When Mt Bandai erupted on 15th July 1888, the blast devastated the surrounding country and nearby villages. Some five hundred people were killed or injured. Probably the worst possible place to be was a hot spring lodge perched on the edge of the active crater. Yet, by a miracle, one patron of this ill-fated establishment lived to tell the tale. This is his story:
Mr. Tsurumaki, a priest of Echigo, who was staying at the Naka-no-yu spa on the edge of the crater at the time of the eruption, and who escaped death almost miraculously, sent us soon afterwards the following and minute account of his terrifying experience: - "I started from my native village on the 8th of July, in company with four of my friends, for Bandai-san, and arrived there on the 12th, i.e. three days before the catastrophe. I had been there before, in July, 1885, when I stayed three weeks.
At this time, showers of large and small tones were falling all about us. To these horrors were added thundering sounds, and the tearing of mountains and forests presented a most unearthly sight, which I shall never forget while I live. We fled in all directions, but before we had gone many metres we were all thrown prostrate on the ground. It was pitchy dark; the earth was heaving beneath us; our mouths, noses, eyes and ears were all stuffed with mud and ashes. We could neither cry out nor move. I hardly knew whether I was dead or in a dream.
Text and illustrations from S. Sekiya and Y. Kikuchi: The Eruption of Bandai-san - full report available on University of Tokyo website as originally published in Transactions of the Seismological Society of Japan. 13(2), 1890, pp. 139-222
More about Mt Bandai: a visit to the mountain in 2009