

Kirishima is a small town located in the Kagoshima prefecture of Japan. It is located in the Kyushu region of the country, found at the southernmost islands. It has a total area of roughly 82 square kilometers with a total population of 5,700 people. This place is most popular due to its large volcanic complex is known as the Kirishima mountain range.

This small town is located in the North Eastern portion of the prefecture. It has a total of 23 mountain peaks with Karakunidake and Takachiho-no-mine as the tallest towering at 1,700 meters and 1,500 meters respectively. A few of the popular tourist destinations in the area include the numerous onsens that provide unique relaxation experiences and the volcanic crater lakes found near the summits.

Kirishima Japan Travel: Things to do in Kirishima

Kirishima National Park

This is one of the largest national parks in the country that offers up vacation packages that can last from two days to weeks. There are tours and guides that provide climbing and hiking tours. Camping, fishing, and mountaineering are also among the popular activities in the area. At night, these hikers and campers can enjoy the beautiful mountain skies which are completely shied away from the city lights – a completely dark night dotted with diamond-like stars.

By Ray_go (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There are also open-air museums inside the park which provides spaces for both local and foreign artists to be one with nature to create impressive works influenced by the beauty and simplicity of the mountainside. There are forests that are used to preserve both flora and fauna of the area.

Inside the park are sacred spots as well, which are made up of temples and shrines frequented by pilgrims not only from Japan but from different parts of the world. Some of these shrines are hundreds of years old which are considered as cultural and historical properties of the country. It is said that many of these shrines and temples, which are older than ancient texts, were destroyed by the multiple volcanic eruptions through the centuries. Inside the park are rivers, waterfalls and other natural water formations which are frequented by visitors as well.

Ebino Kogen, Miyazaki

Ebino Kogen, also known as Ebino Plateau, is a part of the Kirishima National Park. It is located on the northern side of the park, surrounded by the volcanic complex. This particular plateau is about 1,200 meters in diameter and can be seen in almost any summit of the mountain range. This is the Miyazaki region’s most important tourist spots because of the scenic natural beauty it brings to anyone who travels here. At the far end of the plateau are volcanic lakes which, again, have very impressive scenery.

A lot of people go to this place because they enjoy the changing colors brought about by changes in season. The flowers during the summer and the spring season bring about beautiful colors to the surroundings. This makes it look like a basin filled with blooms. Just like the other places in the Kirishima complex, azaleas are quite common in this area. It gives the place touches of pink and purple. The trees are also all lushly green during this time.

During the fall, those who travel here enjoy the various touches of reds and oranges in the trees which make the place look like a field that is ripe for harvest. Furthermore, the place boasts of the volcanic lakes found in the middle. This is quite popular during the wintertime because it turns into a natural ice skating rink.

By 663highland (663highland) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Kirishima Onsens

Because the place is surrounded by 18 young volcanoes it is without a doubt that the heat coming from the lava will interact with both ground water and surface water creating hot springs or onsens within the vicinity. These natural onsens are a great way to enjoy a relaxing vacation and it is one of the main reasons why both local and foreign tourists visit the area. Some onsens provide aromatic pools, others provide hot spas and massages. There are also some ryokans that offer up mud scrubs and mud baths that are made from volcanic ash.

Kirishima Japan in 2010: What happened in Kirishima?

Where to find the volcano: Kirishima Kyushu Japan

Mount Kirishima is located at the southernmost islands of Japan and is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in the country. What is more terrifying about this is that it does not consist of only one volcano but a group of 18 volcanoes. These volcanoes extend to the different locations of Kagoshima Bay. Out of the 18 young volcanoes, seven are considered as major vents and these are Nakadake, Ohatayama, Karakunidake, Tairoike, Shinmoedake, Ohachi, and Takachihonomine.

The Kirishima Japan Volcano’s Eruption through the years

Its first ever recorded eruption was in 742 AD and there had been roughly more than 60 major eruptions since. Most of these eruptions are actually destructive and violent which destroy most of the towns and cities within its path. Among the largest eruptions happened in in the 1700s where one particular event lasted sparingly for over two years.

Before the first ever recorded eruption, scientists claim that there had been numerous eruptions more than 70,000 years ago. These series of eruptions may have contributed to the development of the many different young volcanoes leading to the development of the Kirishima complex. Out of all the 18 volcanoes, the most active vent is the Ohachi volcano.

Japan Kirishima has started erupting: The first in 50 years

According to reports, the last major eruption that the Kirishima complex had was in 1768 where a significant number of lives have been lost. There had been a number of minor eruptions since, a few times in the 1900s and once in 2008.

However, in recent history, the most destructive eruption happened in 2011. It is the first major eruption that happened in the area in the last 50 years which lead to significant damage to the environment. This happened on January 26, 2011, and it was so severe that it had immediately reached international news headlines. Some believe that the explosion of the Kirishima complex contributed largely to the earthquake that happened in the Tohoku region. The problem with this is that there is no significant evidence to prove that this is so.

Kirishima Japan Volcano Eruption of 2010: The Damage

Japan is known to be one of the most volcanically active places in the world because it is a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The country has done numerous measures to ensure the safety of the people during any form of calamity. However, the intensity of these calamities can sometimes be difficult to estimate.

By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

During the latest eruption of Mount Kirishima, its violence was able to spurt out not only ash but also rock bombs kilometers into the air.  The shockwave that the recent eruption produced reached roughly 12 kilometers northwest of the crater of Shinmoe-dake. Surrounding cities have suffered an ash fall of about 5mm in thickness. This kind of ashfall can be detrimental to the health of people living around the area.

Although the eruption sent thousands of locals to evacuate out of the danger zones, it is good news that there were no casualties. However, the eruption destroyed everything that was in its path – it burnt trees, sent boulders to destroy roads, and even destroyed homes and other structures.

It is said that lava started building up at the center of the vent which could increase the pressure and cause an even more severe explosion. Thankfully, no more severe explosions happened in the next few months.

Kirishima Mountains Japan

·         Ohachi

One of the most active volcanoes in the area is the Ohachi volcano. Based on recent data, this particular vent erupts three different types of magma which are made up of basalt, andesite, and basaltic andesite. This is one of the shallowest magma chambers in the entire mountain range. Scientists have only based the history of the eruptions of the Ohachi volcano based on ancient paintings produced from the 1600s to the 1800s. It is said that some of these eruptions are so violent that it has caused severe injuries and even death to the hikers which were around the area, unaware of an impending eruption.

By Ray_go (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

·         Tagachiho-Gawara

The difference between Takachiho-no-mine and Takachiho-gawara is the fact that Tagachiho-gawa is plain while Takachio-no-mine is a mountain. Both sit in the southern region of Kirishima. What is special about the Takachiho-gawara is the fact that there is a forest where local wildlife or Kirishima is preserved. There are also areas where the flora is protected – with wild trees, azaleas and more.

There is something sad about Tagachiho-gawara on the other hand, every time the Kirishima Volcanoes erupt, this place is destroyed and burnt. However, in the recent years that the activity of the volcano has lessened, people who lived in this area are now able to have a fully flourished life.

·         Takachiho-no-mine

Mount Takahicho is one of the most active principal vents in the entire mountain range of Kirishima. It is found in the southernmost region of the Kirishima range and is considered as one of the largest of all. It is believed that this particular mountain is where the grandson of the almighty goddess Amaterasu descended to earth. This particular god is believed to be the deity responsible for establishing the Japanese Imperial family.

A hike up to the crater of Mount Takahicho usually takes about two to three hours depending on the trail that was used. It is most recommended for hikers who have extensive experience and background because the terrain is not for the weak hearted. At the summit, the entire mountain range of Kirishima can be seen. The city can also be seen from the top on a nice clear day. Some forms of alpine shrubbery can be seen and the entire vent opening is surely a sight to behold.

·         Shinmoe-dake

Just like all the other principal vents of the Kirishima Mountain Range, this particular vent has been recently active. It is one of the most active vents in all of the 18 young volcanoes in the complex. Its most recent eruption was in 2008, 2009, then in 2011. The worst out of most of the eruptions from Shinmoedake is the eruption that happened in 2011. It started out on the 19th of January and continued on for almost 10 days, gradually increasing its activity.

Because of the potential violence of the eruption, all areas near the caldera had been closed down out of fear that lava flows harm people and livestock. However, it did not stop there. A few days after its full eruption, it continued to spew out ash and smoke a little over 2 km vertically into the air. After the Tohoku earthquake in March, the volcano erupted again forcing residents in the area to flee to safety.

·         Karakuni-dake

This part of the Kirishima complex is known to be its highest peak which has a height of about 1,700 meters above sea level. The crater of this principal vent has a diameter of 800 meters. Out of the entire mountain range, this particular vent is the most visible. The place is so high that ancient texts claim that South Korea can be seen from the peak. Since this may have been thousands of years ago and eruptions may distort the size and shape of a caldera, there are no evidence that this is true today.

Although the peak of this mountain is quite high, not a lot of people have the opportunity or the capability to climb it. It has very dangerous terrain because the trails are very rocky. It is not recommended for first-time climbers especially for those without the proper gear, footwear, and attire. On top of this, it is also one of the very active vents in the mountain complex. Because of this, even more, restrictions are given on hiking.