Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/36

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30
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

world. The other is almost unknown except among the Japanese, although its immense crater is the largest of all that have yet been found on this globe.

The center of Kiushiu is about 600 miles distant from Yokohama and Tokio by the ordinary routes of travel, and by far the best way to reach Aso-san is from Nagasaki, whence one of two routes may be followed — either far around from the peninsula on which Nagasaki is situated, a distance of 150 miles by railroad to Kumamoto, a city on the west coast of Kiushiu, within 25 miles of the volcano, or most of the way by sea, a distance of 75 miles to the same city.

The pilgrim or traveler who mounts to the walls of the castle of Kumamoto and looks eastward over the green and gardened city and over the rich plain bordering the bay of Shimabara, off to the mountains that form the backbone of the island, sees the massive, sacred, god-mountain Aso above a long blue chain. A thrill passes through him as he sees a white cloud streamer waft horizontally across the grey clouds around the summit or, rolling into a ball, float upward like a thistle-down. The white cloud is soon dissipated, but another born from the mountain takes its place as soon, and one knows that here is a volcano, that the god of the mountain is alive. Hundreds of Japanese visit Aso-san every year to pay their homage to the deity that the mountain represents, but only rarely has it been visited by foreigners.[1]

During the spring of 1905 the writer and his brother, Malcolm Anderson, and their friend, Kiyoshi Kanai, spent several weeks in the vicinity of Aso-san, staying for many days in one of the villages in the old crater, living in native Japanese fashion and coming in touch with the spirit of the people and the natural history of the region. The way from the west coast to the mountain lies across the Kumamoto plain among little open fields that in the spring are richly colored with deep green wheat and yellow mustard, along a broad avenue eighty feet wide marshaled by stately cryptomeria trees whose handsome bark and foliage remind one of their big cousins — the California redwoods. Beyond the village of Seta at the edge of the lowland, some 13 miles from Kumamoto, one is led up into the mountains by a gentle ascent, the volcano itself being all this time hidden by the intervening slopes. But a backward view reveals the lesser volcano Kimbo-san rising as an independent cone near the sea, and if the day affords one of the clear Japanese skies, which unfortunately are only too rare but which are so beautiful when they come, one sees the

  1. The only mention of Aso and its crater that the writer knows of is in an article by the geologist, John Milne, in The Popular Science Review, New Series, Vol. IV., No. 16, October, 1880, and in Murray's 'Handbook for Japan,' by Chamberlain and Mason. The former is an English periodical that has long since ceased publication.