• Kyodo

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The eruption of Mount Ontake on Sept. 27 has farmers and tourism employees worried that the region’s goods and reputation may be damaged.

The tourism industry is particularly worried that a prolonged volcanic crisis could hurt the region’s business. The agriculture sector meanwhile has to deal with food-safety concerns.

“It should be safe if we just remove the ash,” said Makoto Oshima, head of the Agricultural Center for Improvement and Popularization of Agriculture in the town of Kiso, Nagano Prefecture. “I’m most concerned about the bad image that might be associated with Mount Ontake.”

Most of the damage appeared to hit the crop of “hakusai,” a Chinese cabbage. The cabbages, a local specialty known for their size and sweet taste, were just ready for harvest when the eruption occurred.

In parts of the town Kiso, and a nearby village of the same name to the northeast, volcanic ash has damaged about 18 hectares of farmland where hakusai is grown. Of the 32 cabbage farms in the area, 30 took damage.

Farmers now must peel off two or three more leaves than usual and wash the vegetables to remove ash before shipping.

“It takes us more than three times longer than usual to prepare for shipment,” a farmer said. “We’re short-handed. I can barely manage the situation even with extra help from my friends.”

An official with the Kiso Municipal Government meanwhile expressed concern that the aftereffects of the eruption might cause a “decline in (product) value.”

According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, fields that have been damaged by ash and debris caused by the eruption may require soil amelioration, which may affect farming activities and further damage the industry as a whole.

The eruption played havoc with the tourism industry, which does big business in the fall.

Nagoya Meitetsu Kanko Bus Co., which offers tours to Mount Ontake, has canceled all one-day tours to the area scheduled for October and November. The affected customers were offered tours to other areas.

“It’s such a pity (it occurred) when the season for colorful autumn leaves is about to start,” an employee said.

Meanwhile, Tokyo-based tour bus company Shiki No Tabi Co. changed the destination of its two-day Mount Ontake trekking tour scheduled to start last Wednesday, to Kamikochi, Nagano Prefecture.

Despite the location of the eruption, travel agencies across the country were flooded with inquiries from customers who had made reservations for trips far removed from the volcano but were still concerned about their safety.

According to some agencies, the eruption prompted many customers to cancel hiking tours regardless of the location.

This has heightened concerns that the popularity of hiking and climbing tours will take a hit.

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