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All about Japan - Fuji: The Sacred Mountain


Mount Fuji is the most sacred mountain in Japan

Mount Fuji (富士山 - "Fuji-san") is a volcanic cone and Japan's holiest mountain. It is located on the main island of Honshu. With its 3,776 meters above sea level, it is the highest point in the country and one of the main symbols of the archipelago.

Located about a hundred kilometers from Tokyo, it is one of the most popular destinations for foreign and local tourists who climb it, considered a real pilgrimage, which every Japanese must make once in their life. . Since 2013, the mountain has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Although the volcano is still active, its last eruption dates back to 1707. The Japanese call it Fujisan. This "san" is not the honorific suffix used with personal names, such as Watanabe-san, but the Sino-Japanese reading of the character yama (山, "mountain").

Around the mountain, there are many places to discover, such as the great Kawaguchi and Ashi lakes, or the astonishing and chilling forest of Aokigahara (we reveal more below! ).


Climbing Mount Fuji

It is very hard to climb fuji during winter

The official climbing season is between the months of July and August. Outside of this season, the ascent is not recommended, as it can generate many accidents, even among experienced climbers. In 2019, a streamer from the NicoNico platform fell live during the ascent. His body was found two days later, 800 meters below.

On average, it takes 5 to 6 hours to go up and 3 hours to go down. Mount Fuji consists of ten stations in addition to its relay huts, where it is possible to sleep there. The first station is its base, the tenth its summit.

Generally, people decide to climb Fujisan to watch either sunrise or sunset from the top. It is symbolic to observe the sunrise, and therefore to climb the mountain at night, starting the ascent in the early evening. This tradition is reflected in the name of the country “Japan” (日本) meaning “origin of the sun” but also its nickname “Land of the Rising Sun”.

Although elderly people climb it every year without problems, climbing Mount Fuji is far from a simple walk. You have to come with training and good physical condition. Also, it is necessary to provide equipment and warm clothes because, arrived at the top, we lose 20 degrees.

An average of 300,000 valiants climb the mountain each year, with most doing so during the July-August period. It is however advisable, to avoid the influx of tourists, to avoid the ascent between Friday and Sunday, but also during the Obon holidays (mid-August).


Fuji-san Facts

The Aokigahara forest, where about a hundred people come to commit suicide every year
  • Called “Fuji-San” by the Japanese, the name “Fuji Yama” used by Westerners is a mistranslation.
  • There are over thirty different names for the mountain, such as Fuyō-hō (芙蓉峰, "The Lotus Peak")
  • The Aokigahara forest is said to come from an ancient lava flow. The Japanese say it is haunted. It is also the place about 100 suicides a year.
  • Until 1872, women were not allowed to climb Mount Fuji, as they were considered impure by Japanese religion.
  • 1832, a Japanese woman named Takayama Tatsu, joins a group of men, dressed in boys' clothes to follow a pilgrimage. She manages to make the first female ascent of Fujisan.
  • Yoshinobu Jitsukawa, a Japanese retiree, climbs the mountain twice a day. Record number of climbs: 1670.
  • Japanese saying: “You have to be wise to climb Mount Fuji once and crazy to do it again.”

    holy mountain

    The Chureito Pagoda with a view on Fuji San

    Mount Fuji is a sacred mountain in religions.

    In Shintoism (a religion unique to Japan), natural sites are considered places where revered spirits and gods reside (called kami). Thus, the kami of Mount Fuji is the goddess Sengen-sama (Konohanasakuya-hime). According to the myth, she would prevent the volcano from erupting, as long as she was shown respect. Climbing the mountain is a way of honoring Sengen-sama.

    In Buddhism, ascension is seen as a purification ritual. This is the path to enlightenment. Reaching the top allows communication with the gods and the kami.

    Now, one can find shrines, teahouses and torii gates (Shinto monument that separates the sacred from the profane).

    Between myths and legends, the Fuji-San is a venerated being, which brings together the four elements: air, fire, earth and water. According to the locals, the volcano is divine and has a soul. It represents both peace and prosperity.


    Cultural icon

    Mount fuji by Hokusai

    Mount Fuji is depicted in many forms, especially in art. With wood carvings, the mountain is popularized during the Edo period (1603-1867).

    Ando Hiroshige illustrates the Japanese symbol in all its forms and decorations with “The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”. Master Katsushika Hokusai influenced Vincent Van Gogh with his work.

    The mount also appeared on 5,000 yen bills.


    Mount Fuji Trails

    There are four trails to climb mount fuji

    To climb Mount Fuji, there are four trails:

    • The Yoshida trail: it is the most popular and the most accessible. Its starting point is served by buses from Tokyo. It has the largest number of shelters. It takes 6 hours to climb and 3 hours to descend. Being the best known, it is the busiest, which can slow your pace.
    • The Fujinomiya Trail : it is the shortest, but steep and the most difficult. There is no different trail for the descent, so you will have to do the same route in reverse on the way back. The ascent lasts 5 hours and the descent 2 hours 30.
    • The Subashiri Trail: A path less traveled, with fewer shelters. It merges with Yoshida at the 8th station. It starts at a lower altitude than the others.
    • The Gotemba trail: the longest of the paths. It is not recommended for beginners. It takes almost 7 hours to climb.

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