Mount Fuji is no stranger to nature lovers. Depictions in movies, books, and art culture make the mount even more popular.
Mount Fuji is famous for five primary reasons:
- The highest mountain in Japan.
- A sacred site for the Shinto religion since the 7th century.
- A cultural icon of Japan.
- The highest volcanoes with an outstanding view in Asia.
- An active stratovolcano that experienced wild eruptions in the past
To make mount Fuji even more popular, I gathered 15 interesting facts about it.
1. Mount Fuji locates on the Island of Honshu in Japan
Honshu is the largest among the four main islands of Japan and it is also the most populous one. Situated between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, it covers an area of 87,992 square miles (227,898 sq. km).
2. Mount Fuji is the highest in Japan and the second the highest volcano on an island in Asia.
Its height reaches 12,389 ft. (3,776 m) and occupies about 80 sq. miles (207 sq. km) of an area in the mainland. It is situated 60 miles (100km) away from Tokyo.
Its closeness to Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area makes it even more popular. Because its magnificent view is visible to millions of Japanese residents.
3. Historians are still uncertain about the origin of the name “Mount Fuji”.
The earliest records of Mount Fuji first appeared in Hitachi no Kuni fudoki in 713 CE. The Fudoki was a collection of government documents that served as a dictionary of provincial culture, oral traditions, and geography. The documents were for the reigning monarchs of Japan. And contained information about local rituals, myths, and poems.
In the fudoki, Mount Fuji was mentioned with the name “Fuji no Yama”. But the original name might have been derived from the Ainu language. More specifically, from the word “Fire” and the Japanese word “San” which translates as a mountain.
Currently, locals call the mountain Fujisan. Most foreigners call it Fujiyama but the foreign version is not the correct one.
4. Mount Fuji was formed in 286 BCE but some scholars debate over its actual age.
Geologists believe that Mount Fuji was formed during the past 2.6 million years ago as a result of a series of volcanic eruptions.
Scholars estimate that its first eruption took place about 700,000 years ago. The first eruption was known as Komitake. Then came the Ko Fuji (Old Fuji), surmounting lava on top of Komitake about 100,000 years ago. Finally, the Shin Fuji eruption topped both Komitake and Ko Fuji in the last 10,000 years.
5. Mount Fuji is a stratovolcano or composite volcano.
It means that the mount was formed when lava, volcanic ashes, and debris got piled on top of each other after series of powerful eruptions. To get a general idea of how volcanic mountains are formed, refer to the image below.
6. Mount Fuji is an active volcano.
This means it can erupt anytime. Its last eruption took place between December 16, 1707, and January 1, 1708. That eruption was known as the Hoei eruption. It released a large volume of tephra into the atmosphere.
The eruption was so powerful that volcanic ash and tephra blanketed the city of Odo (center of present-day Tokyo) which is situated about 62 miles (100km) away from Mount Fuji.
Apart from economic losses, residents of nearby Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures may experience life-threatening moments and health risks from threats such as lava flows, volcanic rocks, and exhaling volcanic ashes and gases.
7. Mt. Fuji holds more lava than previously estimated.
A hazard map now suggests that about 1.3 billion cubic meters of lava could flow out of the Mount Fuji crater. That number is a lot higher than previous estimates.
In the past, Mount Fuji erupted every 200 years but it was around 300 years since the last eruption. So, volcanologists predict that the next eruption will take place in the nearest future.
8. Mount Fuji is one of the three Holy Mountains in Japan.
Japanese people accepted three of their mountains as sacred places for worship. Those mountains are:
- Mount Haku (the White Mountain) hosts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama.
- Mount Tate or Tateyama (Standing Mountain) is a holy mountain that locates in the Toyama prefecture of Japan. People climb the mount to reach the Oyama Shrine and receive sake and blessing from a priest.
- Mount Fuji – Since the 7th century, followers of the Shinto religion accepted the mount as a sacred place to get connected to Kami, the supernatural deities of Shinto Religion. More specifically, Princess Konohanasakuya is the Kami of Mount Fuji. She is symbolized with the cherry blossom. To worship Konohanasakuya, several shrines known as Sengens were built at the base and summit of Mt. Fuji. There are currently over 1000 Sengens across Japan.
9. Powerful earthquakes caused the majority of Mount Fuji eruptions.
Earthquakes are common in Japan as it is located in the seismologically active zone known as the ring of fire. Earthquakes do not only cause wild trembles but they can also awaken the active volcanoes. That might have been the case with Mount Fuji in the 1707 eruption. Some scientist believes that 1707 Hoei Erthuake caused the 1707 Mount Fuji eruption after 49 days.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), large earthquakes that are greater than magnitude 6 can cause volcanic eruptions. But for the eruptions to happen, the magma buildup and pressure must be enough in the volcanic system.
Concisely, earthquakes can lead to eruptions only when volcanoes are already poised to erupt. Yet, not all eruptions are a result of an earthquake. Volcanoes can erupt on their own as well.
10. Mount Fuji is also on the Japanese currency.
The back of 1000 Yen depicts the picture of Mount Fuji. The image was adapted from the work of famous photographer Koyo Okada titled “Spring by the Lake”.
That specific image shows the upside-down Mount Fuji view at Lake Motosu. The image is considered rare because to capture it, a photographer has to wait for the perfect time and weather.
So the reflection of the mount will not be distorted on the surface of the water.
11. Mount Fuji changes its color
It turns red during sunset and sunrise in the summer and early fall. This phenomenon is very rare because it only happens when the snow melts, exposing the reddish hue of the mountain top. And the reflection of sun rays makes it even redder.
The term “Red Fuji” became so popular after Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist, produced a woodblock print titled “Fine Wind, Clear Morning”. The artwork depicts Mount Fuji in a reddish color.
12. Part of Mount Fuji is privately owned
It is logical to assume that the national icon should belong to the nation as a whole. but, an upper part of Mount Fuji, more specifically the part starting from 11,024 ft. (3,360 m) to the top, belongs to Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha. The entity owns more than 1,300 temples in Japan, including the famous ones that operate at the base and the summit of Mt. Fuji.
The Japanese government did not officially recognize the privatization of Mount Fuji. But in 1974, Sengen Taisha took the government to court and won the lawsuit, becoming the rightful owner of the mountaintop. The government officially returned the upper part of Mount Fuji to Sengen Taisha in 2004.
13. Mount Fuji attracts about 400,000 climbers every year
That number includes both local and foreign tourists. The climbing season lasts between early July and Mid-September. It is the time when the weather is mild, public transportation and mountain huts are operational. More importantly, during the climbing season, the mount is snow-free, which makes it easier to climb.
The trails can be crowded during the climbing season. But, one can avoid it by visiting the site during the weekdays, or early July before the school vocations. Some people also visit the Mount offseason.
Offseason climbing has some downsides. Such as less frequent public transportation and unpredictable weather. Usually, a snow-covered top makes the climbing too dangerous without mountaineering equipment and proper climbing experience.
14. Several stations divide Mount Fuji
Climbers can track their progress, using 10 stations positioned across the trails. Each of those stations holds both spiritual and physical meanings. For instance, the first station represents the starting point to a sacred mission. The fifth station is half of the climbing journey, and the tenth station is the summit.
Tracks until the Fifth Station are paved and transportation can get there. From there on, the real spiritual journey begins on foot with human strength. Thus, the Japanese people believe that there is a dividing line between the Fifth and Sixth stations. More specifically, the fifth station is considered the human realm. From the sixth station and on is believed to be the spiritual realm.
15. Mount Fuji has two sides: Back and Front.
Usually, we know that mountains do not have sides because they are naturally occurring structures. In other words, no one designed it to have back and front sides. But people labeled the sides of Mount Fuji as “Front Fuji” and “Back Fuji”.
The side that faces Suruga Bay is called “Front Fuji” and the side seen from Fuji Five Lakes area is called “Back Fuji”. However, the Japanese people do not use the term “Back Fuji” quite often. Because Mount Fuji is located at the border of Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures and residents of each insist that their side is Front.
16. Mount Fuji rules prohibited women climbers until 1872 but one woman climbed anyways disguising herself as a man.
The primary reason for the limitation was the fear that the women might distract men in the spiritual journey. More specifically, male pilgrims climbed Mt. Fuji for seclusion training and they wanted to abstain from worldly affairs and be closer to deities. So, any distraction was unacceptable.
The limitations, however, did not stop some women from climbing. Most of the time, women avoided a checkpoint at Okama by climbing extra miles from the different tracks.
Tatsu Takayama was the first woman to summit Mt. Fuji. She was the 25-year-old daughter of a wealthy farmer and follower of Miroku’s teachings. After exhausting all her options, she cut her hair and dressed as a man, and summited Mt. Fuji with five Fuji-kō men in 1832.
Women got their right to climb the mount during the Meiji Period in the late 1800s.
17. Rutherford Alcock was the first foreigner to reach Mt. Fuji’s summit.
His name is even featured on the memorial plague in Murayamasengen Shrine in Fujinomiya city. Sir Alcock was the first British ambassador to Japan. He took the journey to the summit with his pet dog and some of his guards in 1860. And achieved the title of the first foreigner to climb Mt. Fuji.
Lady Fanny Parkes was the first non-Japanese woman to reach Mt. Fuji’s peak. She was the wife of Sir Harry Parkes, a diplomat who replaced Sir Rutherford Alcock as British consul-general to Japan. Interestingly, Lady Parkes climbed at the time when women were forbidden to climb Mt. Fuji.
18. Mt. Fujis is surrounded by five magnificent lakes.
The five lakes that surround the mount make the environment more welcoming to tourists from all over the world. The lakes are located in the Northern base of Mt. Fuji. And they were formed about 3,280 ft. (1000 m) above sea level due to the damming effect of the volcanic eruptions.
The names of Five Mt. Fuji lakes are:
Among those lakes, Kawaguchiko is the easiest to access and offers greater opportunities to see and do things for foreign tourists.
19. Mt. Fuji was the first skiing site in Japan.
At the beginning of the 20th century, people living in the mountainous regions of Japan were using types of skies made of pine and bamboo poles. But, they did not use them for enjoyment or sport but to keep their balance in snow and survive the harsh winters. The region accumulated up to 23 ft. (7 m) snow every winter which complicated the everyday lives of locals.
When Egon Edler von Kratzer along with Major Theodor Edler von Lerch, the father of skiing in Japan, skied down from the 9th station of Mt. Fuji in 1911, the era of skiing as a sport started in Japan.
Skiing got even popular when Hannes Schneider introduced lighter and more developed skies to Japan in the 1930s.
Kōki Takei and Hajime Katsuda were the first two Japanese who successfully skied down from Mt. Fuji summit. They did it in 1935.
20. Mt. Fuji is home to 39 species of mammals and one-fourth of all species of birds living in Japan.
Black bears, squirrels, foxes, deer, Japanese macaque, and mammals of various sizes live on Mt Fuji. The most notable one among them is the Japanese serow, a goat-antelope, which is endemic to the area.
The Japanese serow is considered as a national symbol of Japan and the conservations protect them and make efforts to increase their populations.
A variety of bird species, such as meadow bunting, Japanese Wagtail, pacific swift, Japanese leaf warbler, Eurasian jay, red-crowned cranes, are also common in the area. For example, about 100 species of birds use the base of MT. Fuji as a nesting ground.
A large variety of insects primarily live in the forest regions of Mt. Fuji, which includes an area between 2,295 ft. (700 m) and 5,250 ft. (1600 m) in altitude.
21. More than half of the species of plants found in Shizuoka Prefecture are present on Mt. Fuji
Especially the areas starting from the hillside (2,295 ft. or 700 m) up to the Alpine region (8,200 ft. or 2500 m) of Mt. Fuji hosts a large variety of plants.
Here is the breakdown of plants that grow in each zone of Mt. Fuji:
1. Mountainous zone – Japanese beech (Fagus Crenata), Mizunara (Quercus Crispula), Bamboo grass, Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria), Hinoki cypress, Nikko fir (Abies Homolepis), and Maple.
2. Sulpalpine Zone – Northern Japanese hemlock (Tsuga Diversifolia), Veitch fir (Abies Veitchii), and Nikko fir (Abies Homolepis).
3. Alpine Zone- Golden birch (Betual alleghaniensis), Japanese larch (Larix Kaempferi), Moss, Miyama Otoko Yomogi (Artemisia Pedunculosa Miguel), Lichen, and
22. Mt. Fuji earned its Unesco World Heritage Site status on June 26, 2013.
UNESCO gave Mt. Fuji World Cultural Heritage Site status even though the initial application was prepared to achieve UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage Site status.
To get Natural Heritage status, the site must be free from environmental degradation. However, the site had issues with “illegal garbage dumping” and shortcomings in nature preservation.
Currently, human activities such as four-wheeling and motorbiking harm the plants on Mt. Fuji.