When will Mount Fuji erupt?

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Fuji-san in Japan

Fuji-san is the name of the most famous volcano in Japan. At the same time, at 3776 m, it is the highest mountain in the country. Its symmetrical cone and proximity to the capital Tokyo make it world famous. In addition, Fuji is a spiritual center of Shintoism and is firmly anchored in Japanese mythology.

Fuji with temple. © shirophoto - Fotolia.com In the human dimension, the last eruption of the volcano was a long time ago: the last known eruption took place in 1707. From a geological point of view, this period is only half the blink of an eye and another eruption is possible in the medium term.

The name of the volcano is not without controversy. In the western world it is often incorrectly referred to as Fuji-yama, which is probably due to a misinterpretation of Japanese characters. The interpretations of the meaning of the name are also varied. Most likely the meaning is "fire mountain". Volcanism in Japan is related to the subduction of the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Plate under the Eurasian continent. The Fuji formed at the so-called triple point of all 3 plates.

Fuji-san is no youth in the volcano business. At this point, volcanologists were able to identify 4 phases of volcanic activity. From the first phase of activity, only one andesite hard specimen has been preserved. A basalt layer is evidence of the 2nd phase. A precursor volcano began to form a good 100,000 years ago. The current volcanic building of Fuji-san has been growing for about 10,000 years. This history of development is somewhat reminiscent of Mount Etna in Sicily.

The eruption is diverse: weak Strombolian eruptions can occur, but also volcanic and Plinian eruptions. The deposits of smaller pyroclastic flows were detected and solidified lava flows were discovered. The type of activity could be assigned to different development phases.

The December 1707 eruption lasted 2 weeks. It was a flank eruption that formed the Hoei-zan crater cone halfway up. The eruption had a VEI 5. After this eruption, three more eruptions (1708, 1770 and 1854) are recorded in the history books, which, however, have not yet been reliably confirmed.

In the recent past, there have been signs of an impending eruption of the volcano without an eruption. In 2000 and 2001 there were phases of increased seismic activity. After the great Sendai earthquake on March 11, 2011, scientists recorded an increase in pressure in the magma chamber. A major outbreak today would have dramatic consequences. The area is densely populated and, depending on the wind direction, the metropolis of Tokyo would be directly affected.

As a holy mountain, Fuji-san is also well developed for tourism. The ascent from well-developed paths is no major challenge. There are numerous Shinto shrines at its foot.

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