Mount Fuji, boasting an altitude of 3,776 meters, is the highest mountain in Japan. It had been loved by Japanese people as a mountain where gods lived and was an object of worship in earlier years. The beautiful shape of the composite volcano with its wide skirt is well known as a symbol of Japan both inside and outside the country. For its elegant appearance, it has been used as an artistic motif in many works of art. Additionally, it is depicted on the back of the 1,000-yen bill.
Mount Fuji is the largest active volcano in Japan and became its current shape after rapidly growing for 100,000 years. Because of the elegant and gentle shape, it's an object of mountain climbing in summer, which is friendly for every climber. During the summer season from the opening day on July 1 to the closing festival at the end of August, it bustles with about 300,000 climbers every year.
In ancient times, people were not allowed to enter Mount Fuji, which was thought to be a mountain inhabited by gods. Therefore, a shrine was built as a place for looking at Mount Fuji as an object of worship from a distance and conducting rituals. It is told when Yamato Takeru once went to the eastern land, he said “Mount Fuji spread beautifully in the north should be admired from this place (Otsukayama)," where a big torii gate was built and the Asama-no Okami god and Yamato Takeru were enshrined, which led to the establishment of Sengen Shrine.
Because there are such places around Mount Fuji as Fuji Five Lakes formed by its eruptions, the Aokigahara Jukai (sea of trees) and lava caves, and also Mount Fuji is designated as a special place of scenic beauty, it bustles with many visitors. Such a landscape surrounding the famous mountain of Mount Fuji, as well as the cultural tradition of worship and its existence as a source of art recognized as indigenous values, and therefore a recommendation for registering it as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site was submitted in 2012 (to be registered in 2013).
Mount Fuji is a composite volcano that stretches from Yamanashi to Shizuoka prefectures and is a part of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Being relatively close to Japan's capital of Tokyo, it bustles with tourists and climbers from inside and outside Japan. From Tokyo, you can come relatively easily by using a bus, train, or expressway. Terminals acting as the starting points for climbing are the Kawaguchiko and Fujisan stations in Yamanashi and the Gotemba and Fujinomiya stations in Shizuoka, from where climbers' buses are run during the summer climbing season. Additionally, there are direct buses from Tokyo (Shinjuku) to the fifth stations of the mountain in the season.
The most beautiful aspect of Mount Fuji is its shape formed by the eruptions since primeval times. It is considered that eruptions started about 11,000 years ago and blew out a large amount of lava, and the origin of the current shape was formed. The oldest record stating an eruption is the part of Year 781 of “Shoku Nihongi." After that, there were the Enryaku Eruption (800-802) and the Jogan Eruption (864), and there has been no record of an eruption since the Hoei Eruption (1707), of which smoke reached the stratosphere and dropped a lot of ash even in Edo (current Tokyo).
In addition, volcanic activities created various natural formative arts and many lava caves including wind caves and ice caves. The most famous ones among them are Subashiri Tainai Cave, a cave located at the highest place in Japan, Mitsuike-ana Cave (in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka), which measures as long as 2,139 m, and Saiko Komori-ana (bat cave, in Fuji Kawaguchiko-cho, Yamanashi), a natural monument of Japan. There also are many lava tree molds (natural molds of trees by lava). Famous ones include Funatsu Tainai Jukei (tree mold) and Yoshida Tainai Jukei.
Aokigahara Jukai (sea of trees) is a primeval forest grown on the lava flow from the Jogan Eruption in 864 and is a natural monument of Japan. There are many conifer trees, such as the southern Japanese hemlock and cypress, deciduous trees, such as Japanese oak, as well as shrub species, such as the Japanese snow flower and Japanese Andromeda. It apparently takes 700 years before plants grow on lava flow, and more than an additional 300 years before they become huge trees like the current ones, so totally more than 1,000 years is required.
Rain and snow fallen on Mount Fuji become underflow water over a long period of time and outwell through underground water veins. Among them, the underflow water of the Kakita River is famous as one of the three major clear streams in Japan and is chosen as one of the Environmental Agency's 100 best water sources. The amount of water outwelling a day is about 1.1 million tons and the water temperature is about 15 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Kohama Pond at Rakujuen Park is a spring-fed pond located in the “water city" of Mishima, and is in a site established as a villa of Prince Akihito Komatsunomiya in 1890 and is designated as a natural monument and place of scenic beauty of Japan. Additionally, springs in Yoshiwara on the south side of the mountain, Wakutama Pond on the west (special natural monument), Shiraito Falls (natural monument and one of the 100 best falls in Japan), springs in Inogashira, and Oshino Hakkai on the north (special natural monument) are also famous and visited by many tourists.
Because Mount Fuji is an independent peak, unique clouds are generated by humid winds directly bumping the mountain. Among them, kasagumo (umbrella cloud) and tsurigumo (rotor cloud) can hardly be seen at other places than Mount Fuji. It is said that people used to forecast weather based on the shape of such clouds for their agriculture. The climate on the summit of Mount Fuji is very harsh. The highest temperature does not exceed 15 degrees Celsius even in the middle of summer, and more than 200 days a year are ice days (the highest temperature is 0 degree Celsius or below). According to records, the lowest temperature is minus 38 degrees Celsius, and the maximum momentary wind velocity is 91 m (328 km/hour). No wonder the climbing season is only the two months of July and August.
Climbing history of Mount Fuji is long, and it is considered the oldest reference to it is Fuji-dake found in “Hitachinokuni Fudoki." En-no Ozuno is said to be the first person who climbed the mountain for the first time in 663, and he was called the opener of Mount Fuji. Additionally, folklore about Kai-no Kurokoma (horses from Kai Province) in the Heian Period (794-) says that Shotoku Taishi crossed Mount Fuji on a sacred horse. In the Edo period (1603-), Fujiko (organizations worshipping Mount Fuji) gained popularity, and many worshippers began to visit Mount Fuji. In the 1800s, there seemed to be more than 100 inns called Oshi (hut + guide) along Yoshidaguchi Trail. The first climber from overseas was R. Alcock, a British land surveyor who reached the summit via the Murayama route in 1860. Although there was a time when it was not allowed for women to enter Mount Fuji, currently because of the spiritual-spot boom and yama-girl (young girls climbing mountains in fashionable clothes) boom, young women climb the mountain during the summer season in stylish clothing.