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Just Married: Miyakejima Island Wedding. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. But some people are just too adamant to leave. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island. It may surprise you, but people residing there wear gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity.

Just Married: Miyakejima Island Wedding. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. But some people are just too adamant to leave. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island. It may surprise you, but people residing there wear gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity.

Miyake-jima ‘Gas Mask Island’

The age old adage home is where the heart is, finds its true meaning in Miyakejima, a small island located in southeast Japan. Despite the high level of volcanic activity that causes poisonous gas to leak from the earth that forced the 3,600 island residents to evacuate in 2000, the citizens just won’t stay away. Thus, the self-appointed gas mask town rose from the, very literal, ashes.

Off the coast of mainland Japan, a chain of islands called the Izu Islands sits beneath a cloud of sulphur. For the gasmask-wearing residents, every day is a challenge of survival.

Japan’s Izu Islands exist somewhere on the scale between ‘endlessly fascinating’ and ‘utterly terrifying’. Formed from the raised tops of an underwater volcanic chain, the islands are lush, beautiful and exceedingly deadly. Infrequent eruptions devastate whole islands. Earthquakes shake the entire archipelago. But deadliest of all are the clouds of sulphur which hang like a fog across the island of Miyakejima, trailing chaos in their wake. It’s the sort of place you’d have to be exceedingly mad or exceedingly dead to call ‘home’ – yet nearly 3,000 people choose to live there, at the fringes of human endurance.

Most of their lives are spent hidden behind gasmasks. On the few occasions when the sulphur levels drop low enough for normal breathing, they’re legally required to have a mask within arm’s reach. At least a third of the island is still uninhabitable following a 2000 eruption that forced all three thousand residents to flee for five years. Even in those areas where things are almost back to normal, an air-raid siren can sound at any time, warning of approaching gas-cloud-death. Yet most islanders don’t want to leave. In fact, the opposite occurs: every year, a whole bunch of tourists show up, hoping to play out their apocalyptic fantasies.

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyakejima is a hub for volcanic activity. For the past century, the volcanoes have erupted six times. The worst of these occurred in June 2000 when, after a repose interval of 17 years, Mount Oyama erupted. The eruption was proceeded by 17,500 (yes, 17 thousand) earthquakes, which hit the island between June 26 and July 21.

During the assault of eruptions and earthquakes, Miyakejima was enveloped in ash plumes reaching 10 miles in height, pyroclastic flow (fast flow of superheated gas), and heavy ash fall alongside crater collapses. The disaster also led to high levels of toxic sulfur dioxide regularly leaking up through the ground, making 20% of the land uninhabitable. After three months, the government took action and forced a mass evacuation in September.

Hold your breath when you get to the Japanese island of Miyake-jima. There are poisonous gases leaking into the atmosphere, and you never know when you’re going to need a mask to protect yourself from them. The world is a beautiful place, but it’s dangerous as well. At Miyake-jima, residents and visitors alike are exposed to those two extremes all the time.

“Viktor Bulla’s photograph of hundreds of children wearing gas masks was not meant to be ghoulish, a commentary on war or lost innocence, but rather exemplified a reason for pride—the country was blessed with well-trained, well-equipped and obviously courageous young fighters.” (From “Propaganda and Dreams: Photographing the 1930s in the USSR and the US” by Leah Bendavid-Val)

For five years, Miyakejima was declared off-limits, with the barren island resembling a post-apocalyptic world. Dead trees and rusted cars peppered the derelict space. Mount Oyama continued to emit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulfuric dioxide gas from its summit every day for two years following the eruption.

British WW1 troops.

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyakejima is a hub for volcanic activity. Over the past century, the volcanoes have erupted six times. The worst of these occurred in June 2000 when, after a repose of 17 years, Mount Oyama erupted. 17,500 earthquakes followed the eruption, which hit the island between June 26 and July 21.

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyakejima is a hub for volcanic activity. Over the past century, the volcanoes have erupted six times. The worst of these occurred in June 2000 when, after a repose of 17 years, Mount Oyama erupted. 17,500 earthquakes followed the eruption, which hit the island between June 26 and July 21.

For five years, Miyakejima was declared off-limits, with the barren island resembling a post-apocalyptic world: all dead trees, rusted cars, and abandoned buildings. For two years after the eruption, Mount Oyama continued to emit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulfuric dioxide gas from its summit daily. Slowly though, the evacuation order began to lift, and in 2005 citizens were allowed to return to their homes. Though some opted to remain in their relocated houses in Tokyo, about 2,800 chose to return, laden with gas masks and dire warnings about noxious gas still seeping through the land. Despite the re-populating of the island, nearly a third of Miyakejima remains permanently off-limits and the government conducts regular health checks and enforces age restrictions in certain areas.

Regardless of the dangers posed by living in the gas-soaked village, locals and tourists are in abundance. Gas mask tourism is a huge draw card for the region, with disposable masks sold at ferry stations and local stores. The volcanic destruction is also a money spinner, with sight-seeing tours of abandoned houses, flattened cars and a school gym half-destroyed by lava, as well as hot spring baths.

Hypothetically speaking, were one to visit the Izu Islands, they might wake to a siren in the middle of the night, only to be met in the dark by a confused, wandering child wearing a gas mask, a hand extended asking “Are you my mother?”

Although Miyakejima appears frightening and almost post-apocalyptic, tourists visit the island. Aside from the dangers of poisonous gas, parts of the island are extremely lush and apparently the scuba diving is a beautiful experience filled with dolphin sightings. For visitors who believe the benefits outweigh the danger, gas masks are available upon arrival at many tourist shops on the island.

During the assault of eruptions and earthquakes, ash plumes soaring 10 miles high enveloped Miyakejima, and heavy ash fell as craters collapsed. Later, high levels of toxic sulfur dioxide would regularly rise up through the ground, making 20 percent of the land uninhabitable.

During the assault of eruptions and earthquakes, ash plumes soaring 10 miles high enveloped Miyakejima, and heavy ash fell as craters collapsed. Later, high levels of toxic sulfur dioxide would regularly rise up through the ground, making 20 percent of the land uninhabitable.

Because the atmosphere is toxic, the villagers have to wear gas masks to keep themselves safe. Tourists who come here must wear them as well. Stores and ferry stations sell them, so visitors can come to the island whenever they like.

Because the atmosphere is toxic, the villagers have to wear gas masks to keep themselves safe. Tourists who come here must wear them as well. Stores and ferry stations sell them, so visitors can come to the island whenever they like.

Every day for years, Mount Oyama spit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulfuric dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2005, the toxicity had lowered enough for the citizens of Miyake-jima to go back home. This image shows their return.

Every day for years, Mount Oyama spit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulfuric dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2005, the toxicity had lowered enough for the citizens of Miyake-jima to go back home. This image shows their return.

It looks absolutely terrifying to walk through a town where everyone's wearing a mask, like something out of a nightmare or a dystopian movie. But the island has pretty landscapes too, covered with greenery and surrounded by the sparkling waters. There's a thriving farming community and a big fishing trade on the island. The beach is covered with black rocks, a sure sign of volcanic activity.

It looks absolutely terrifying to walk through a town where everyone’s wearing a mask, like something out of a nightmare or a dystopian movie. But the island has pretty landscapes too, covered with greenery and surrounded by the sparkling waters. There’s a thriving farming community and a big fishing trade on the island. The beach is covered with black rocks, a sure sign of volcanic activity.

Not all of them came back, but 2,800 of them did. Gas is still leaking into the atmosphere, a little more slowly now, and almost a third of the island is still uninhabitable.

Not everyone came back. Gas is still leaking into the atmosphere, a little more slowly now, and almost a third of the island is still uninhabitable.

Visitors can also take tours of abandoned houses, flattened cars and a school gym half-destroyed by lava, as well as hot spring baths – ostensibly for when self-awareness hits and visitors realize that they find disaster enjoyable enough to pay for.

Definitely a location to visit, where life lives on the edge of death, yet carries on just the same.

The Town Where Everyone Wears A Gas Mask – All That Is Inter

Atlas Obscura: Gas Mask Tourism on the Izu Islands

io9: On one Japanese island, everyone always carries a gas mask

Guardian: Residents ordered to flee volcano island

The Island where everyone wears a gas mask, Miyakejima : Did

Visiting The Quaint Japanese Island Of Miyake-Jima? Make Sure T


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