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Saturday Volcano Art: Hiroshige II, ‘Mount Asama’ (1859) 29 August 2009

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Hiroshige II, 'Mount Asama' (1859)

The artist known as Hiroshige II (1826-69) was a student of the great ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), who has already featured in this series. He became his master’s adopted son and married his daughter, Tatsu, and, after Hiroshige’s death in 1858, used his name; he had previously signed himself as Shigenobu. To avoid confusion, he is generally known as Hiroshige II. There is also a Hiroshige III, who was also the first Hiroshige’s adopted son and also married to Tatsu, but let’s not get into that here.

Mount Asama, the most active volcano on Honshu, is pictured in this image from Hiroshige II’s series One Hundred Views of Famous Places in the Provinces, published 1859-61. At the time this print was made the most recent significant eruption of Asama had occurred around 30 years earlier, in 1815, while in 1783 the volcano had produced one of the largest and most destructive eruptions (VEI=4) in modern Japanese history.

The print shows the volcano viewed from the south-east: on the left is the ridge of the Korufu-yama arc, remnant of an older volcano. The summit of Asama is producing brownish-grey emissions and is covered with recent ashfall and crowned with large boulders. The reddish-purple cloud, edged with yellow, that reaches across the distant ridge to encircle the volcano gives the scene a threatening air, emphasized by the towering flanks of the mountain (their steepness exaggerated by the artist) and the tiny, fragile details of the landscape in the foreground – trees, bushes, hurrying figures. There is a pervasive sense of unease that is absent from the first Hiroshige’s landscapes: a brooding atmosphere of latent threat. In this image the volcano is a grey monster, overshadowing the landscape and stirring in its sleep.

That sense of latent threat is by no means misleading. When this print was published Asama’s half-century of quiescence was coming to an end. In 1869 a VEI=2 event marked the beginning of a pattern of frequent eruptions (over fifty between 1875 and 2008) that has continued to the present day. Asama’s most recent eruption was in February 2009.

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Mount Asama erupts 2 February 2009

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Mount Asama, 2 February 2009.

Mount Asama in Japan fulfilled the JMA forecast by erupting on a relatively small scale today, producing a steam-and-ash plume to altitudes of around 2 km and throwing rocks as far as 1km from the vent. Light ashfall took place over parts of Tokyo and reached as far as Yokohama. The Tokyo VAAC had reports (based on estimates) of ash up to altitudes of 10000 to 15000 ft (3-4.5 km), dispersing to the south-east. The BBC has a video showing aerial views of the summit which must have been taken soon after the eruption.

Meanwhile Sakura-jima on Kyushu in the south of Japan has also erupted several times over the last few hours, producing ashfall mainly into the sea. Sakura-jima is highly active, with frequent explosions producing ash plumes, and residents of the nearby city of Kagoshima took the latest activity in their stride: ‘we did not note anything out of the ordinary affecting daily activity’, said a local official.

Webcam views of Asama can be found here and here (thanks to Boris Behncke and Stefan Keuttel for this information). The image at the top is Asama erupting, 02:00, 2 February 2009 (thanks to Stefan Keuttel; original here).

UPDATE: The Japan Meteorological Agency is pleased that this eruption of Mount Asama has proved to be a success for its new volcano alert system, introduced in December 2007, reports The Japan Times.

News
Japan volcano Mount Asama erupts, no major damage – Reuters, 2 February 2009
Volcano erupts near Tokyo raining ash down on city – Associated Press, 2 February 2009
Ash falls on Tokyo as volcanoes erupt – AFP, 2 February 2009
Volcano erupts close to Tokyo – BBC News, 2 February 2009
Volcano erupts in Japan – BBC News, 2 February 2009 (video)

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Asama – summary information for Asama (0803-11=)
Global Volcanism Program: Sakura-jima – summary information for Sakura-jima (0802-08=)
Japan Meteorological Agency – English-language homepage for the JMA
Volcano Research Center, University of Tokyo – English-language homepage for the VRC

The Volcanism Blog

Heightened alert at Mount Asama 1 February 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Asama, Japan, volcano monitoring.
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'Earthquake and Eruption of the Mountain of Asama-yama, in the province of Sinano', Isaac Titsingh, London, 1822 (Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin).

The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the alert level for Mount Asama, the most active of Honshu’s many volcanoes, after detecting increased seismic activity.

Press reports quote JMA official Sadayuki Kitagawa as warning that ‘Mount Asama could erupt within two days, spewing rocks and ash’, and that ‘there are prospects for an eruption that could thrown volcanic rocks to a distance of around 4 kilometres’. Up to 45,000 people could be affected by the current alert, and local officials are warning people to be ready for evacuation.

Asama has erupted frequently in recent years, most recently in September 2004, but without fatalities or widespread destructive effects. The volcano’s last destructive eruption was in May-August 1783, a VEI4 event which devastated 500 square kilometres and left around 1200 people dead.

Image: ”Earthquake and Eruption of the Mountain of Asama-yama, in the province of Sinano’, from Isaac Titsingh, Illustrations of Japan: Consisting of Private Memoirs and Anecdotes of the Reigning Dynasty of the Djogouns, or Sovereigns of Japan (London, 1822). Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin. [Source]

News
Japan warns of eruptions at volcanoInternational Herald Tribune, 1 February 2009
Japan on heightened alert for Mount Asama eruption – Reuters, 1 February 2009
Japan warns of volcano eruption within 48 hours – Telegraph.co.uk, 1 February 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Asama – summary information for Asama (0803-11=)
Japan Meteorological Agency – English-language homepage for the JMA
Volcano Research Center, University of Tokyo – English-language homepage for the VRC

The Volcanism Blog