Beautiful Island Asks You to Pack a Gas Mask

Atlas Obscura
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.



Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

Walmart Is Crushing the Rest of Corporate America in Adopting Solar Power

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.