CLIMBING MT. FUJI
About 300,000 people make the ascent to Fuji s summit every year. About 320,000 climbed it in the 2012 summer season. More than 350,000 people climbed Fuji in 2007 and a record 430,000 did it in 2008. This was up from around 200,000 between 2000 and 2006. There are currently no restrictions on the number of people climbing the mountain but so many people are making the climb there is some discussion of charging a fee to cover the cost of trail maintenance and providing toilets. Before the climbing season starts trails are checked, snow levels are measured and safety drills are held. By one estimate a fee of US$70 needs to be collected from each climber to maintain the mountain in its current state.
Although many Japanese have tried try to climb Mt. Fuji only about one percent of the population has reached the summit. According to a Japanese saying: "He who climbs Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool." Some Japanese have climbed dozens of times.
The first man credited with climbing Fujisan was a Buddhist monk, En-no-Shokaku, who performed the feat in A.D. 700. Four hundred years later a temple was built at the summit, which became a popular pilgrimage site. The first foreigner climbed it in 1860. A ban on women climbers was lifted in 1868 after the Englishwoman, Lady Parkes, defied the prohibition and ascended the peak.
Before 1964, climbers wishing to reach the summit had to climb all the way up from the bottom. Along the main route are many markers of climbers who made the ascent 33 times. In 1994, 100-year-old Ichijirou Araya climbed Mt. Fuji. In 2008, the Crown Prince of Japan made it to the summit for the first time. He tried in 1988 but gave up due to bad weather.
The Mt. Fuji climbing season begins in July Before that time skiers and snowboarders ignore signs that say skiing and snowshoeing are banned to ascend the mountain climb the mountains with a snowshoes and look for a good run down. October is a nice time to visit the lower slopes of the mountain when the autumn leaves from beech and maple trees are at the height of their color and the first snows have fallen is found at the top. The Japanese government has applied for Mt. Fuji to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Mt. Fuji Hike
There is a paved road that climbs halfway up Mt. Fuji. Most of 3.5 million visitors to the mountain begin hikes of varying lengths from the end of this road at Kawaguchi, where there is a three-story parking garage and 7,500-foot-high souvenir city. Many of them arrive in tour buses, some of which travel all night to reach the mountain.
Most people do the hike in the climbing season in July and August, when about 5,000 people a day reach the top. So many people do the hike at this time that parts of the trail are as wide as a two-lane highway, traffic jams form behind slight obstacles, and hikers that slip sometimes take out a dozen or so other people with them, domino-fashion. To avoid the crowds do the hike in late June or early September. The only problem with doing it then is that some huts are closed and there is less public transport at these times.
The summit of Mt. Fuji is a harsh, lava-strewn place with a simple wooden shrine and a handful of stone shelters used for protection from the wind, cold and foul weather. Most of the climbers do the final ascent in the wee hours of the morning so they can arrive at the summit before dawn and shout "banzai" when the sun comes up and enjoy the vistas of deep green valleys and floating white cloud formations called “unkai” ("cloud sea"). If you are on the summit at sunset you can see Mt. Fuji s shadow spread across the countryside.
Some of those who make the climb get a certificate. A new B-5-paper-size certificate for foreigners is in English and had a picture of Fuji in the background The brochures “Climbing Mt. Fuji” and “Mt. Fuji 7 Fuji Five Lakes” is available form the TIC in Tokyo. For English-language information you can call ☎ 011-81-555-22-9070. Websites: Mt. Fuji Climbing fujisan-climb.jp ; Climbing Fuji Links nurs.or.jp ; Fujiyamaguides.com fujiyamaguides.com ; Climbing Mt. Fuji plala.or.jp ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com ; Mountain huts JNTO site JNTO Hiking Maps: Climber.org climber.org ; Fuji Summit Climber.org Climber.org
Warning and Rules on Mt. Fuji
Mt. Fuji is just high enough so that some people may experience some altitude sickness as the reach the top. Some climbers of Fuji carry small oxygen tanks with them. Dizziness and nausea are the first signs. If you have problems descend below the 8th station.
The weather is very changeable so hikers should be prepared for rain, cold, wind and possible snow. In the summer, the temperature difference between the base and summit is 20°C. Before dawn the mercury often dips below freezing, and it can seem much colder when nasty winds kick up. Gloves, thermal underwear, rain gear, long pants, thick socks, a warm hat, a sweater and a jacket are essential. If the weather get really bad take refuge in a mountain hut.
Be prepared for crowds and bring enough food and water. Water especially is a problem. There are no springs or streams in the upper parts of the mountain, This means you either have to carry water or buy it at inflated prices of around $4 per half liter at the substations. If you hike at night make sure you have a flashlight and extra batteries.
When hiking stay on the designated routes. Hiking outside the trails causes erosion and landslides. Keep Mt. Fuji clean by carrying out what you carry in. If you need to go to the bathroom don t hide behind a rock. Use one of the eco-friendly toilets. There is usually a charge of around $2 to use one. Payment is often by the honor system.
Hiking on the winter is particularly dangerous. Every year a few people die because they the slip and fall and slide down the mountain and are unable to stop after reaching high velocity. In 2006-2007 a man fell to his death after watching the New Year sun rise. People also die other times of the year. In 2008, a man died after being struck by lightning between the sixth and seventh stations.
Trails on Mt. Fuji
There are main six trails to the top of Mt. Fuji: 1) The Yoshida Route from Fuji-Yoshida in the north; 2) the Shoji Route from near Lake Shoji-ko in the north; 3) the Kawaguchi-ko Route from Kawaguchi-ko in the north; 4) the Fujinomiya/Mishima Route from Fujinomiya in the south: 5) the Gotemba Route from Gotemba in east; and 6) the Subashira Route from Subashira in the east.
Each trail is divided into ten stations of varying length. The climb on the most popular route takes about nine hours; the descent four hours. Few people hike the entire lengths of these trail. The lower reaches of these trails are used mainly by people hiking around the base of Mt. Fuji.
Most hikers begin their trek from the end of the road and the souvenir city of Kawaguchi, where they take a trail that joins the Yoshida Route around the sixth station of that trail. The hike from here is about five or six hours up and two or three hours down. The trail up is very steep and often requires the use of one s hands to climb steep sections of rock. Towards the top, the altitude takes it toll and many hikers get very tired and have to stop frequently to rest. There are no sections with cliffs so people with a fear of heights don t have to worry. There is a separate trail for downhill hikers. It is on loose sand and cinders, which gives way easily. Hikers generally fall on their bum at least once. The constant pounding can take its toll on the knees.
Many hikers begin their hike around 10:00pm to midnight and try to reach the summit in time for sunrise, which is usually between 4:30am and 5:30am in the hiking season. You don t want to arrive too early or you freeze you ass waiting for the sunrise. You don t want to be too late either and miss the sunrise. Many foreigners find the sunrise ritual to be overrated and recommend hiking up and down in the daytime.
There are one-room substations set up periodically on the trails where hikers can buy snacks, ramen, takes a rest, sleep for the night or get a seal burned into their walking stick, signifying that they got this far (the majority of the hikers have walking sticks as well as special hiking outfits). At some of the stations are mountain huts that charge about $36 a night to sleep on mattress on a floor covered by others doing the same, Some people spend a few hours here before making the final push to the summit at around 3:00am.
The sunrise viewing area is on the northern side of the crater. There are vending machines, snack bars and souvenir stands here. The Mt. Fuji Weather Station is on the southern edge of the crater where the summit of the mountain is. It takes about an hour to walk around the crater.
Stations of Mt. Fuji
The 1st Station (1,520 meters high) is at Suzuhara Shrine, where the spirit of Dainiciyorai is said to reside. In the old days religious rites were held here. The 2nd Station (1,700 meters high, 30 minutes uphill from the 1st Station) contains an altar that was once part of Omura Sengen Shrine. About one kilometer uphill and southeast is the Holy Ground for Women. Up until 1832 women were not allowed to hike past this point and thus worshiped Mt. Fuji from here. The 3nd Station (1,840 meters high, 20 minutes from the 2nd Station) and 4th Station (2,010 meters high, 30 minutes from the 3rd Station) are located in an area of forests and lava flows.
The 5th Station (2,305 meters high, 45 minutes from the 4th Station) is where most people begin their hike. Here at Kawaguchiko, there are many restaurants, souvenir stands and snack bars. This is the last places you can get water without paying for it. There are regular buses and taxis that transport hikers to trains stations. Most hikers arrive in groups on tour buses. Most of the tour buses that stop her just dispense tourist who wander around for a couple hours and get back on the bus and don t do much hiking.
As hikers ascends to 6th Station (2,390 meters high, 30 minutes from the 5th Station) they emerge from the forest into an a treeless expanse of lava flows, red cinders and rocks. There are spectacular views of lakes below and the slopes above. From here the trail gets steadily steeper and steeper and more and more hard going. The 7th Station (2,700 meters high, 60 minutes from the 6th Station) and 8th Station (3,020 meters high, 100 minutes from the 7th Station) have six mountain huts each, benches where you can rest and snack bars where you can get food and drink.
After the 8th is the Real 8th Station (80 minutes from the 8th Station) and the 8.5 Station (20 minutes from the Real 8th Station). The last mountain hut is at 8.5 station. From here it is 60 to the summit. When you pass through the tori gates you know you are almost there. There are no mountain huts at the summit but you can sleep in the souvenir stand if you get in a pinch.
Mt. Fuji Fees
In July 2013, the prefectural governments of Shizuoka and Yamanashi began collecting voluntary entrance fees from climbers heading for the top of Mount Fuji on a trial basis in the form of donations of 1,000 yen In 2019, the voluntary fee program was expanded to include all visitors, not just climbers [Source: Jiji Press, June 15, 2013, Japan Today, March 8, 2019]
Japan Today reported: “The Mount Fuji World Cultural Heritage Council has decided to ask all people who visit the iconic mountain to pay a voluntary 1,000 yen fee, even if they do not plan to climb it. Previously, the voluntary fee was collected from climbers who set off toward the summit from the 3,776-meter-high mountain’s 5th station, which is about half way up and accessible by cars and buses. The new policy will apply to all visitors who go past one of four 5th station points at the start of each hiking trail.
“Payment of the fee will remain voluntary. The donations are used to preserve the environment, clean up trash and boost safety measures for climbers on the mountain which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to data provided by Shizuoka Prefecture, the amount collected from climbers last year was 56.6 million yen on the Shizuoka side, with 50% of all hikers paying the fee. On the Yamanashi side, about 87.8 million yen was collected from 60% of the hikers who paid the fee.”
Trails around the crater
Mt. Fuji 'Human Traffic Jam'
Hiker and climber traffic jams sometimes occur during the peak climbing season. In August 2018, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported: “Weekend tourists flocked to Mt. Fuji on Aug. 12 and caused a human traffic jam along the hiking trail. “Twitter user Miki Kiura (@kur) visited the great mountain on Aug. 12 and shared a snapshot of the long and crowded queue of people making the climb. "There's a crazy traffic jam, and we can't move forward at all," wrote Kiura on his Aug. 12 tweet. Kiura had been hiking on the mountain's Yoshida trail while at its seventh station. Rather than giving a spiritual experience, the scenery appears to be more like rush hour in one of Tokyo's many busy subway stations. [Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Asia News Network, August 15, 2018]
“The reason for the large number of hikers could be attributed to the start of Japan's Obon holiday, which runs from Aug. 12 to 16. During this period, office workers and students get a week off from their usual grind. Add to that the half-way point of the hiking season for Mt. Fuji. Visitors are only allowed to climb Mt. Fuji between July 10 and Sept. 10 when the safest weather conditions usually prevail. As September approaches, fewer and fewer people may be allowed to climb due to the change in weather.
“Despite the crowd, Kiura persevered as seen in this photo on that day, which he uploaded on Aug. 14. Prospective hikers hoping to climb Mt. Fuji may do well to take note of the mentioned dates to avoid experiencing this kind of crowd. Planning a trip during a weekday may also work as most Japanese would be either in their offices or schools.
In 2013, after Mt. Fuji was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jiji Press reported: Mt. Fuji “will likely see its summer “traffic jam” of climbers worsen this year.” About two-thirds of climbers ascend the mountain from Yananashi prefecture. The climbing season will start July 1, but no effective solution for the congestion has been found. Shigeru Horiuchi, mayor of FujiYoshida, a city at the foot of the mountain on the Yamanashi Prefecture side, said it is impossible to predict the number of climbers this year. “If possible, we’d like to limit the number of climbers, but that’s legally difficult,” Yokouchi said. The prefecture will ask climbers to avoid making nonstop overnight attempts to reach the summit, an activity known as “dangan tozan [bullet climbing],” and will increase the number of safety guides. [Source: Jiji Press, June 19, 2013]
Foreigners Take Wrong Mt. Fuji Trail and End up in a Different Prefecture
Near the Eighth Station on Mt. Fuji is the point where the Yoshida and Subashiri routes diverge. With the former heading into Yamanashi Prefecture and the former heading to Shizuoka Prefecture. Many foreigners take the wrong trail and end up in the wrong prefecture. The Japan News reported: “The increasing number of visitors to Mt. Fuji since it was made a World Cultural Heritage site has brought a sharp increase in the number of climbers, most from overseas, who intend to descend into Yamanashi Prefecture but mistakenly take a trail to Shizuoka Prefecture. Foreign climbers made up 416 of the 460 mistaken descents recorded in July, about double last year’s figure. That the two routes share the same path for part of the way is seen as the main cause of the problem. Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures have teamed up to implement preventive measures, including posting guides where the trails fork and adding English text to websites.[Source: Japan News/Asia News Network, August 18, 2013]
“There are four routes up Mt. Fuji, with 60 per cent of climbers using the Yoshida route, the only one in Yamanashi Prefecture. Both the Yoshida and Subashiri routes have different trails for ascent and descent, and the two share the same descending trail until the Eighth Station, at about 3,350 meters. When they diverge, the Yoshida route leaves a path wide enough to drive a bulldozer on and turns onto a narrow trail, which causes some climbers to mistakenly continue on the wider Subashiri route. According to Shizuoka Prefecture, of the 460 climbers who mistakenly descended into the prefecture last month, 446 took the Subashiri route, of which 404 were foreigners. The other 14 climbers mistakenly took the Fujinomiya or Gotemba routes, of which 12 were foreigners.
“In July 2012, about 270 climbers mistakenly took the Subashiri route, including about 200 foreigners. Mt. Fuji’s designation as a World Heritage site in June has led to an increase in both the total number of climbers and route mistakes. There are guide posts in English, Chinese, Korean and other languages before and at the point where the Yoshida and Subashiri routes diverge "However, when climbers are coming down, they're tired and not paying as much attention. Thick fog or crowds could also cause people to miss the fork," said an official of Shizuoka Prefecture’s tourism policy section.
“There are some foreign guides, but according to Miho Fujisawa, who advises visitors to Mt. Fuji on such aspects as trails, weather and clothing, "Some foreign guides don't know that four routes exist." Yamanashi Prefecture now dispatches a guide to stand at the fork early in the morning. On Friday, Hong Kong climber Ankit Gadi, 28, was stopped by a guide and brought back to the Yoshida route he had planned to take. Arthur Lemaire, 21, a Frenchman who was climbing with his father and sister, mistakenly took the Subashiri route all the way down, and the three had to take a taxi back to Yamanakako, Yamanashi Prefecture. A Shizuoka Prefecture official said the ride from the Subashiri trail head in Oyama in the prefecture to the Yoshida trail head in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, runs at least ¥20,000. The two prefectures and the Environment Ministry launched an official website for climbing Mt. Fuji in June, which includes warnings about the problematic fork in English.”
Man Who Climbs Mt. Fuji 200 Times a Year
The Japan News reported: “Yoshinobu Jitsukawa, a 69-year-old retiree in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, often climbs the mountain twice a day and more than 200 times a year. Having climbed it 1,457 times as of Thursday, he is expected to surpass the current record of 1,672 times this autumn. [Source: Japan News/ANN, June 22, 2013]
Jitsukawa’s regimen usually starts at a parking lot of Mt. Fuji’s fifth station in Fujinomiya in the prefecture. In a single day, he can make two round trips to the summit in eight to 10 hours. He also has succeeded completing eight consecutive round trips in about 55 hours and climbing all four routes in one go in about 31 hours. He was 42 when he first climbed Mt. Fuji in the summer of 1985. He was with four family members, and they stayed at a mountain lodge. Though they made it to the summit, "it was nothing special," Jitsukawa said.
Around the same time, he began taking Chinese trainees at his workplace to Mt. Fuji. In 1992, he climbed it 22 times with the trainees. After one of his colleagues suggested that he should try to break the record, and he came across a fellow climber who was attempting to do this, Jitsukawa took up the challenge.”
The previous record “was set by Fusakichi Kaji (1900-1967) who was a legendary porter. Porters known as "goriki" work as mountain guides, which requires carrying cargo high up in the mountains. Kaji contributed to the meteorological station construction at Mt. Fuji’s summit by carrying supplies to the site. Kaji said that he now can read weather patterns by sensing the wind and hear messages from the mountain itself. His goal is to become a mountaineer who not only loves Mt. Fuji, but is loved by it.
”Jitsukawa continued climbing Mt. Fuji even after his company stopped receiving trainees from China. After his retirement in 2008, he began climbing the mountain twice a day. In the autumn of 2010, he reached the 1,000 mark. Jitsukawa warned, however, that a one-day overnight climb can involve many risks, though people often try so that they can watch the sunrise from the summit. "There’s nothing you can do except look down at your feet and figure out which direction to go in," he said. "I'd recommend that beginners spend the night at a mountain lodge and complete the climb in two days. In doing so, they can also better enjoy the views."
Deaths on Mt. Fuji
5th staion of Fujinomiya Trail Every year, a number of climbers are killed while attempting to climb Mount Fuji. Some have altitude sickness or have a heart attack. Other are claimed by falls or falling rocks. In 2008, year, four people died and 17 were injured on Mt. Fuji because of insufficient gear and a lack of experience, police told NBC News. Climbing from October to May is very strongly discouraged. People have died at that time from severe cold and sliding and falling on the snow and ice. "Don't underestimate Mt. Fuji," a policeman told NBC. "It's quite steep and much tougher than you might think, especially in bad weather."
In August 2019, the Mainichi Shimbun reported: “A climber was killed after falling rocks apparently struck her in the head as she neared the top of Mount Fuji according to the Yamanashi Prefectural Police. Staff at the mountain's fifth station called emergency services at around 7 a.m. to report "an accident involving falling rocks." The victim was on the mountain trail when it appears she was hit directly in the head by a falling rock. She was confirmed dead at the scene. According to officers from the Fujiyoshida Police Station, the woman in her 20s was part of a group that started their climb from the Fujiyoshida entrance to the trail on the Yamanashi Prefecture side of the mountain. Due to the accident, the trail was temporarily closed between the Goraiko-kan lodge at the eighth station and the half-way point to the summit for safety inspections. [Source: Mainichi Shimbun, August 26, 2019]
In July 2009, NBCNews.com, reported: “An American and his Japanese colleague were found dead on Japan's Mt. Fuji after freezing to death in cold and wet weather on their way down from the peak, police said Friday. Police and rescuers found the body of Jerry Yu, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen who worked for a Japanese communications company in Tokyo, off the trail just below the mountain's peak. His colleague, Tsuyoshi Nakamura, 27, was found dead Friday lower down the mountain. The two were last seen by other climbers as they headed down after reaching Mt. Fuji's peak last Saturday. Investigators believe the two men succumbed to hypothermia near the peak as temperatures dipped to as low as 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). [Source: NBCNews.com, July 24, 2009]
In November 2016, Xinhua reported: “Two Japanese climbers who disappeared near the peak of Mt. Fuji fell to their deaths, Japanese police officials confirmed. The police named the victims as 18 years old Ibuki Suemoto and 65 years old Katsutoshi Watanabe, and said that the pair had gone missing from a 6-member climbing group visiting Japan's highest mountain from Hiroshima Prefecture. Police reports stated that the group had left the sixth station on the mountain in the early hours of Sunday morning, but that Watanabe had lost his footing on an icy incline and fell to his death, with Suemoto falling at some point after that.
“Suemoto, a university student, however, managed to call the emergency services at around 10 a.m. local time and told the police he was near the ninth station of one of the trails on the mountain but unable to move. The police recovered Watanabe's body from the seventh station at 8 a.m. and said they found Suemoto's body at the same station but showing no vital signs. [Source: Xinhua, November 21, 2016]
Man Live-Streamed His Own Death on Mt. Fuji
In October 2019, a man’s body was found on Mount Fuji two days after a climber live-streaming a solo winter ascent of the mountain was seen dramatically falling and sliding down a snowy slope. Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post: “Authorities say it is prohibited” to climb Fuji “in the winter. That didn’t stop a climber, calling himself TEDZO, from live-streaming his attempt to reach the summit of the nation’s highest peak on Monday afternoon. The video shows a camera’s eye-view of the ascent, with the climber panting as he said in Japanese: “I’m rushing to the peak.” He complains repeatedly about his cold hands, which he tries to warm, at one point saying he has stuck them under his arms. “My fingers are losing sensation. I wish I had brought a smartphone holder. It’s in my pocket,” he said. “My fingers are killing me. Let’s warm them up.” [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, October 30, 2019]
“Then the path becomes narrower, with a fence on the left, before sloping down. “Oh, it’s slippery. It’s so slippery. It’s dangerous,” he said, laughing. “Here are rocks. We can follow the rocks. It’s pretty dangerous. I can climb down by sliding,” he said. “It’s steep. The path is covered with snow. . . . Am I on the right path? I’m slipping! Here, it’s also dangerous with this slope.” Finally, he said only, “slipping.” The sound of his slide can be heard on the video, along with a jumble of images including his boots, climbing poles and a smartphone before it ends in a freeze-frame of the snow, rock and part of a blue pole.
“In the video, a woman’s voice can also be heard, but it seems to be coming from his phone. Police said they had received several calls from viewers watching the man’s ascent, public broadcaster NHK reported. Police sent a helicopter to look for the climber, while a 10-member rescue team began scouring the area on Tuesday morning, finding signs of a fall that day but no body. Now police from Shizuoka prefecture say they have found a body but have not yet identified it, NHK reported.”
Man Killed by Lightning While Climbing Mt. Fuji
In August 2008, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: A group of climbers found a man who had been fatally struck by lightning lying on a trail on Mt. Fuji in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, at about 1:50 p.m. Saturday, the police said. “The man, found between the sixth and seventh stations on the mountain, was taken to a hospital in Fujinomiya, but was confirmed dead. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, August 11, 2008]
“Fujinomiya Police Station identified the climber as Shinobu Shiogai, 52, from Toshima Ward, Tokyo. The six climbers reportedly said they noticed Shiogai lying on the ground after throwing themselves to the ground following a sudden clap of thunder. Shizuoka Local Meteorological Observatory on Saturday said it had issued a thunderstorm advisory in the morning and a heavy rain and flood warning around noon for the Shizuoka side of Mt. Fuji.
“Another man also was struck and killed by lightning at Mt. Takao in Hachioji, Tokyo, around 3:10 p.m. Saturday, the police said. The police received an emergency call informing them a man had fallen along a climbing route near the top of the mountain. Takao Police Station of the Metropolitan Police Department said the man, 64, had suffered serious burns as he was descending the mountain.
Conservation at Mt. Fuji
Overuse has definitely taken its toll on Mt. Fuji. Exhaust from the cars and buses that ascend the mountain have killed trees, human-induced erosion has scarred the slopes, and even though the majority of hikers are very careful not to litter, the sheer numbers of them cause heaps of rubbish to pile up in undesignated areas. In response to criticism about the trash, regular crews clean up trash along the trails and eco-friendly toilets have been installed. Some of the more advanced ones cost $40,000 and incinerate the waste, leaving behind ash that is brought to the bottom of the mountain. There are also some biological toilets that use microbes break down the waste but there capacity is limited.
According to UNESCO: “In terms of spiritual integrity, the pressure from very large numbers of pilgrims in two summer months, and the infrastructure that supports them in terms of huts, tractor paths to supply the huts and large barriers to protect the paths from falling stones, works against the spiritual atmosphere of the mountain. Various parts of the property have been officially designated as an Important Cultural Property, a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, a Special Natural Monument, a Historic Site, a Place of Scenic Beauty, and a Natural Monument, in addition to it being designated as a National Park. The overall landscape of the summit is protected as part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. For the buffer zone protection is provided by the Landscape Act and Guidelines for Land Use Projects (and related legislation) . All component parts and the buffer zones are planned to be covered by Landscape Plans around 2016. These provide the framework within which Municipalities undertake development control.
“What needs strengthening is how these various measures in practice control the scale and location of buildings that might impact on the sites. In principle they relate to the need for harmonious development (in colour, design, form, height, materials and sometimes scale) . However, the strictest controls seem to relate primarily to colour and height. There is a need to control more tightly the scale of buildings, as well as the location of buildings, especially the siting of buildings, including hotels, on the lower flanks of mountains.
“The two prefectures, Yamanashi and Shizuoka with relevant municipal governments have established the Fujisan World Cultural Heritage Council to create a comprehensive management system for the property. These bodies also work in close cooperation with the main relevant national agencies that are the Agency for Cultural Affairs, which is the competent authority charged with preserving and managing Japan’s cultural heritage properties, the Ministry of the Environment and the Forestry Agency. This Council is also receiving input from an academic committee of experts for the surveying, preservation and management of Fujisan.
“The Fujisan Comprehensive Preservation and Management Plan was established in January 2012 to coordinate the actions of all parties, including local residents. The plan lays out not only methods for the preservation, management, maintenance, and utilization of the property overall but also for each individual component site and also sets out the respective roles that the national and local public bodies and other relevant organizations should play. In addition, there are park plans under the Natural Parks Law and forest management plans under the Law on the Administration and Management of the National Forests that provide measures for the management of the visual landscape from important viewpoints.
“The property is subject to conflicting needs between access and recreation on the one hand and maintaining spiritual and aesthetic qualities on the other hand. A ‘vision’ for the property will be adopted by the end of 2014 that will set out approaches to address this necessary fusion and to show how the overall series can be managed in a way that draws together the relationships between the components and stresses their links with the mountain. This vision will then over-arch the way the property is managed as a cultural landscape and inform the revision of the Management Plan by around the end of 2016.
“An overall conservation approach is needed for the upper routes and for the associated mountain huts in order to stabilize the paths, manage the erosion caused by visitors and water, and manage delivery of supplies and energy. The Fujisan World Cultural Heritage Council is planning to complete the development of a Visitor Management Strategy and adopt it by the end of 2014. This is needed as a basis for decisions on carrying capacities for the heavily used upper routes, parking, service buildings and visual clutter, but also on how visitors may perceive the coherence of the sites and their associations. This is particularly crucial for the sites in the lower parts of the mountain where their relationship with the pilgrim routes is unclear. An Interpretation Strategy will be adopted around the end of 2014.”
Improved Toilets on Mt. Fuji
In 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A public toilet facility at an altitude of about 2,300 meters on Mt. Fuji has been refurbished, and can now dispose of the waste of up to 15,000 people a day. The facility, built at the fifth station of the Fuji-Yoshida mountaineering route on the Yamanashi Prefecture side of the mountain, reopened to the public following a ceremony to mark the completion of the work, a Yamanashi prefectural government official said. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 4, 2012]
“The refurbishment cost 550 million yen. Previously, the toilet facility could meet the needs of only 3,000 people. The toilet facility was expanded to meet an increase in the number of tourists and climbers to Mt. Fuji and preserve the environment in preparation for the mountain’s registration as a World Cultural Heritage site.
“The expansion work, which started in February, involved building an additional purification and disposal facility in the basement of a nearby parking lot and refurbishing the interior of the old toilet. During the summer mountaineering season, up to 10,000 visitors used the toilet daily, exceeding its capacity of 3,000 people. Overuse caused a noxious smell in the vicinity of the toilet, and many complaints were filed with the prefectural government. Yasuichi Mizuguchi, a prefectural government official, said: "The environmental preservation of Mt. Fuji is important to achieving the goal of registering as a World Cultural Heritage site. I hope visitors will be comfortable using the new toilets."
Image Sources: 1) 7) 17) JNTO 2) 3) 6) British Museum 4) 5) 14) Volcano Researach Center University of Tokyo 8) 12) Andrew Gray Photosensibility 9) Yamanashi Tourist Information 10) 13) Mount Fuji Guide 11) Climber.org 15) 19) 20) Kanagawa Tourist information 16) 18) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 21) Wikipedia
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020