1888 eruption of Mount Bandai

The 1888 eruption of Mount Bandai was a major volcanic eruption which occurred during the Meiji period of the Empire of Japan. The eruption occurred on July 15, 1888, and pyroclastic flows buried villages on the northern foot of the mountain, and devastated the eastern part of Bandai region, Fukushima Prefecture north of Tokyo.[1] At least 477 people were killed and hundreds more were injured and rendered homeless in what became the worst volcanic disaster in recent Japanese history.[2]

1888 eruption of Mount Bandai
Tankei - Eruption of Mount Bandai
Ukiyo-e print by Tankei depicting the 1888 eruption of Mount Bandai
VolcanoMount Bandai
DateAugust 15, 1888
TypeExplosive eruption
LocationHonshu, Empire of Japan
37°36′46″N 140°04′34″E / 37.612787°N 140.076194°ECoordinates: 37°36′46″N 140°04′34″E / 37.612787°N 140.076194°E


Mount Bandai is a stratovolcano. Its last eruption had occurred in 806. Mount Bandai had a conical profile, and had been compared in literature with Mount Fuji. The Bandai volcano consisted of four peaks: O-bandai (1,819 meters), Kushigamine (1,636 meters), Akahaniyama (1,427 meters), and Ko-bandai which was slightly lower than that of O-bandai.

Small earthquakes were reported on July 8, 9, and 10. Moderate earthquakes occurred on July 13 and 14. However, as earthquakes are commonplace all over Japan, these tremors were not viewed by the local populace with undue concern.


On July 15, three earthquakes occurred prior to the main eruption. The third one was the largest, at around magnitude 5. At 07:45, while the ground was still heaving, a Phreatic eruption began at the fumaroles approximately 100 meters upslope from the Kaminoyu hot spring resort on the flank of Ko-Bandai. Successive explosions occurred 15 to 20 times per minute. Each explosion was accompanied by thunder and a black eruption column ascending to a height of 1300 meters. The last explosion was observed to discharge a horizontal cloud, mainly toward the north.

Within 10 minutes after the explosions, a pyroclastic flow swept over the eastern part of the volcano. According to eyewitness, phreatic eruptions continued after the large collapse at least twice. At around 10:00, hot rain started falling, transforming the vast quantity of volcanic ash into lahar (volcanic mudslides). At 16:00, ash fall ceased.


The eruption had transformed hundreds of square kilometers of forest and farmland around the mountain into a wasteland. Several villages were completely buried under landslides, which also considerably altered the topography of the region by diverting rivers and creating a number of new lakes. Approximately 1.5 cubic kilometers of the summit of the mountain had collapsed, and flowed northwards.

Japanese geologists Seikei Sekiya and Y. Kikuchi from the Imperial University of Tokyo visited Bandai within days of the eruption. After spending several months studying the new crater and the devastated areas, they published a report in English (“The eruption of Bandai-san” Tokyo Imperial University College of Sciences Journal 3 (1890), pp 91–171), which is considered a classic in volcanology. A photograph of the ruined mountain was the first news photograph printed by the Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan.[3]

The eruption was the first major disaster faced by the fledgling Japanese Red Cross, which moved in quickly to provide disaster relief.

The lake district formed by this cataclysm is now known as Urabandai or Bandai-kōgen, and has become a popular tourist destination, especially the multi-hued lakes of Goshiki-numa.


  1. ^ Česky. "Bandai Volcano, Honshu (Japan) - facts & information / VolcanoDiscovery:". Volcanodiscovery.com. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  2. ^ Smith, Encyclopedia of Geology, pp 461
  3. ^ Clancey, Earthquake Nation, pp 104

Further reading

  • Clancey, Gregory (2006). Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity, 1868-1930. University of California Press: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24607-1.
  • Smith, Roger (2000). Encyclopedia of Geology. Routledge. ISBN 1-57958-188-9.

External links

Lake Hibara

Lake Hibara (桧原湖, Hibara-ko) is a lake located in Yama District, Fukushima, Japan. It is a part of the Bandai-Asahi National Park and is the largest of the lakes in the Bandai-kōgen highlands.

List of disasters in Japan by death toll

This is a list of Japanese disasters by their death toll. Included in the list are disasters both natural and man-made, but excludes acts of war and epidemics. The disasters occurred in Japan and its territories or involved a significant number of Japanese citizens in a specific event, where the loss of life was 30 or more.

Mount Bandai

Mount Bandai (磐梯山, Bandai-san) is a stratovolcano located in Inawashiro-town, Bandai-town, and Kitashiobara village, in Yama-Gun, Fukushima prefecture. It is an active stratovolcano located to the north of Lake Inawashiro. Mount Bandai, including the Bandai heights, belongs to the Bandai-Asahi National Park.

The altitude of the triangulation station “Bandai”, installed in 1904, had been employed as the official altitude of Mount Bandai. However, after the station disappeared due to erosion, it was re-measured in October 2010 and now is 1,816.29m. The name “Mount Bandai” is used to refer to the main peak “Bandai”, along with several other peaks including Akahani at 1,430m and Kushigamine at 1,636m, created during the 1888 eruption of Mount Bandai.

Mount Bandai was originally called “Iwahashi-yama” which means “a rock ladder to the sky.” It is now sometimes called “Aizu Fuji” and “Aizu Bandai”. The south foot is called Omotebandai and the north foot is called Urabandai. When seen from Omotebandai, the mountain looks very tidy, but when viewed from Urabandai the mountain shows a wild shape, due to its collapse.

It is one of the list of the 100 famous mountains in Japan. In 2007, the mountain was selected as one of the top 100 geographic landmarks in Japan. Additionally, in 2011 the mountain was certified as a geopark of Japan.

Sekiya Seikei

Sekiya Seikei (関谷 清景, 28 January 1855 – 8 January 1896), alternatively Sekiya Kiyokage, was a Japanese geologist, one of the first seismologists, influential in establishing the study of seismology in Japan and known for his model showing the motion of an earth-particle during an earthquake.Sekiya took up the study of the earthquakes in 1880. In 1886, he was appointed as the first professor of seismology at what was to be the University of Tokyo, the first such full-time university appointment in the world. In this position, he helped in the extension of the seismic survey in Japan and in the erection of seismographs throughout the country. In 1886, the number of observing stations was over 600. In 1896, at the time of his death it had risen to 968.Outside the scientific community, Sekiya is best known for the model representing the motion of the ground during an earthquake, inspired by the Tokyo earthquake of 1887. His earthquake model consists of three twisted copper wires that are mounted side by side on a lacquered wooden stand. The wire diagram gives an illustration of the complicated movements of the ground during an earthquake, conveying the complexity of ground motion, both in terms of the vagaries of its geometric path and in its erratic accelerations. Sekiya’s original copper-wire model now resides in the Whipple Museum of the History of Science at Cambridge University. According to Hudson (1992 p. 6), "His measurements and calculations of ground displacement and acceleration of the 1887 Japanese earthquake were the first estimates of ground motion based on reasonably accurate data."After spending several months studying the new crater and the devastated areas subsequent to 1888 eruption of Mount Bandai, he published together with Y. Kikuchi a report in English (“The eruption of Bandai-san” Tokyo Imperial University College of Sciences Journal 3 (1890), pp 91–171), which is considered a classic in volcanology.

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