BY MATTHEW CHIN
In an instant an active volcano can spew molten lava over a neighbouring village incinerating everything in its path and all of its inhabitants—a sure and sudden death. Evidently, the villagers on Aogashima Island—who reside inside of an active volcano—see this as a challenge, not a threat.
Located 360 kilometres from mainland Japan, this remote island inhabited by only 200 people relies on the volcano’s geothermic heat to support their village. The heat from the volcano is used to cook their food and produce their main export: Hingya salt. Villagers live off the land, eating the bounty of fish and mountain vegetables indigenous to the island.
Their food is cooked by placing their meals in the ground and letting the volcanic heat steam cook them. The salt is made by evaporating three tons of sea water on volcanic ground, which produces 90kg of salt. The properties of the salt are said to have restorative powers and is used in their food and in lotions.
The volcano last erupted in the 18th century, killing nearly half the population and forcing the remaining inhabitants to leave the island for almost 50 years. The volcano is still active.
Nevertheless, tourists visit the island because of its geothermic hot springs, panoramic night skies, and scenic hiking trails far away from civilization. Since parts of the island are relatively untouched, hiking trails are fresh and full of wildlife for curious travellers to explore. The Island is accessible by helicopter or by boat that only arrives once a day. A trip to the island only costs around $500. The villagers’ tranquil lifestyle satisfies travellers looking for an escape from the bustling city life by visiting a peaceful village atop an active volcano with a killer view.