Mount Asama (altitude 2,558 meters) is one of the important landmarks of Karuizawa. It is one of the most active volcano in Japan, and its dynamic mountain body and volcanic plume are giving an accent to the regional scenery.
Mount Asama is one of the most active volcanos in Japan. In fact, it erupted in very small scale in June this year. Just 4 days before the eruption, Japan Meteorological Agency raised the volcanic alert level of Asama from 1 to 2. It means that you are currently not able to go inside the 2 kilometers zone from the crater, though you were able to go inside 500 meters zone from the crater when it was level 1. It should matter for mountain climbers but it does not so much for ordinary town residents. As of December this year, Asama is fuming everyday as it usually has been doing so for many years, but we do not feel any imminent sign of intensified volcanic activities like increased frequency of earthquakes.
JMA monitors the volcanic activities of Asama with sensors and cameras, and warns people appropriately. Asama erupted in 2004 and 2009 in recent history. In August 31, 2004, JMA raised the volcanic alert level from 2 to 3 then Asama erupted in mid scale on Sep 1, the next day. In February 1, 2009, JMA raised the alert level from 2 to 3 then Asama erupted in mid scale on February 2, the next day. Asama's volcanic observation system is considered very sophisticated, and I think it will continue to be trustworthy for coming years.
Asama eruption of course influences town people's life. Fortunately, there has been no fatal disaster by the eruption since 1947. However, decreased demand for sightseeing, travel, and real estate hits the town economy and market. In 2004 the average land price in Karuizawa dropped by 4.3% and continued to drop by about 0.8% for 2005 and 2006 respectively. In 2009, it dropped by 8.2% and continued to drop by 5.8% in 2010 and picked up to grow by 5.4% in 2011. It is difficult to tell its impact numerically due to much larger significant economic events like the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy shock in 2008. According to a real estate person in town, the market certainly suffers from the impacts by the eruption but such negative impact does not last for so long period and the market picks up again in a few years. It means, people go out temporarily but come back soon.
For people who consider to relocate and own a house here, Asama eruption risk should be a major concern. Actually, I was one of them before moving to the town. However, currently, I understand that the risk of living here is equivalent to the risk of living elsewhere in Japan. Japan is a volcano and earthquake island country, and we must always be aware of natural geological disaster risks in terms of both physical safety and personal asset value depreciation. I experienced the East Japan earthquake disaster in March 2011 in Tokyo, and understood that living in a city does not always ensure personal safety during such severe natural disaster. I personally concluded that living near the active volcano does not necessarily increase my life risk.
Seeing the fuming volcano of Asama everyday, I feel the value of living near this great nature wonder. It is not something you can experience in city areas.