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Ski resort piste in Gunma reopens after volcanic eruptions

Skiers get on a lift at the Aobayama piste at Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort on the morning of Jan. 27, 2018, in Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture, after the course reopened following the Jan. 23 eruptions of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane's Motoshirane peak. (Mainichi)

KUSATSU, Gunma -- A piste at the Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort that was closed following the Jan. 23 volcanic eruption of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane's Motoshirane peak reopened for business on Jan. 27.

The Aobayama piste was reopened at 9 a.m. on Jan. 27, attracting skiers from within Gunma Prefecture and beyond who braved cold winds and temperatures around minus 10 degrees Celsius. However, the number of skiers was reported to be about half that for a typical weekend.

In the wake of the eruptions on Jan. 23, all pistes at the resort other than those at low altitudes were closed. However, given that the Aobayama ski course falls outside the off-limits zone and has a robust surveillance framework, the area was reopened for business after Kusatsu Mayor Nobutada Kuroiwa gave his approval.

"I never thought there would be eruptions. All one can do is keep on the right side of the volcano," commented a 60-year-old skier from Yokohama's Naka Ward.

Meanwhile, a 50-year-old man from the suburban Tokyo city of Hachioji who visits the resort about once a month, said, "I want to show my support for Kusatsu, which I adore." He said he put together plans to visit the resort after the eruptions occurred.

However, the Kusatsu Municipal Government plans to keep the ropeway at the resort, which was affected by the eruptions, closed for the rest of the season, and may even permanently shut it down.

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