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Miyake-Jima, Japanese Gas Mask Island

There is an island in Japan where people are required to wear gas masks all the time.

The active volcano on Miyakejima

Miyake-Jima is a volcanic island which is in South of Tokyo Japan at Izu archipelago in the Philippine Sea. The island extends about 180 kilometers to the south of Honshu, Japan. This island is part of Izu Island group which form Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Its coastline is partially circular with 39 kilometers in length. The air in the island has high quantities of sulfur dioxide and therefore, the inhabitants are required to carry gas masks all the time. It is a stratovolcanic island which has a composite cone that is mainly granitic. The sulfur dioxide in the island is from Mount Oyama which releases these gasses due to volcanic eruptions with five eruptions taking place after the beginning of the Miyake-Jima Island.

The volcanic eruptions and emissions are measured using a Multi-Component Gas Analyzer System which helps predict a likely volcanic activity through the detection of pre-eruptive degassing of the magma that is on the rise. The sulfur dioxide constantly flows due to the volcanic activities of this mountain. However, despite the need to carry masks all the time which is mandatory, they do not wear them often. In the events of a sudden drastic increase of toxic gasses in the air, people are warned using alarms that go off in such an event.This island has had people vacated by the authorities for four years in the year 2000 after the occurrence of a series massive and large explosions. These volcanic activities and the toxic gases-ridden air may appear to be a setback that would discourage tourism and tourism related activities in the island.

However, the Island of Miyake-Jima is a large tourist attraction destination with even the tourists having to adjust to the living norms of wearing gas masks just like the citizens living in the region. In spite of the active volcanic activities and likely eruptions by the mountain, the region manages to attract a huge number of curious tourists who dare to go and enjoy on the island. This island is the habitat of the rare endemic Izu thrush also called akakokko.

Despite the island being under occasional endangers from both human and volcanic activities, it has an unusually rich fauna and flora which has a number of rare birds and animals species. The deep waters are valued for the coral reefs and marine fauna that include the dolphins’ population.These tourists are normally attracted to this island with a motive of getting to experience the surreal and post-apocalyptic scene. It’s, however, the initiative of the government officials in the island to advise the potential visitors on the importance of researching the harmful effects of the toxic gasses in the air mainly sulfur dioxide before visiting the island and get a medical check before and after the visitation in Miyake-Jima.The tourists are assisted by the local Tokyo Metropolitan Government which closely observes and monitors the Mount Oyama volcanic activities by the use of the highly developed state of art equipment, video referencing and permanent surveillance and keen observation using satellites and helicopters.

Miyakejima today

Images: Wikimedia Commons, mikebyrnesinjapan, digitalalcohol