Mount Fuji is also a volcano. The Japanese archipelago has no less than 140, recall Alexandre Messager and Philippe Godard, the authors of the interesting Japan for dummies (360 p, € 22.95). And Kyushu is not to be outdone. Besides Mount Aso, this island is home to another volcano in Kagoshima Bay. It is not for nothing that this prefecture was nicknamed "The Naples of the East". The Aira caldera is nearby and the Sakurajima volcano is part of the landscape. Like that of Mount Aso, it was spitting smoke when we went there in early December. And also ashes.

From a distance, the "show", as it was, was magnificent. No way getting too close, however. Visitors were asked to watch from an observatory. But we felt that the volcano was part of everyone's daily life there. The steps to climb to the observatory, where Chinese and Indian tourists laughed, were covered with a thin layer of ash. A little further, bags piled on top of each other contained ash that the inhabitants, always disciplined, had filled after dusting who, the way to his house, who, his stairs, who, a public passage. "A company is responsible for evacuating this heap of bags," explained Mayumi, "our translator.

A depth effect

A little earlier, when visiting the splendid Sengan-en gardens, once created by the powerful Shimazu clan on the edge of Kinko Bay, we had already seen the Sakurajima volcano. This garden even offers a breathtaking view of this smoking mountain and this considerably increases the charm of the garden, giving it the effect of depth sought in aesthetics. shakkei (we will come back to this in the following post).

A permanent threat

When we look at them under a beautiful peaceful sun, we are of course tempted to consider these volcanoes from the sole aesthetic aspect. In reality, they pose a permanent threat to Japan. It is not the only one hanging over this archipelago, which is also subject to very strong climatic contrasts. This country is indeed located at the meeting point of four lithospheric plates – two oceanic plates and two continental plates – which slide one under the other. As a result, Japan is regularly the victim of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis and, over the centuries, its inhabitants have not ceased, here and there, to rebuild castles, houses, works that the whims of nature had destroyed.

"The most worrying for the sustainability of the archipelago and its inhabitants is underground," recall the authors of "Japan for Dummies". Experts expect that one day – but, of course, no one can say when – the Nankai pit, off Tokyo, will be the scene of an earthquake so powerful that the archipelago could be completely destroyed.

At the origin of the Japanese spirit

We may know that many earthquakes have already dotted Japanese history, we may also know that the earthquake followed by the tsunami already caused, on March 11, 2011, a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, flying over helicopter Mount Aso or observing, from below, the Sakurajima volcano, in this early December, we were first captivated by the sublime spectacle. However, it was better understood that the authors of "Japan for Dummies" wrote: "The only way to survive in Japan has (always) been to manage nature", before adding "These peculiarities forged for a share the Japanese spirit ”. This observation continued throughout our week on the island of Kyushu. We will come back to it.

* The island of Kuyshu in practice

-ask about: Tourist office of Kyūshū:

and also that of Kagoshima:

That of Mount Aso:

That of Takachiho:

That of Kumamoto:

That of Kurokawa, one of the most beautiful cities with hot springs:

-Jardins and the stately home of the Shimadzu family, in Kagoshima:

-Jardins Suizen-ji Jōju-en created by the Hosokawa family in Kumamoto:

* Read: Japan for dummies, by Alexandre Messager and Philippe Godard. 360 p. € 22.95