The photos from Gas Mask Island are haunting and frightening, but it was simply reality for those who lived on Miyake-jima. It looked like a post-apocalyptic nightmare to outsiders, but for those who had to live with the threat of an erupting volcano, the masks were a necessary precaution.
In 2000, a series of eruptions from Mount Oyama threatened the lives of the residents. The residents had to quickly vacate their homes and the island itself. They were not allowed to return until 2005, virtually making thousands of people completely homeless.
For those who chose to return, they were legally required to have a gas mask on their person at all times. If the air quality indicated that the volcano was releasing noxious fumes, they were ordered to wear the masks.
Despite the dangerous conditions, many residents choose to live on the island and love doing so. There are rare birds who live all over the island, beautiful coral reefs in the shallow waters, and friendly dolphins frequent the waters.
Even though it seems to be a little scary, the island is completely safe to visit! As long as you have your mask.