Gas Mask Romance


Unlike some of my mates who have been here a bit longer than me, I have never been to a Japanese wedding. When the time does come though, I sure as shit hope it looks like this. My recent discovery of the haikyo in Izu got me reading some more about the region – and I stumbled across this old photograph, taken during a wedding ceremony on Miyakejima, an island 180km south of Tokyo.

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyakejima is a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, it did happen – when all 3,600 residents were forced to evacuate the island in 2000 after Mount Oyama exploded, blasting millions of tonnes of toxic sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Miyakejima lay dead for five years, suffocated trees and abandonded buildings being the only things to keep the crashing waves company. When the evacuation order was finally lifted in 2005, residents began to return, but to this day are still required to carry gas masks with them at all times. 

Where there’s a will there’s a way though, and despite the hardships faced by the folk who choose to live there on a daily basis, Gas Mask Tourism is big business, drawing people – and cash – to the region. Disposable gas masks are sold at the ferry stations and local stores, and the hot springs are probably the closest to the centre of the earth you’re ever likely to come. 


Eeerily similar: Pioneers in Defense Drill, Leningrad by Soviet photographer Viktor Bulla, 1937.


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