On December 16, 1707, Mount Fuji erupted violently after being dormant for over 200 years. The eruption sent ash and debris across the Kanto region, covering areas over 100 km away. The city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) was blanketed with ash, forcing residents to take shelter inside their homes.
The ash was light and airy at first, floating down from the sky like snow. But it soon accumulated, piling up on rooftops and roads. Travel became impossible as roads were blocked.
The Quake That Shook Japan
The eruption was likely triggered by a massive 8.6 magnitude earthquake two days prior on December 14. The earth shook violently for minutes, causing destruction across eastern Japan. Fissures opened up in the ground, swallowing entire villages. Aftershocks rattled the region for weeks after.
The earthquake and eruption were later realized to be part of the same seismic event. Pressure building beneath Mount Fuji was released by the quake, spurring the eruption 48 hours later.
This earthquake still ranks among the most powerful ever recorded in Japanese history. Today, experts believe a similar quake preceded the 1707 eruption as well. The combined disasters proved catastrophic for the nation.
Recovery Took Decades
In Edo, ash and debris took weeks to clear from the city. Homes and buildings needed extensive repairs if not complete rebuilds. Businesses had no way to operate. Transporting goods into the city was impossible for months with roads impassable.
Crops and farmland took years to recover. With starvation widespread, the government was forced to import rice and resources from western Japan and Korea to feed the struggling eastern cities.
Over three centuries later, Mount Fuji remains active. Experts warn a similar eruption could happen again, spurring new destruction and turmoil across Japan. Though with modern technology, officials hope detection measures and evacuation plans will prevent future loss of life. Still, the catastrophe of 1707 serves as a reminder of the power of natural disasters.