Believe it or not, there’s an island just 180km South of Tokyo where the air has such elevated quantities of sulfur dioxide, citizens have to carry gas masks all the time.
Miyake-jima is an inhabited volcanic island in the Izu archipelago, just a six-hour ferry ride away from Japan’s capital.
The whole body of land is a stratovolcano – volcanoes with a steep profile and periodic explosive eruptions like the famous Vesuvius in Italy- with an area of some 55 square km. Its highest elevation, Mount Oyama, is an active volcano which has erupted 13 times in the last 500 years.
Now if that is not a good enough pitch to put in the tourist brochure, we can add another jolly fact. The latest series of large scale explosions occurred as recently as 2000, when authorities were forced to evacuate the more than 2,400 inhabitants of the island.
The place was uninhabitable for four years and citizens were able to return to their homes only in 2005. A great place for a honeymoon isn’t it?
Well, to our surprise, Miyake-Jima is in fact a sought after tourist attraction. Like, who doesn’t want to look bad-ass in a gas mask.
Despite it being one of the most active volcanoes of the region, and having minor eruptions as recent as 2010, the island receives hundreds of curious and daring visitors each year.
Of course, city officials welcome all travelers eager to experience this surreal, post-apocalyptic scenery. Although they advise visitors to research beforehand the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide and to get a medical checkup before and after the trip.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is constantly monitoring the volcano’s activity through state of the art equipment, video reference, and permanent satellite and helicopter surveillance.
Locals don’t necessarily have to wear the gas masks 24 hours a day, but it is mandatory to carry one at all times.