Beautiful location – shame about the neighbour

This weekend we are off to the picturesque and – according to Wikipedia –upscale mountain resort of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture. The occasion is a piano concert featuring our very own Y chan, to be held in a proper concert hall in the town. It’s something we’ve all been looking forward to for some time. Apart from the concert, Y Chan is looking forward to hitting one of the many outlets in the area in the hope of securing some good bargains. Y-chan’s boyfriend S-chan (as he is known “in-house”) will be accompanying us, so it will be a good opportunity to get to know him a bit more. guide_p_14 Whereas I and Big M are basically looking forward to a night away, eating, drinking something different and maybe a long soak in a local onsen, such as shown here. Fantastic. I’m also looking forward to a long drive and the opportunity to see something more of rural Japan.


Looks great doesn’t it? This was how the trip was explained to me – beautiful scenery, fresh mountain air, upmarket shops and restaurants, Y Chan’s triumphant piano recital and the opportunity to partake of new and exciting comestibles of both the culinary and alcoholic kind in the company of the most delightful people in the world. Wonderful.

Funny how they forgot to mention one small detail…


Karuizawa is located right next to Mt Asama – the most active volcano on the main island of Japan. I only discovered this last week, and I must say I was a bit disturbed to discover we’d be sharing our weekend away with this fiery monster, which last erupted just a year ago. When I mentioned it to Big M she said casually, “Oh yeah there is that.”

“Is it safe?” I demanded. “Of course,” she said, adding under her breath, “Probably”.

Bloody hell. She really has missed her vocation as an estate agent

Now – as mentioned before here – I am terrified of volcanoes. As a Brit, I am woefully emotionally underequipped to deal with the full force of nature’s fiery fury and the prospect of getting closer than a hundred miles to one of these primordial hellholes fills me with dread. For comfort, I decided to go and look at the official town website, reasoning that they were certainly the best placed to advise on the current situation locally vis-a-vis the aforementioned harbinger of fiery doom. What I found didn’t exactly fill me with confidence:

Considering the past cases, unless the eruption is an especially large scale eruption, the damage to houses would be relatively minimal. However, we should always be on the alert for small ash deposits and volcanic ash fallout, and a possible earthquake may occur.

In 1783, Asama erupted unexpectedly killing thousands. Presumably this is what they refer to as “an especially large scale eruption”. So what they are saying is – all those times that Asama hasn’t completely blown its top, you’ll probably be ok. The inference being that you probably won’t be if it decides to properly let rip.

●When the eruption begins

Listen to the TV, Radio, town’s loudspeaker van, radio transmitted by the disaster prevention section.

Can’t help thinking I’d be more focused on running for my life at this point.

Do not rush outside. It may be dangerous as volcanic ash and rock may fall.

Oh ok – so I should stay inside my wooden, highly inflammable house then? Bollocks – I’m off!

When there are evacuation instructions, follow the orders immediately.

…Or try to keep up with me as I shall be redefining the phrase “Getting the fuck outta here”

Remain calm when evacuating and give priority to the elderly, handicapped people and children.

I shall be maintaining a high state of panic, concentrating mainly on getting our collective arses out of harms way as quickly as possible. And I’ll probably be screaming a lot too.

When going outside, wear a helmet, mask or goggles to protect yourself.

Oh right – of course; the helmet and goggles that I carry around with me for just such a situation.

Clearly getting away from the area is going to be the smart move, and the town has some helpful advice on that as well:

1. Move away from Mt. Asama.

2.Avoid being downwind as much as possible.

Well, nothing to worry about there, then – they’ve clearly got the escape plan all sorted out.

So my attention turned to what portents of doom to look out for. Here too, the town has some helpful advice.

(1)Make a habit of checking for smoke from Mt. Asama
Check to see if the smoke smells sulphurous, if there is any colour in the smoke, and if the amount of smoke has increased.

Also, watch out for great fountains of white hot lava, which are often a telltale sign that something is amiss.

(2)Hang a curtain on the windows facing north
In 1958 when the large eruption occurred, the glass was destroyed due to aerial vibration. Try to reduce the damage by hanging a curtain or replace the glass with a mesh glass.

For “Aerial vibration” – read “Catastrophic explosion”

(3)Prepare emergency supplies
When evacuating due to a volcanic eruption, helmet, mask and goggles will protect you.

…although not as much as being 200 fucking miles away will

(4)Be on the alert for urgent and pre-warning notices on volcanic activities When the number of volcanic earthquakes increases, “The pre-warning notices on volcanic activities” and “The urgent notices on volcanic activities” will be announced. These notices will not necessarily mean that an eruption will occur immediately, however please remain calm and be on the alert.

While these announcements may not mean that an eruption will occur immediately,  they will mean that your humble scribe will be streaking across Japan like a bat out of hell for the relative safety of Shoan – concert or no concert.