MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The hiking trails in the volcanic Hakkoda mountain range were reopened Thursday following safety inspections, a prefectural spokesman confirmed Friday.
The popular trails were closed on June 22 after a 13-year-old girl was found dead on Mount Otake. Officials believe she inhaled toxic volcanic gasses while searching for wild vegetables off the normal hiking trail near the Suyaku hot spring resort.
Outdoor recreation officials at Misawa Air Base had put trips to Mount Otake on hold while the investigation was ongoing. No decision had been made Friday as to whether the trips would resume.
Misawa personnel who take tours to the area are warned of the dangers on the active volcanoes, and tour groups hike past so-called dead zones, areas where gases such as hydrogen sulfide have killed all vegetation, officials have told Stars and Stripes.
They’re told to stay on the trails and to avoid low-lying areas, which may have pockets of the gas.
The last gas-related fatalities on the range occurred in 1997, when three Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel died. One member fell into a low-lying area — called a gas hole — and two of his peers who attempted to rescue him also died, according to prefectural officials.
From staff reports