Sakurajima, an active volcano in Kyushu

December 31, 2011

There’s an active volcano (活火山, lively + fire + mountain) a ten-minute train ride away from Satsuma-sendai.  Named Sakurajima,  (桜島, literally, cherry blossom island), this formerly island volcano is home to giant radishes, tiny satsuma tangerines, and numerous hotsprings.

桜島は活火山だ。

While Sakurajima continually erupts today, ejecting clouds of ash and smoke, its most recent major eruption was in 1914.  Locals knew before the big eruption that it was time to leave: they’d heard stories about the giant 18th century eruption when the islands’ wells boiled, shoals of dead fish washed up on shore, and earthquakes rattled their towns.  In what was a rare eruptive event for Japan, home to explosive high silicate lava, Sakurajima belched a veritable flow of lava (溶岩), which covered villages and caused the island to grow, eventually connecting via isthmus to the mainland.  The volcano erupts more than daily, spewing ash over Kagoshima-shi in the summer and further south in the winter.

Continue reading

Arriving in Kagoshima-ken, Satsuma-sendai-shi

December 30, 2011

A few days before New Years Eve I boarded a plane to Japan, carrying with me a Pelican case containing a camera, a netbook, an assortment of cables, and instructions on how to connect all of it to a telescope at Kagoshima University on the southernmost main island of Japan.  The goal was to capture a Kuiper Belt object’s passing in front of a distant star in order to better understand the size and orbit of this icy world known as (20000) Varuna.

Continue reading