Japan's Mount Fuji is showing signs of erupting for the first time in 300 years. Fuji is only 60 miles from Tokyo and when it last erupted, in 1707, tons of ash rained down on the city. Tokyo was a much smaller city in those days, but now it contains millions of people who might have to be evacuated if Fuji erupts again.
The number of tremors around the long-dormant volcano rose to 35 last September, after averaging only one or two a month in recent years. The tremors rose to 133 in October, then jumped to 222 in November before falling to 144 in December and sliding back down to 36 in January.
"It means that there is movement of magma down there," says Shigeo Aramaki, a volcanologist at the University of Tokyo. "It is a serious sign, but we don't know where it is moving or where it is going."
An official at the Meteorological Agency says, "This does not mean that it will erupt any time in the near future, just that it bears watching and that monitoring should perhaps be intensified."
Rising over 12,000 feet above sea level in a nearly perfect cone, Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest and most beautiful mountain. As well as being a major tourist attraction, it's a national symbol and an object of worship.
The past few months have seen unusually frequent activity in the "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific Rim. Two Japanese volcanoes erupted last year, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of homes. Mount Merapi in Indonesia and Mount Mayon in the Philippines are erupting now.
Japan sits on top of the junction of at least 3 tectonic plates, and the movements in the Earth's crust make Japan one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. Last September an eruption caused the evacuation of an entire island south of Tokyo.
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