Beautiful Island Asks You to Pack a Gas Mask

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
July 17 2013 1:52 PM

You'll Want a Gas Mask to Visit This Island Paradise

In 2008, visiting bicyclists were forced to cancel a race due to high levels of gas

Photo by Cyclitis

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on FacebookTumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Miyakejima, an island 110 miles southwest of Tokyo, is known for its bird watching, hot springs, and the recommendation that visitors carry a gas mask* at all times. The island centers around Mount Oyama, a volcano that spews lava, ash, and toxic sulfur dioxide roughly every 20 years. The last series of eruptions, which occurred in 2000, forced an evacuation of the entire population. 

Five years after being forced from their homes, 2,800 residents of Miyakejima returned to the island to find their cars rusting, their schools buried under hardened lava, and 60 percent of the forests destroyed. Today, one-third of the land remains off-limits due to the high concentration of poisonous gases. Which is where the masks come in. Sirens indicate when masks are warranted.


Faced with the changed landscape, locals and visitor organizations have embraced volcano-themed tourism, offering sightseeing trips to abandoned buildings, lava-coated landscapes, and half-buried shrines.

Gas Mask Tourism:


View Miyakejima in a larger map

*Correction, March 25, 2014: This article originally claimed that gas masks were required for visitors. They are recommended.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?