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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
The death toll from Saturday's powerful, and deadly explosion of the volcano has now climbed to 48, press reports. The eruption was a sudden, unexpected (and unpredictable) phreatic explosion, i.e. caused by sudden evaporation of overheated water in the hydrothermal system of the volcano. ... [more]
In a screen grab from a YouTube video, hikers flee from Ontake on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Japan.
Sunday, Sep 28, 2014
Yesterday's eruption might have caused more than 30 fatalities, Japanese press reports. Most of them were apparently killed by heart and respiratory failure after inhaling ash when caught in the outer areas of a pyroclastic flow or ash cloud descending the mountain. ... [more]
Pyroclastic flow during Ontake volcano's eruption today (Asahi.com)
Saturday, Sep 27, 2014
A large explosive eruption occurred at Japan's second highest volcano today at 11:56 local time. An explosion produced an ash plume that rose approx. 4 km and a large pyroclastic flow that swept down the southwestern flank. ... [more]
Comparision of satellite images from 21 Aug and 6 Sep, showing the active lava flows (images: GSI/AIST, annotations: Culture Volcan)
Friday, Sep 12, 2014
Lava flows continue to be active and enlarge the growing island. During the past weeks, these have contributed to the growth of a platform towards the north of the active vents. [more]
Ash plume from an explosion at Sakurajima volcano yesterday morning
Wednesday, Sep 10, 2014
The explosive activity at the volcano has been elevated compared to most of the previous months. An average of 4-5 vulcanian explosions have been occurring daily. A strong eruption yesterday produced an ash plume that rose to 15,000 ft (4.5 km) altitude (VAAC Tokyo). [more]
Map of volcanoes in Japan (USGS)
Map of volcanoes in Japan (USGS)

Volcanoes of Japan (118 volcanoes)

Japan has over 100 active volcanoes, more than almost any other country and accounts alone for about 10 % of all active volcanoes in the world. The volcanoes belong to the Pacific Ring of Fire, caused by subduction zones of the Pacific plate beneath continental and other oceanic plates along its margins.
Japan's volcanic arcs and tectonic setting
Japan is located at the junction of 4 tectonic plates - the Pacific, Philippine, Eurasian and North American plates, and its volcanoes are mainly located on 5 subduction-zone related volcanic arcs where the Pacific Plate descends under the North American Plate along the Kuril Trench and the Japan Trench and underneath the Philippine Sea Plate along the Izu-Bonin Trench. The Philippine Plate itself subducts beneath the Eurasian Plate at the western end, forming the Ryukyu Trench. The principal resulting volcanic ars are:
- Ryukyu Arc and Southwest Honshu Arcs in the south (Philippine plate subducting beneath between the Eurasian Plate),
- Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc (subduction of Pacific plate beneath Philippine plate)
- Northeast Honshu and Kurile Arc in the north (subduction of Pacific plate beneath the N-American plate)
(more info: www.glgarcs.net/intro/subduction.html)

Besides intense volcanic activity, Japan is one of the places in the world most affected by frequent, and sometimes devastatingly large earthquakes. Its oceanic setting makes it vulnerable for tsunamis as well, as the tragedy of the 11 March 2011 8.9 earthquake and tsunami terrifyingly illustrated.

Record in historically documented eruptions
Japan's first documented historical eruption was from Aso volcano in 553 AD , the year after Buddhism was introduced from Korea. It holds a record in the number of historically documented eruptions.
Japan's largest historical eruption (Towada, 915 AD), 17 Japanese volcanoes had been documented in eruption, more than the rest of the world combined (including 10 in Europe).

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