and so wide that it intercepted all view. The mounds covering this upland were seemingly formed of soft volcanic debris and presented a straggling appearance. This summit country sloped upward on the east within less than a mile into a low cone some few hundred feet high, from which the steam clouds poured forth. Behind it on the southeast rose the forbidding-looking crags of Nakadake and on the east the flanks of Taka-dake to a much greater altitude.
At the foot of the cone on the desert-looking slope stood several huts and two small temples, one Buddhist and the other Shinto, built in honor of the god of Aso for the use of those who climb the mountain to worship. It is one of the beautiful features of the Japanese religion as practised by a great many of the people that it draws them out of doors and brings them in touch with nature. Almost every mountain is held in reverence, and many days during the course of the year are spent by the devout in excursions in the country or up into the mountains to pray on the high places.
It is a gentle ascent of only 200 or 300 feet from the rest house and the temples to the summit of the cone, first over a lava stream that looks as if it might have flowed but a little while before, then over a talus of lava, pumice and cinders, and finally over slippery, grey volcanic mud. At the top is the crater, a black, ragged, awful pit, roaring and steaming constantly. As one stands on the brink one looks down walls of roughly-stratified mud to a depth of 300 or 400 feet, where two round vents are continually rolling out masses of steam
|Fig 6. Looking down into the Modern Crater of Aso-san, showing the rough layers of mud in the walls and the bottom of one of the vents. Photo by Malcolm Anderson.|