Last updated: 03:01 PM ET, Wed April 20 2016

Scenic Japanese Mountain Region Devastated by Twin Quakes

Impacting Travel | Janeen Christoff | April 20, 2016

Scenic Japanese Mountain Region Devastated by Twin Quakes

PHOTO: A shop inside the hot spring village of Kurokawa. (via Flickr/Norio NAKAYAMA)

A scenic Japanese region tucked away in the mountains of the Kumamoto Prefecture has been devastated by the twin earthquakes that hit the country on April 14 and April 16. Minamiaso relies on tourism and is home to students and retirees. The town was rocked by the two earthquakes, the second causing a bridge to collapse and triggering a devastating landslide that pushed cars and debris into a large ravine.

At least 14 people have died and there is an ongoing search for more victims – including tourists. In addition, the villagers are struggling to obtain food and water. The U.S. is helping with air lifts of ready-to-eat-meals, bread and water, but many people are still sleeping outside, reports CBS News. According to the site, dozens of troops, police and other rescue workers are shoveling debris and searching through places where victims may have been buried. 

Minamiaso is in the Mount Aso region of Japan east of Kumamoto city, on the island of Kyushu. The region is a well-known tourist destination in Japan, recognized for its black bear mascot, Kumamon. Approximately 60 million people visit the Kumamoto Prefecture region each year. The area features the Kurokawa hot-spring resort and a castle site that dates back to 1467, drawing people coming for scenic drives, hiking trails and to see one of the world’s largest calderas.

Aso Farm Land, a theme park in the area, also drives a number of visitors to the area. It is known for its mountain spring water, an animal park and its health spa.

Many residents are concerned about their livelihoods. After the devastating temblor and the subsequent landslides as well as the washing out of the bridge, there is a lot of worry about access and whether or not visitors will be able to return.

"You never know if or when they will come back," Toshiaki Hashimoto, a 65-year-old construction company owner who has several student apartments, most of them now damaged, he told the Associated Press (AP). "Roads are disrupted and a bridge has fallen. How are people going to get here?"

Hiroko Konishi runs an inn named Jikuya with her husband in a less-damaged area of the village where electricity has been restored. She told the AP that wall hangings fell and furniture flew around, but that the damage appears limited to external wall cracks.

"I'm hoping to repair and reopen the hotel if we can," she said. "But the question is if anybody will want to come and visit a place like this."


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