Kyushu, the most southwesterly island of Japan, was created by the volcano now known as Mount Aso. The tremendous amount of magma that was ejected from Mt. Aso millions of years ago caused the surface of the volcano to cave in, leaving behind the world's largest above-ground active caldera—the circumference of the caldera is around 80 miles.
Tokyo-based photographer Rinko Kawauchi's book Ametsuchi shows photographs made at Mt. Aso over a five-year period. "Ame" means heaven in Japanese and "tsuchi" means earth or ground— thus the word ametsuchi signifies heaven and earth; the universe.
Kawauchi writes: "Through 1,300 years of field burning, human ritual has sustained a beautiful meadow, which cattle graze on, and people in turn receive a bounty from the cattle—an interconnected chain. The ceremonies that are ceaselessly passed down over generations, the habits, traditions, and such things are the product of prayers and wisdom that help people survive."
Here, in preparation for cattle grazing every spring, dried grass on the caldera is burnt, maintaining the area as a grassland.