Sakurajima Volcano, Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima 鹿児島市


February 20, 2014

My dear fellow volcanologists,

Am I an “Expert” in Geology?

I did struggle through Geology 101 as an undergraduate.   I have devoured books by John McFee and Simon Winchester.

Years ago in Java, Indonesia, I traveled to Mount Bromo, when at dawn, the volcano puts on its display of fire and brimstone. 

Most recently, in Ecuador, I watched from afar as the volcano called Volcán Tungurahua lived up to its name: “Throat of Fire.”

So, does all that make me an expert in volcanology, plate tectonics and the Ring of Fire?

Indeed, I was contemplating writing a short essay.  But then I decided that the subjects are easy to research, if not so easy to understand.  Besides, we all have witnessed the dramatic effects of these natural phenomena.

Who can forget the earthquake and ensuing tsunami off the coast of Aceh in Sumatra?  The devastation caused by an earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Fukushima in Japan?  Plate Tectonics at work, demonstrating cause and effect.

Yet, here I am, in Japan, traveling along the route of the Ring of Fire.

In the southern city of Kagoshima I encounter one of my favorite travel sights: an active volcano.

It’s a lovely day for the ferry ride across the sparkling bay to the island of Sakura.  There I join up with a Japanese group for a two-hour tour of the volcano Sakurajima.  桜島  We make stops at the visitors’ center, a shrine and a lookout point.   Climbing the mountain is prohibited but we do get close to the smoke and ash.  Our eyes absorb a speck or two.

When the wind blows the ash in the right direction, the folks in Kagoshima (pop 460,600) open their umbrellas.

In fact, when it comes to the subject of Geology, the folks in Kagoshima, indeed the entire population of Japan (120.6 million) living atop the Ring of Fire - they are the Experts.


“What, me worry?”  I’m off to the Sushi Bar in the food court in the Kagoshima Railroad Station where “all you can eat” is “all you can pay!”  おいしい


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