October 06, 2021 6 min read
Would you like to shine in front of your friends? To become that person to tell a story during a meal? After reading this list of ten things to know about the Mount Fuji, you will definitely impress your friends!
A magnificent sacred mountain located on the island of Honshu; Mount Fuji has fascinated many artists since the dawn of time. Its conical shape and perfect symmetry, as well as its snow-covered summit contribute to its rare beauty worthy of the most beautiful landscapes in Japan. It is also the highest peak of the country with a height of 3776 meters.
According to rumors, its name derives from the fire god "Fuschi". It is said to have been named like this by the oldest Japanese inhabitants: the Ainu. At that time, the volcano was particularly active and fearsome.
As a historical and cultural emblem of Japan, the famous mountain has been attracting many hikers in spiritual or religious quest, as well as tourists from all over the world.
Mount Fuji is a particularly sacred place, but do you already know why? Have you ever heard the legends about the mountain, the most curious anecdotes or even the sports feats performed on this volcano?
No less than three volcanoes form the Mount Fuji of today, or rather the strato-volcano. First the Komitake-Fuji which dates back to several hundred thousand years ago. Then the Old Fuji, nearly 100 000 years ago and finally the New Fuji which gives it the aspect that we are seeing nowadays.
It is also called Fuji-San by the Japanese or Fuji Yama by the Westerners, due to a translation error - oops 🤭 !
This volcano has more than thirty different names, which shows the strong interest for this heavenly mountain. Mount Fuji has indeed strongly inspired Japanese art and literature throughout the centuries. In addition, the famous painter and master Hokusai was so much obsessed with it that he reproduced it 46 times from different angles in a series of forty-six prints, the most famous of which is the Great Wave of Kanagawa.
You can find some of these representations in our wall art collection.
With about fifteen eruptions since 781, the volcano is still considered active by geologists. Note that its last eruption was 300 years ago. Moreover, the Aokigahara forest, linked to many legends, would result from an ancient lava flow. Did you know that this forest is said to be haunted according to Japanese people 👻 ? It is also the place of more than 300 suicides per year.
With its calm airs, the risk of eruption, although low, is closely monitored by scientists. Some experts believe that the volcano might wake up soon!
Here's why: Mount Fuji belongs to the Pacific Ring of Fire, a chain of volcanoes that border the ocean over many kilometers with a strong seismic activity. Fujisan is a grey volcano, which means that it throws out particularly dangerous volcanic ash. However, it is known that there is an important telluric activity in Japan because of the tectonic plates. Moreover, the volcano is located on one of the most active rifts in the country. Consequently, the Japanese fear a new eruption for the inhabitants living nearby. Therefore, if you decide to climb Mount Fuji, be aware...
According to Shintoists, Fujisan is occupied by many religious deities. Besides, it abounds in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines with their effigy. It is thus an ideal place of pilgrimage for the Japanese.
Especially since, according to the Shugendo sect, the majesty of the mountains would allow to communicate with the gods...
For Buddhists, Mount Fuji is said to recall the shape of the lotus flower, symbol of the religion. The ascent of the mount is a ritual of purification which represents the spiritual awakening. It is practiced by numerous pilgrims every year. It is a bit like the Santiago de Compostela of the Far East.
Shinto legends tell that an emperor would have destroyed an immortality elixir at the origin of the smoke that sometimes exhales from Mount Fuji. A good reason for a little rejuvenation during its ascent. 😉
Photo by David Edelstein
According to the Shinto religion, the most sacred mountain of the Land of the Rising Sun, would be the home of many Japanese deities including the famous princess Konohanasakuya-hime, also known as Sengen-sama. This goddess would make the cherry trees bloom. And you already know how much the Japanese love cherry blossoms, don't you?
That's not all, she would also be the guardian of the Fujisan volcano and would have the power to appease it. It is understandable that the Japanese people respect her as much as they do and have built many shrines dedicated to her.
Until 1872, women were not allowed to climb Mount Fuji. This was because they were considered impure by the Japanese religion. Again, history was not in favor of women. 😒 Plus, they were not expected to provoke the anger of Princess Konohana-sakuya, remember, the goddess of blossom that watches over Mount Fuji?
In 1832, a Japanese woman named Takayama Tatsu, joined a group of men, dressed in boys' clothes to follow a pilgrimage. She managed to make the first female ascent of Fujisan. Reminds a bit of the story of Mulan, doesn't it? Fortunately, the ban was lifted after the ascent of the British woman Fanny Parkes in 1867. Thus, if you are a woman, you can climb Mount Fuji in 2022, don't worry. 😉
Representation of Princess Konohanasakuya by Insho Domoto in 1929.
Do you enjoy winter sports ⛷? Know that the ski slopes of Japan are very popular among skiers from all over the world. The first downhill run was performed by Yuichiro Miura, the first Japanese speed skier in the 1960s. This high level sportsman went down the slope at 150km/hour. A true exploit for extreme skiing.
3776 meters high... quite a nice descent for skiers and snowboarders 🏂 who are fond of strong sensations - but don't forget to bring your parachute for braking. 😅
According to the famous saying, you have to be wise to climb Mount Fuji once and crazy to do so again. And yet, Yoshinobu Jitsukawa, a Japanese retiree keeps climbing the mountain at the rhythm of two times a day. He broke the record of the number of climbs with more than 1670 ascents to his credit. A great way to stay in Olympic shape for his retirement, don't you think?
One of the most unusual ways to climb Mount Fuji is by using a jumping stick. The record for the longest distance traveled is held by Ashrita Furman with 18 km of bouncing from the highest peak in Japan. This adventure allowed him to enter the world record book in 1997. Not sure a kangaroo could have done better!
From left to right: Yuichiro Miura, the speed skier; Ashrita Furman, the jumping man; Yoshinobu Jitsukawa, the crazy climber of Mount Fuji.
Did you know that the first known ascent of Mount Fuji was in 663, by En no Gyôja, a Buddhist monk who was seeking exile? Ever since, this place of pilgrimage filled with beauty and spirituality has attracted many travelers from all over the world.
Nowadays, this famous summit is the most visited in the archipelago. Men, women, children, old people, believers and sportsmen walk along the four paths of Fujisan every year so as to reach the summit, for the most courageous, by passing through the 10 stations. No less than 300 000 people climb the slopes of Mount Fuji every summer to pay homage to the gods or to admire the most beautiful sunrise of Japan.
Unfortunately, this has important ecological consequences. As a true exceptional site, the coveted mountain has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017.
Photo by Ningyu He
During your trip to Mount Fuji, if you feel like sending a postcard to your relatives when arriving at the summit, you can visit the highest post office in Japan. Moreover, your card will bear the postmark of Mount Fuji: classy! 😁
At the top of the mountain, you will also find a very old weather station. Once you get to the summit, don't be surprised if you are told you are on private property either! In fact, it belongs to the Fujisan Hongû Sengen-taisha shrine.
So, now that you know everything you need to know about this sacred mountain: from the most famous legends to the most unusual feats. However, avoid talking too much about it with your friends. You never know, the kami of Mount Fuji (higher spirit) might wake up. 😅
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