The Unzen Volcanic Area Global Geopark is located in the southern region of Kyushu’s Nagasaki Prefecture on the western end of Japan. The Geopark is limited by the administrative district of the three cities (Shimabara, Unzen and Minamishimabara), almost the same area as theShimabara Peninsula.
The area is located approximately 900km, or four hours by air and bus, from Tokyo, and approximately 100km, or three hours by car, from Kyushu’s largest city, Fukuoka.
The geological characteristic of this area is the dynamic landform represented by active Unzen Volcano which is dissected with many active normal faults constituting the Unzen Graben System. The theme of Unzen Volcanic Area Global Geopark is “the coexistence of an active volcano and human beings”. The area around Unzen volcano is designated as the first national park in Japan in 1934 and its natural environment has been conserved since then.
Unzen volcano gives us a lot of gifts. At Unzen Global Geopark, you can admire the dynamic landscapes created by volcanism and its various benefits such as hot springs, various remnants of volcanic disasters, and Japan’s youngest mountain, Heisei Shinzan.
On the other hand, Unzen volcano has erupted repeatedly and caused serious disasters.
In 1792, about 15,000 people lost their lives by the tsunami derived from the strong earthquakes due to sector collapse of old lava dome, which is one of the worst volcanic disasters in Japan. In 1990-1995, a part of lava dome at the summit of the mountain collapsed and descend down into the town. The pyroclastic surges containing giant hot ash clouds took 44 lives. Many buildings, houses, school were also completely burned or buried by the flows and many residents lost their property. This eruption has damaged both local tourism and economy. Local residents, however, have recovered repeatedly from these volcanic disasters above mentioned.
We think passing on the knowledge and recovery experience of volcanic disasters to next generation is very important. That’s why the burned school building and destroyed houses at the last eruption have been preserved just as they were. Now, these facilities are main geosites of the Geopark and have been utilized widely for educational program of local disaster preventions in Japan.
This year, Geopark’s biggest conference will be held in Shimabara Peninsula. We are honored to host the 5th International UNESCO Conference on Geoparks for the first time in Japan and looking forward to seeing all of you.