An active volcano on the Japanese Island of Izu Oshima, Mount Mihara is an exciting and dramatic place for all sorts of reasons.
Its first and most obvious interesting characteristic is its ability to spew fantastic lava fountains into the sky. In 1986, it put on a spectacular show that included explosive and central vent eruptions, impressive lava flows, and a lava lake blast. Its finale was a 10-mile high subplinian plume that could be clearly viewed by the 12,000 inhabitants of the island as they sailed off to places a little less exciting until the mountain settled down.
Its next claim to fame was as the prison of a very famous Japanese celebrity, Godzilla. The perfect setting for a monster story, In the film The Return of Godzilla, the Japanese government decided that Mount Mihara was the only fitting place for the fire-breathing lizard. He remained in his fiery cell until the sequel, Godzilla vs. Biollante. It also served as a location in the Japanese horror film Ring as the place tortured character Shizuko Yamamura chose to take her own life, which is sadly a case of fiction mirroring real life.
Perhaps the most intriguing yet sobering feature of Mount Mihara is its unfortunate appeal to those who no longer wish to exist on this mortal plane. In the 1920’s, it was found that a vantage point near the cone made leaping into the crater a convenient and romantically dramatic way to end one’s life. Quickly earning the moniker “Suicide Point,” the extremely popular crater claimed 944 forlorn souls in 1933 alone. In the next two years, the occurrence of at least 350 more led to morbid visitors traveling to the volcano simply to watch the inevitable suicidal person jump into it.
Finally tiring of people coming en masse to plunge to a horrible, fiery death, authorities built a giant wire fence around the vantage point, and made it illegal to purchase a one-way ticket to the island. Despite efforts to offer more support to despondent citizens, Japan still suffers from the cultural idea that suicide is an honorable way to end things, and has a handful of popular places to do so, including the Aokigahara Suicide Forest, which is supposedly the second most popular place to commit suicide in the world following the Golden Gate Bridge.