How the world's newest island explains Japan's approach to life

A series of dramatic volcanic eruptions recently birthed a new island off the coast of Japan – which explains a lot about the nation and its unique worldview.

BBC -- Dec 08

In late October, plumes of billowing white smoke and ash began to spew from the sea, as an underwater volcano roared to life near Japan's Ogasawara archipelago in the western Pacific. By November, the eruptions became so violent and frequent that they caused a new land mass to surface measuring 100m in diameter off the southern coast of Iwoto island (formerly called Iwo Jima).

While the dramatic event made international headlines, it largely went unnoticed here in Japan, whose location along the Ring of Fire makes it the most seismically active nation on Earth. Home to roughly 10% of the world's active volcanoes and enduring an estimated 1,500 earthquakes each year, in many ways, Japan is a rumbling, grinding, geological laboratory shaped by mighty forces. And over the centuries, the same forces that have shaped Japan physically have also shaped its unique worldview.

Japan is a nation of islands. Though it consists of four main islands connected by bridges and bullet trains, the entire Japanese archipelago contains more than 14,000 islands – including 7,000 that were discovered earlier this year. Underwater volcanoes regularly heave up new landmasses. Sometimes these new islands erode and disappear under the waves. Other times they merge with existing islands to resemble funny shapes. And occasionally, these volatile volcanoes continue to spew ash and rock 200m into the sky a decade after forming – as happened just a few weeks ago. Needless to say, Japan has not always been the easiest place for people to live. ...continue reading


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