Mount Asama


Mount Asama and Shinano

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Earth


I visited the temle and shrine on the slopes of Mt. Asama quite some years ago, but the images are still quite vivid. Little trees trying to survive in the lava, smoke bellowing over our heads ...

Asama volcano, Mt Asama, Asamayama, Asama-yama,
Asama yama 浅間山 / Asamagatake 浅間ヶ嶽

Gabi Greve


Asama, Honshu's most active volcano, overlooks the resort town of Karuizawa, 140 km NW of Tokyo. It has an historical record dating back more than 1300 years.

A temple sits astride the Onioshidashi lava flow on the north flank of Asama volcano.
© PHOTO by Richard Fiske, 1961 (Smithsonian Institution).


Click HERE to see more stunning photos of Mt. Asama 浅間山.

The 1783 Eruption of Asama Volcano, Japan

Asama is a medium-sized, andesitic composite stratovolcano in central Japan. About 10 major eruptions occurred in the last 5000 years. The latest one took place in 1783, devastated about 500 km2 and killed 1200 people.

The eruption of 1783 may be taken as a typical example of the explosive activities of the Japanese volcanoes, and offers valuable information on the mitigation of volcanic disasters.
The activity started as sporadic pumice and ash ejections in May, 1783. After late July, the eruption became continuous with increasing intensity up to early August. A huge plinian column blackened out the eastern sky and heavy thunder and lightning, and powerful air waves shaking the houses, made the inhabitants panic.

Less than half the total volume (0.3 km3) of pumice and ash fell before August 3 and more than half was erupted during the two-day period leading to the climactic explosion in the morning of August 5. In the afternoon of August 4, 0.1 km3 of hot pyroclastic materials overflowed the northern crater rim to cascade down the northern slope as scoria flows. They contained abundant cabbage-shaped essential blocks very similar to bread-crust bombs. The flow was a sluggish, intermediate-type pyroclastic flow (Agatsuma flow), but the emplacement temperature was exceptionally high and the deposit was welded down to a 20 cm thickness at distal ends.

It devastated about 18 km2 of dense forest where many tree moulds were formed as the deposit cooled around the standing trees. At about 10 o'clock in the morning of August 5, a gigantic explosion occurred at the summit crater, to be heard more than 300 km away. Huge hot lava blocks shot into the air and rained over the steep northern flank to form a high-speed avalanche.

According to old documents, four villages, including Kambara on the northern slopes, were immediately wiped out by the flow; on reaching the gorge of the Agatsuma river, it caused a great flood. The head of the flood, standing more than 10 m high, forced through downstream, destroying more than 1200 houses and killing hundreds of people. The flow apparently started as a mixture of high-temperature, large blocks and air, but it soon dumped most of the blocks in its upper course (less than 8 km from the vent). The blocks were up to 35 m across and show a bread-crust structure; because of their heavy mass and great momentum, the blocks ploughed the earth's surface to a maximum depth of 40 m.

The excavated earth materials were accelerated by the kinetic energy of the blocks and formed an avalanche. which continued to flow further downstream. When the flow reached Kambara village, about 13 km north of the crater, more than 90% of it consisted of the foreign materials mobilized from the lower slopes, and less than 5% of high-temperature, essential materials directly derived from the vent.
Out of the 560 inhabitants of Kambara village, only 93 survived.

Trees growing in the lava of Mt. Asama
Photo Gabi Greve

A low ridge borders the western margin of the village. At the top is a small shrine with stone steps leading to it. It is recorded that those who had time to climb the steps to the top survived, but those who did not perished. Recent excavation revealed that the stone steps continued about 5 m below the present surface and the remains of two of the victims were found at the foot of the steps. The total number of deaths amounted to more than 1200, including those caused by the flood. The avalanche is remarkably uniform in thickness, about 2.5 m on average, and consists of large blocks and homogeneous matrix facies, indicating that the fine part was homogenized by strong turbulence.

The contrast between the slow-moving Agatsuma pyroclastic flow erupted the day before, and the highly destructive, high-speed and multi-component Kambara flow is remarkable. The mechanism of the generation of the Kambara flow is not yet clear, but the generation and ejection of about 107 m3 of dense but hot lava blocks apparently gave rise to a high energy avalanche capable of scraping the surface materials of the lower slopes.

Immediately after the climactic explosion, 0.17 km3 of lava cascaded down the northern slope to form a 5.5-km-long lava flow called Oni-Oshidashi. About 200 bulk rock analyses taken from the air-fall pumice, Agatsuma deposit and Oni-Oshidashi lava flow, strongly suggest that the magma prior to eruption was slightly zoned: i.e. slightly more felsic magma erupted in the early stages and more mafic magma came out of the vent in the later stages. However, the sequence was repeated after the Kambara flow eruption and the earliest phase of Oni-Oshidashi was as felsic as the earliest phase of the Agatsuma flow. This may indicate that the output of magma was interrupted for some time just before the climactic explosion that produced the Kambara flow.
© http://www.therafoundation.org/


This is Mt. Asama.
Those are not all clouds at the top of the mountain.

© PHOTO By Davis

Things found on the way

. Tengupedia - 天狗ペディア - Tengu ABC-List.

浅間ヶ嶽金平坊 - Konpeibo, Asamagatake

He is one of the
. 四十八天狗 48 important Tengu of Japan .

He lived on Mount Asama as a 神人 kind of Human Deity since the beginning of History.

天狗温泉 Tengu Onsen Asama is located in Komoro


Mount Asama is a volcano in Issa's home province of Shinano, active during the poet's lifetime. The eruption of 1783, when Issa was twenty-one years old and living in Edo (today's Tokyo), killed 1,151 people.

source : wikipedia

view of Mount Asama in the foreground and Mount Fuji in the background.

Asama kara wakarete kuru ya ko yuudachi

leaving Mount Asama
coming this way...
little cloudburst

Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo

hirugao ya keburi no kakaru ishi ni made

day flowers--
even on the smoke-covered

waku shimizu asama no keburi mata miyuru

gushing pure water--
Mount Asama's smoke
appears again

The "again" (mata) is the key. The volcanic smoke is so all-pervasive, it shows up everywhere, even at the gushing spring. Dirty smoke and pure water create an interesting juxtaposition.

ayame fuke asama no keburi shizuka nari

thatch of irises
on Mount Asama's smoke...

The night before the annual Boy's Festival (fifth day, Fifth Month), eaves of houses were thatched with grafts of blooming irises. In this haiku, the smoke appears so thick, it looks as if it--not houses--is being thatched.

mijika yo wo akuseku keburu asama kana

all the short summer night
hard at work puffing...
Mount Asama

Tr. David Lanoue.
Read more ASAMA haiku here !

. Issa in Karuizawa 軽井沢


kogarashi ni Asama no kemuri fuki-chiru ka

withering wind --
would the smoke of Asama volcano
be blown everywhere

Takahama Kyoshi
(Tr. Susumu Takiguchi)


© PHOTO 森田さん撮影

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

fukitobasu ishi wa asama no nowaki kana

blowing stones
flying from the volcano Asama
autumn gale

Tr. Jane Reichhold

blowing the gravel
off the ground on Mount Asama,
an autumn gale
Tr. Makoto Ueda

(The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.)


fuki otosu asama wa ishi no nowaki kana

blowing them away:
at Asama the rocks
in the autumn windstorm

(The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.)

akikaze ya ishi fuki orosu asama yama

autumn winds--
blowing down the rocks
of Mt. Asama

Tr. David Barnhill

Matsuo Basho walking the
. Nakasendoo 中山道 The Nakasendo Road .


hagi sakeri asama o noboru kumo midare

bush clover in bloom -
climbing Mount Asama
clouds scattering

--Mizuhara Shuuooshi, trans. Abigail Friedman

asama kumoreba komoro wa ame yo soba no hana

when Mt. Asama's...cloudy
..Komoro gets rain...buckwheat blooms

--Sugita Hisajo, trans. Eiko Yachimoto

Mt. Asama smoke--
for a while I walk
the old Kisokaido

Larry Bole

Compiled by Larry Bole


First Visit to Mt. Asama (hatsu Asama) 初浅間
kigo for the New Year

窪田吐秋, 東久留米市

松戸市 素春

松戸市 素春

松戸市 素春

Read 1000 Haiku about Mt. Asama 平成 : 浅間千句
- http://www.miyota.gr.jp/

Related words

Shinanogawa 信濃川 River Shinano
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Shinanogawa nokoru samusa o nagashiori

River Shinanogawa
washes away the remaining

Bojo Toshiki (Boojo Toshiki) 坊城俊樹
Tr. Gabi Greve


Shinano Province

Shinano Province (信濃国, Shinano no kuni) is one of the old provinces of Japan that is now present day Nagano Prefecture. Its abbreviation is Shinshū (信州).

In the Sengoku Period, Shinano Province was often split among several fiefs and several other castle towns developed, including Komoro, Ina, and Ueda. Shinano was one of the major centers of Takeda Shingen's power during his wars with Uesugi Kenshin and others.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

katatsumuri Kai mo Shinano mo ame no naka

this snail -
Kai and even Shinano
all in the rain

. Iida Ryuta (Iida Ryouta) 飯田龍太 .


uguisu no ikuyo kao nari oku Shinano

many generations
had your face, nightingale...
deep Shinano

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)


. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

waga-yado wa shinano no tsuki to shimizu kana

my house --
Shinano's moon
and its pure water

Tr. Chris Drake

This summer hokku was written in the 5th month (June) in 1813, the year Issa finally received half of his father's property in his hometown according to an agreement reached on 1/26 of that year. His inheritance included half of his father's house, which he was not able to enter until 3/1, no doubt because the house had to be radically rearranged. Even after entering his house, however, Issa continued to travel constantly to the houses of his students, patrons, and relatives in nearby villages and towns. He was on the road for the great majority of his time in 1813 and used his new house mainly as a home base for his constant travels. Judging from Issa's diary, in the 5th month of 1813 he stayed overnight in his house only five times.

What the hokku literally says is, "As for my house, the moon and pure water of Shinano!"
The hokku placed near this hokku in Issa's diary are about nature or are evocations of things Issa seems to have seen on his travels, so I take Issa to be declaring that his real house or spiritual home is not any one physical house but a dwelling made of the clear moonlight and the pure springs and streams in his native Shinano province.

Chris Drake


***** - Haiku Poets of Japan -

***** Place Names of Japan and Haiku

- #asama #asamasan -


Unknown said...

thank you for good information about Mt,Asama that issa had made many haiku.
It is getting clear by reading your resarh.


Anonymous said...


in the middle
of flowering rape
Mount Asama's smoke

sakuo renku

going over Mt, Asama
spring dusk

With a haiga by
Nakamura Sakuo

Unknown said...

短夜をあくせ[ ]けぶる浅間哉

by Issa, thank you Gabi san for many referring to Issa's haiku.

The above Japanese haiku has dropped one letter [ く] after[あくせ、」
The correct spelling is [あくせく]

I am appreciated if you find it.


Anonymous said...

choo tobu ya shinano no oku no zoori michi

butterflies flit--
deep in Shinano
tracks of sandals

In another haiku in which Issa uses the phrase, "sandal road" (zo^ri michi), Shinji Ogawa believes that this refers to footprints in snow. That particular haiku is situated in the New Year's season, and so it is natural to assume a snowy scene, especially in the mountains of Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture).
I believe that the present haiku, since it takes place in spring ("butterfly" = spring), refers to footprints that have beaten a track in the dirt of a road.

Tr.and Comment
David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

mutsukashi ya hatsu yuki miyuru shinano yama

watching first snowfall
in a rotten mood...
Shinano Mountain

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Anonymous said...

yo suzumi ya ashi de kazoeru Shinano yama

evening cool--
with my feet counting
the mountains of Shinano

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

asu mo asu mo asu mo tenki zo asama-giri

tomorrow, tomorrow
and tomorrow's weather...
Mount Asama mist

(tr. David Lanoue)

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Legends about the
raijuu Raijū 雷獣 Raiju Thunder Beast Yokai

of Mount Asama

Gabi Greve said...

14 legends to explore
Nichibun Yokai Database !

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

shinano ji ya iji ni kakatte yuki no furu

Shinano road--
the snow falls

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Shinanochoo, Shinanomachi 信濃町 Shinano district
Tokyo Shinjuku 新宿区 信濃町 no sub-districts