Tourists steering away from volcanic venues


Tourist destinations around the nation’s volcanoes have been flooded with inquiries from worried customers in the wake of the deadly eruption of Mount Ontake on Sept. 27.

Reservations at some inns are being canceled even as the best time for viewing the autumn leaves approaches.

An employee of the Mount Aso cable car company in Kumamoto Prefecture, at the foot of Mount Aso, said inquiries, mostly from travel companies, have surged in the wake of the surprise eruption, which left at least 47 hikers dead on Mount Ontake.

The inquiries are all about the safety of Mount Aso, which on Aug. 30 saw its eruption alert ascend from 1, the lowest level, to 2 on the Meteorological Agency’s scale to 5.

Level 2 means areas within a 1-km radius from any craters are off limits. The cable cars have thus been barred from running.

“We normally have lots of students visiting on school trips at this time of the year,” the official said. “There is a lot of research going on about volcanic activities on Mount Aso, but we can’t say it’s 100 percent safe, either.”

At Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, which straddles the border of Gunma and Nagano prefectures and has a history of steam explosions like the one on Mount Ontake last weekend, an inn has received requests from two groups of customers to postpone, and one cancelation, in the wake of the Ontake disaster.

“Mount Kusatsu-Shirane’s eruption alert level is 2. I think many people became worried after watching the eruption of Ontake,” said Yoichi Aoyagi, manager of the local Manza Hotel Juraku.

The mountain’s alert level was raised to 2 in June. The area hosts the famous Manza hot spring resort and has a lot of hotels and inns, but officials said the number of people staying in the area has dropped by 10 to 20 percent since the eruption level was raised in June.

According to the police, 46 of the 47 eruption victims on Mount Ontake were bludgeoned to death by falling rocks, while one victim died from burns.

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