Roots of Japan

Love it more after realizing. Mysterious Nation - Japan

Get closer to Japan by realizing its root in simple explanation. Now, let's take a journey of Japanese culture!

What kind of mountain is “Fujisan”, or Mt. Fuji?

“Fujisan” is a well-known symbol of Japan.Some have seen it in photos, others have seen it from the train and still others have climbed it.Many people have had the chance to see “Fujisan” in different ways.

So what history has been carved into the mountain?

Straddling the borders of Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures, it is the highest volcano in Japan at 3,776.24 m.The temperature can differ as much as 20℃ from the peak to the plains.It was officially registered as a World Heritage site in 2013.With the highest peak called "Kengamine", it is famous for being the highest mountain in Japan.

Since ancient times “Fujisan” has been revered as a sacred mountain. In the Fuji / Asama faith the mountain is an object of worship and a place where gods reside.The primary god enshrined at “Asama shrine”, a shinto shrine centered on the worship of the gods of volcanoes, is the goddess “Konohanasakuya-hime”, also identified as the god Asama-no-okami, as it is believed she will keep “Fujisan” from erupting.In some cases, the main enshrined deities may include the Father god Oyamazumi-no-kami and the Sister god Iwanagahime.The head temple is Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha in Fujinomiya city, Shizuoka prefecture and there are another 1,300 shrines nationwide.

“Fujisan” is a much loved symbol of Japan and object of faith, but when did it get its current shape?

Its origins go back to "Komitake volcano", which became active 700,000 years ago and was in the vicinity of present day “Fujisan”."Mount Ashitaka" also became active and thus large active volcanoes formed side by side.“Fujisan” might not be active today but several million years ago the surrounding area was a volcanically active region.

Around 100,000 years ago, new activity began as “kofuji”, or Old Fuji, situated between "Komitake volcano" and "Mount Ashitaka", became active.It is the foundation of present-day “Fujisan” and was known for explosive eruptions which threw out large amounts of lava etc.The lava created a dam, which increased the height of the "Komitake volcano" and "Mount Ashitaka" and formed a large mountain that reached a height of 3,000 meters.

Following this, there was a long period of inactivity. Around 10,000 years ago it erupted from the same crater and “Shinfuji”, or New Fuji became active.The major eruptive product was lava.It was the lava flow from the activity of “Shinfuji” that created the present-day “Fujisan”.It has been active since then, said to have had over 100 eruptions occurring repeatedly over a period of 10,000 years, up until the most recent Hōei eruption of 1707.

That is how it became the conical (or stratovolcano) “Fujisan” we now know.Buildings may deteriorate with neglect or be lost due to man-made or natural disasters but sacred “Fujisan” will never be dug up, meaning we will be able to see its majestic figure for generations to come.

Who was the first person to climb “Fujisan”?

There are various theories and legends with regard to the mountain-climbing history of “Fujisan”, but legend has it that in 663 a mystic named En no Ozunu secretly escaped from Izu Oshima Island every night to climb the mountain.He is said to be “the founder of the mountain religion Shugendō” and in Marcel Kurz's book “The Mountain World”, he is described as the world's first mountaineer.These days anyone who is healthy can climb it.However, women were prohibited from climbing further than the second station until 1872.Since ancient times “Fujisan” was believed to be a goddess and women were banned from climbing to prevent the goddess from becoming jealous. Another theory was that the spirits on “Fujisan” were more likely to attach themselves to women.Meanwhile, the first woman climbed the mountain in 1832.Her name was “Tatsu Takayama”, As the ban was still in place, she cut her hair and disguised herself as a man.

These days, there are various rules to protect “Fujisan” from the many climbers, both men and women, Japanese, and others from around the world who aim for the summit.

1) Do not collect animals (including insects), or plants 2) Do not remove lava or rocks
It may affect the invaluable ecosystem.The person who thinks “just a little piece won't matter...” might be the one that ends up destroying the ecosystem.Moving the lava or rocks is also prohibited.As mentioned earlier, “Fujisan” is a sacred mountain so the thought that each piece of the mountain belongs to a god should deter people from taking anything home.Take something home with you and you may just bring a series of misfortunes upon yourself...

3) Mountain huts must be booked in advance.
That’s pretty easy to understand if we think of it like a hotel.Unless you book in advance, you won’t find a vacancy.There are also rules for the mountain huts.Be sure to follow these rules carefully so that others may enjoy their time there as well.

4) Refrain from “Bullet climbing” (climbing without taking a rest overnight).
This is due to the various risks involved.As the air becomes thinner, it's easier to get altitude sickness and to feel short of breath even with the slightest movement.Also, if the weather suddenly changes this will be quite hard on a body that has had no rest.

5) A monetary contribution (100 - 300 yen) is required to use the toilets.
The toilets on “Fujisan” are not flushable so waste is transported to the foot of the mountain for disposal.Cleaning personnel and other maintenance expenses cost an enormous 50 million yen annually.

6) A voluntary “Fujisan Conservation Donation” (1,000 yen) is requested.
The money is used toward protecting the environment of “Fujisan” and safety precautions for climbers (expansion of the First-Aid office, placement of Mountain Safety Guides etc.).

7) There are no trash cans, so you must bring your trash back with you.
There are no trash cans on “Fujisan”.If trash cans were installed, the trash would have to be taken back down to the plains.As with maintaining the toilet facilities, a considerable expense would be involved.Plastic bottles and food packaging, and even used tissues are also not allowed to be discarded.

These are the complex rules of “Fujisan”.There might be some others, but if you keep in mind that “Fujisan” and much of the foot of the mountain are national parks, as well as a world heritage site, you will be fine.

“Fujisan”, a mountain that has accepted all kinds of people while adding layers of history, from 700,000 years ago until today. The number of climbers continues to increase with every year and that number is set to rise even further heading towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.With each footprint imbedded firmly onto the surface of the mountain, you too can carve new history onto “Fujisan”.

The summary and views expressed are the author's own.