Living in Orlando, I pass Universal’s fake volcano several times a week and don’t give it much thought. It’s the main attraction of the Volcano Bay Water Park, and it was a significant addition to the unique views you see driving down the highways of this giant theme park of a city. However, it wasn’t until last week, when visiting the island of Hokkaido, in Japan, that I realized the wonders of real-life volcanos. And I also got to set foot in an actual volcano bay!
Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan, and is known for its diverse landscapes and natural wonders, including its impressive volcanoes and UNESCO Global Geoparks. These geological wonders offer a unique and educational experience for visitors to the island, showcasing the power and beauty of Mother Nature. My amazing hosts drove us through a snow storm to personally make sure we could see one of these amazing volcanoes up close.
We visited the Volcano’s Museum and learned all about Mount Usu, a stratovolcano located in Hokkaido. “The volcano never lies”. That’s a quote we kept hearing from locals, that assured us that they learned to listen closely to the signs of upcoming eruptions. In any case, this particular volcano erupts every 30-35 years. I asked when the 35 years timeframe is due.
“Oh, in 2023 we complete 35 years of the last eruption”, one of them calmly replied. You mean this 2023?! – I thought to myself. Couldn’t have chosen a better time to visit. 😳
The Volcano Meisters followed up by explaining all the blessings their volcanoes have brought upon their people. There are several of them in this area, and that’s why we call it ‘ The Volcano Bay’. The Meisters’ job is to educate the population about volcanoes, their unique features, and the blessings and dangers surrounding them.
In my mind, I could only think, “oh, so this is what a real Volcano Bay looks like”. Anything but the landscape surrounding I-4 in Orlando.
Usu’s UNESCO Geopark
Surrounding Mount Usu and Lake Toya, you find several charming small cities, that became popular tourist destinations for the Japanese, due to their natural beauty and unique geological features. In 2015, the area was designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark.
The whole Usu Volcano Group is comprised of several active and dormant volcanoes, and to name some of the blessings the locals referred to, they get to indulge in mouth-watering fruit grown with volcanic ashes as fertilizer, relax in hot springs, and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape that keeps changing with volcanic activity.
There is even an active crater, which last erupted in 2000! Visitors can observe the steam vents and fumaroles, and learn about the geological processes that shape the landscape. In addition, the geopark is home to several hot springs, including the famous Toya hot spring, which is famous for its clear and beautiful waters.
There is a very distinct particularity about Japanese hot springs I won’t mention here. You’ll have to ask a Catt about that and trust me, you’ll want to know about it. 🤫
But humans are not the only recipients of the blessings of volcanic activity in Hokkaido. This area is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species. Visitors can enjoy nature walks, bird watching, and wildlife observation, and learn about the unique ecosystem that exists within it.
I’ve been there, done just a little bit of that. And that’s why I’m coming back for more. Care to join me?! 😺
CEO and Co-Founder