At this place the mountain seems to be smouldering, as sulphur fumes and steam issue at many points, and the ground is covered with a friable white alkaline substance. In many a hollow the water bubbles with clouds of vapor and sulphuretted hydrogen; here the soil is hot and evidently underlaid by active fires. It is not safe to go very near, as the crust is thin and crumbling. The water running down the hills has a refreshing sound and a tempting clearness, but the thirsty tongue at once detects it to be a very strong solution of alum. The whole aspect of the place is infernal, and naturally suggests the name given its principal geyser, O-gigoko (Big Hell).
Fujiyama is almost a perfect cone, with, as above said, a truncated top, in which is the crater. It is, however, less steep than Mayon. Its upper part is comparatively steep, even to thirty-five degrees, but below this portion the inclination gradually lessens, till its elegant outlines are lost in the plain from which it rises. The curves of the sides depend partly on the nature, size and shape of the ejected material, the fine uniform pieces remaining on comparatively steep slopes, while the larger and rounder ones roll farther down, resting on the inclination that afterward becomes curved from the subsidence of the central mass.
The most recent and one of the most destructive of volcanic eruptions recorded in Japan was that of Bandaisan or Baldaisan. For ages this mountain had been peaceful, and there was scarcely an indication of its volcanic character or of the terrific forces which lay dormant deep within its heart. On its flanks lay some small deposits of scoriae, indications of far-past eruptions, and there were some hot springs at its base, while steam arose from a fissure. Yet there was nothing to warn the people of the vicinity that deadly peril lay under their feet.
BANDAISAN’S WORK OF TERROR
This sense of security was fatally dissipated on a day in July, 1888, when the mountain suddenly broke into eruption and flung 1,600 million cubic yards of its summit material so high into the air that many of the falling fragments, in their fall, struck the ground with such velocity as to be buried far out of sight. The steam and dust were driven to a height of 13,000 feet, where they spread into a canopy of much greater elevation, causing pitchy darkness beneath. There were from fifteen to twenty violent explosions, and a great landslide devastated about thirty square miles and buried many villages in the Nagase Valley.
Mr. Norman, a traveler who visited the spot shortly afterward, thus describes the scene of ruin. After a journey through the forests which clothed the slopes of the volcanic mountain and prevented any distant view, the travelers at last found themselves “standing upon the ragged edge of what was left of the mountain of Bandaisan, after two-thirds of it, including, of course, the summit, had been literally blown away and spread over the face of the country.