The Deadly Secret That Lurks Beneath The Surface Of This Tropical Island

Many of us would love to live on an island, especially one that is considered a paradise on Earth, with its beaches, mountains, and peace. For the inhabitants of the island of Aogashima, in Japan, that dream came true, and many families established their roots there. What they did not know, was that the island hid a terrible secret.

Photo: Courtesy of EarthPorn

#30. Aogashima

Across the Philippine Sea, there are several islands that are called home by many people, and most of them are located to the south of Tokyo. The Island of Aogashima, even though it is now inhabited, is mostly inhospitable.

Photo: Courtesy of Charly W. Karl

This is so because most of the people who visit (or tried staying on the island) could not stay there longer than a day. Sadly, it is a shame that such a beautiful island is also one of the most dangerous ones on Earth. Stay with us to know why!

#29. Mountain Range

The main body of land is located in the crater of the island, and as such, it is surrounded by a mountain range, that serves as a barrier to the outside. Inside the crater, you will feel like if you are in a jungle, as everywhere you look at is green.

Photo: Courtesy of Soica2001

You may still think that the island is a kind of paradise in the midst of the Philippine Sea, but actually, the mountains protect the few inhabitants from the enormous waves that come crashing against it. When in a storm, inhabitants may not leave the island for several days!

#28. Leaving

Nonetheless, we have a very important question to make. Being the island such a fantastic and beautiful place, why would any person want to leave? Or why don’t visitors stay? As a matter of fact, the answer to that question lies in the same island.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

Luckily, you should not stray very far to find the answer to that question. In fact, walking through one of the abandoned island paths, which is now covered in vegetation, and which once was one of the main tourist attractions, will take you to the central crater of the Island.

#27. Humidity

While getting near to the gigantic crater in the center of the island, the humidity in the air will start to feel more oppressive and you will be surrounded by insects, more specifically, mosquitoes, in actually no time.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

Visitors should also be careful of the jets of steam that come out from the ground, as they are terribly hot. If you have been reading carefully, this is a very important hint at whatever lies on the island that makes it so dangerous.

#26. Small Island

Even though the island is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the Philippine Sea it is also really small in size, as it measures approximately 2 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

And if you take into account the measure of the central crater, that is almost a mile wide, you will see that it takes almost the total width of the island. In the middle of the depression of the crater is a small hill that has its own depression. But let’s continue with the danger on the island.

#25. Tokyo

Despite the island being more than 200 nautical miles from the capital of Japan, Tokyo, its inhabitants are supervised by the central government of Tokyo. Not only that, but the capital of Japan performs several services on other isles of the Pacific.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

The other two islands in which the central government of Tokyo perform its services and govern them are Iwo Jime and Okinotori. As such, the Tokyo government is pretty busy taking care of these three islands and cannot focus on the problems of Aogashima.

#24. Ferry vs. Helicopter

And even though the island is pretty close to the place where its central Government is located, traveling to and from the island is very difficult. As Aogashima is located on an island, first you would need to make either a ferry or a helicopter trip.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

But visitors should be aware that these two options are subject to the weather. If you booked a ferry and there is a storm coming, or if the sea has been very rough, it would probably be canceled. The same thing will happen with the helicopter in case of a storm brewing.

#23. Only in Japan

In 2017, a YouTuber called John Daub went to visit the island to film and present the island for his channel named ONLY in JAPAN and he is a clear witness to how the weather may also affect the inhabitants of the island.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

If no storm is present or near the island, the climate of the island is still very hot and humid. When he was hiking through the island, John Daub had to stop several times to hydrate himself as, in his own words, “humidity levels are insanely high”.

#22. Port

In the island, there are not many hiking routes, and the one that John Daub had taken is the one that takes visitors to the central transport hub located in Aogashima, and one of the other routes takes visitors from the “bowl” area to the islander’s settlement.

Photo: Courtesy of Arinoki

The last hiking route known is the island is considered the most treacherous one because it takes visitors to the crater located at the edge of the island where a viewpoint for photography is located. The road becomes more treacherous when strong winds are blowing in the only road available.

#21. Settlements

As opposed to what everyone would think, the islander’s settlement is not located inside one of the craters, which would protect them from the elements. Instead, the houses sit against one of the small hills in the island, high above the sea level.

Photo: Courtesy of Jonvitor

Although at first visitors think that the island is composed of only one “city”, actually there are two separate settlements, known as hamlets. These communities which are called Yasundogo and Nishigo, are always seen as one entity, as the distance between them is very small.

#20. Produce

In general, the main “income” for the inhabitants of Aogashima island comes through farming, which produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, as the island is so small it only has one general store.

Photo: Courtesy of Marcello Aquino

As such, those producers that sell the goods that they farmed can only sell them to that particular general store, and the profits are very low. Most of them just trade their goods or even consume the ones that they could make.

#19. Giant Almaco Jacks

Apart from farming, the inhabitants go to the shore of the port and fish. After a few decades, fishing became one of the biggest industries on the island and a source of employment to several persons.

Photo: Courtesy of Arinoki

Not only is the fishing industry very important for the local residents, but also for those who come from very far places in order to fish one particular species, the Giant Almaco Jacks. These fish come in summer and are the first fish to be captured by the seamen!

#18. Minshukus

Despite the island being a natural paradise, it falls short of it in respect of lodging for visitors, because there are not many places in the island in which people may stay; and the ones that exist in the island are not very comfortable of amenable.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

However, the residents of the island created some kind of lodging known as minshukus, which are guests houses (in reality they are only rooms) that includes food. Apart from the lodging, there is a bar with catering options known as izakaya and a retail store.

#17. Shochu

Apart from the buildings previously mentioned, the island of Aogashima also hosts a school and a hospital for residents. On top of that, one particular building stands over all of the rest, and both visitors and residents love it, the local bar with the local distilled drink.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

This alcoholic beverage is known as Shochu and comes from a variety of flavors and is distilled from barley, sweet potato or rice. Visitors may be able to visit the factory in which the drink is distilled and packed to be delivered. After visiting the factory, they’ll give you a free sample of Shochu!

#16. Daredevils

We have said that even though the island is considered to be a paradise, it is also a very dangerous place to live in, and that has to do with the fact that the island is actually an active volcano.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

Not only is the island still an active volcano, but all of the inhabitants have built their homes and their whole lives on top of that active volcano. Some may consider this a deadly trap, while others daredevils are thrilled to live here!

#15. Submarine Volcanoes

As a matter of fact, the island is not only one volcano, but they are, in fact, four submarine volcanoes. These volcanoes are submarine vents that from time to time spit magma onto the surface of the island. Since the island became inhabited, these volcanoes have not erupted.

Photo: Courtesy of Eugene Kaspersky

And to be honest with you, the giant central crater in the center of the island, which many consider being the prettiest part of the island, should also be considered the most dangerous one, as it is one of the most active volcanoes in the island. It is known by the residents as Maru-yama.

#14. Kurosaki

Despite being completely dangerous, the island owes its existence to the volcanoes, as it was “built” from all of the previous eruptions of these volcanoes. The first volcano to be discovered where the island is situated has at least a thousand years old and is known as Kurosaki.

Photo: Courtesy of Marc Szlegat

Kurosaki is located in the north-west part of the island and was the first to form. The second volcano that formed is located directly opposite of Kurosaki. The surrounding hills and cliffs of the island were also formed by the volcanic activity!

#13. Stratovolcanoes

To be more exact in the classification of the volcanoes, those that are located within Aogashima island are stratovolcanoes, also known as composite volcanoes. We all know them as they are the classic, cone-shaped volcanoes.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

These type of volcanoes are formed from the remains of other volcanic products as cold lava and pumice. There have been many famous stratovolcanoes throughout history, and one of the most known is Mount Vesuvius, which completely destroyed the city of Pompeii.

#12. Craters

Volcanoes are not the only nature-made formations in the island, as Aogashima is also home to an incredible caldera called Ikenosawa. This type of phenomena are generally known as craters.

Photo: Courtesy of Norio Nakayama

Craters are very common where there are stratovolcanos, as they are formed after a volcano erupts. Whenever the crust of the earth that covers the mouth of the magma chamber is “destroyed”, it falls into the cavern below and that is how craters are formed.

#11. Volcanic Island

Aogashima, as a consequence of being an island formed by volcanic eruptions, is considered to be a volcanic island in nature, and geologically these are the rarest islands on the planet.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

The main component of the soil on the island is basalt, which is a black rock that is essentially cold magma. Another part of the soil of the island is the andesite, which is an igneous rock from the volcanoes when they erupt and is generally associated with stratovolcanoes.

#10. First Eruptions

Another consequence of being a volcanic island is that Aogashima has been shocked and many tremors have been felt on the island during the centuries due to eruptions from the several volcanoes. The first of these eruptions is thought to have happened around the 1800 B.C.

Photo: Courtesy of Zalclemishton

After that, several more episodes of eruptions and tremors have been recorded, but with the advancements of technology, information is more readily available for the residents of the island to prepare. Nonetheless, the true explosive nature of the island became a problem around the 1700s.

#9. Earthquakes

As we were saying, in the 1700s, the island of Aogashima was hit by several earthquakes, one after another. This series of earthquakes are known as earthquake swarm and, according to the record house in Hachijo-jima, began in 1780.

Photo: Courtesy of Daniil Silantev

The earthquakes then subsided for that year, but, sadly for the inhabitants of the island, they hit once again the following year. When the earth stopped shaking, the residents of the island thought that the worst had happened, but they were wrong. Suddenly, steam started to rise from the lakes.

#8. Maruyama

At first, and for several years, the residents of Aogashima did not know what the steam that rose from the lake was; they only knew they had to stay away from it. Then, in 1783, they knew the cause of the steam, as the volcano Maruyama erupted.

Photo: Courtesy of Yosh Ginsu

The eruption caused a lot of molten lava, magma and stones to come out of the mouth of the volcano, and as such, the island had to be evacuated. Fortunately, the 60 families that lived on the island at that moment fled and were saved… at least for now.

#7. Another Eruption

The actual residents of the island know the story of what happened in 1785, as there are still records of it and it is passed on through generations. In that year the island shook once again, and another volcano erupted. Sadly, this time there were more than 300 persons living on the island.

Photo: Courtesy of Julien Milet

Records state that after the 1785 eruption more than half of the population was wiped by the magma and the earthquakes. The eruption was so big that not only 140 people died, but also every house on the island was destroyed.

#6. Survivors

It seems that the fear of eruptions was not so great, because every surviving resident of the island came back to their homes, only to find them destroyed. But that did not stop them, and fifty years after the 1785 eruption, former residents started coming back.

Photo: Courtesy of Ronald Nelson Photography

Year after year people continued going to the island, and thanks to that the population started increasing at a slow but steady rate. In 2009, the population that inhabits the island year-round came to be around 200 families, which decided that the island would be their home.

#5. Activity

Since then, the volcanic activity on the island has ceased completely, and many scientists have said that they will probably never erupt again. Nonetheless, the Japanese Meteorological Agency classed the island as active.

Photo: Courtesy of EarthPorn

The classification of the Japanese Meteorological Agency has its reasons: although no eruptions have been recorded since the catastrophe of 1785, they still believe that one of the volcanoes in the island remains active, but in a dormant state.

#4. Lifestyles

Most residents of the island got used to living in constant danger and fear of the volcanoes, but they also know that they live on a beautiful island that looks like paradise to them. Those residents that came from the mainland in Japan had to adapt their lifestyle to that of the island.

Photo: Courtesy of Filip Zmzevic

Most of the residents started cycling or walking around the island, as the distances are really small. Still, there are some of them that prefer to ride a car to travel around the island, but this also has a reason behind it. As with all islands, it is located in the middle of the sea, and its windy and wet climate make biking very difficult.

#3. Steam

Looking at the bright side of things for a while, it seems that living above dormant volcanoes has its benefits for the residents, as they use the natural hot steam that emanates from the earth to heat their homes, boil water and cook food.

Photo: Courtesy of Mikadographics

As such, many of the local dishes of the island that every visitor eats are volcano-steamed potatoes and volcano-made eggs, among others. It seems that the residents have found many other uses for the steam, but those secrets are still part of them.

#2. Holidays

Aogashima is also known for attracting several types of visitors, from the usual couple looking for a paradisiac get-away to hikers trying to climb the mountains and volcanoes. For those visitors that just want to relax, the island offers a volcano-steamed-spa as residents call it.

Photo: Courtesy of Arinoki

Those visitors that tried the volcano-steamed-spa stated that it is one of the most unrelaxing experiences of his life, as the steam from the volcano is just too hot to be enjoyed. Nonetheless, there are several other things that the island offers in the way of adventure.

#1. Serenity

The main attraction of the island for hikers are obviously the volcanoes, as they offer a different opportunity for them. Not only it is an incredible experience to climb a volcano, but also the views from atop are incredible. Other visitors prefer the sea and opt to scuba-dive.

Photo: Courtesy of ONLY in JAPAN

On the other hand, Aogashima is also a very quiet island, both during the day and at night. In 2016, the magazine Japanzine shared the review of a visitor on the island:

“There’s not a lot of action on Aogashima, but it is a great place to unwind and experience Japan’s unspoiled nature.”

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  • About Author

    Luke H.

    Certified Translator recently graduated at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
    Gamer. Bookworm.

    What we do in life echoes in eternity.

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