Mount Fuji (富士山, Fujisan), located on the island of Honshū, is the highest mountain in Japan, standing 3,776.24 m (12,389.2 ft). It is the second-highest volcano located on an island in Asia (after Mount Kerinci on Sumatra, Indonesia) and the seventh-highest peak on Earth.
Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano that last erupted from 1707 to 1708. The mountain is located about 100 km (62 mi) southwest of Tokyo and is visible on clear days.
Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is covered in snow for about five months of the year, is commonly used as a cultural icon of Japan. It is frequently depicted in art and photography and visited by sightseers climbers.
Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” (三霊山, Sanreizan) and Mount Tate and Mount Haku.
It is a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and one of Japan’s Historic Sites.
It was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site on June 22, 2013.
According to UNESCO, Mount Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”.
UNESCO recognises 25 sites of cultural interest within the Mount Fuji locality.
These 25 locations include the mountain and the Shinto shrine, Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha, and the Buddhist Taisekiji Head Temple founded in 1290, later depicted by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.
Etymology of Mount Fuji
The current kanji for Mount Fuji, 富 and 士, means “wealth” or “abundant” and “a man of status” respectively.
However, the name predates kanji. These characters are ateji, meaning that they were selected because their pronunciations match the word’s syllables but do not carry a meaning related to the mountain.
The origin of Fuji’s name is unclear, having no recording of it being first called by this name.
A text of the 9th century, Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, says that the name came from “immortal” (不死, fushi, fuji) and also from the image of abundant (富, fu) soldiers (士, shi, ji) ascending the slopes of the mountain.
Early folk etymology claims that Fuji came from 不二 (not + two), meaning without equal or nonpareil.
Another claims that it came from 不尽 (not + to exhaust), meaning never-ending.
Hirata Atsutane, a Japanese classical scholar in the Edo period, speculated that the name is from a word meaning “a mountain standing up shapely as an ear (穂, ho) of a rice plant”.
British missionary John Batchelor (1854–1944) argued that the name is from the Ainu word for “fire” (fuchi) of the fire deity Kamui Fuchi, which was denied by a Japanese linguist Kyōsuke Kindaichi on the grounds of phonetic development (sound change).
It is also pointed out that huchi means an “old woman” and ape is the word for “fire”, ape huchi kamuy being the fire deity.
Research on the distribution of place names that include fuji also suggests the origin of the word fuji is in the Yamato language rather than Ainu.
Japanese toponymist Kanji Kagami argued that the name has the same root as wisteria (藤, fuji) and rainbow (虹, niji, but with an alternative reading, fuji), and came from its “long well-shaped slope“.
Modern linguist Alexander Vovin proposes an alternative hypothesis based on Old Japanese reading */puⁿzi/: the word may have been borrowed from Eastern Old Japanese */pu nusi/ 火主 meaning ‘fire master’.
In English, the mountain is known as Mount Fuji. Some sources refer to it as “Fuji-san”, “Fujiyama”, or, redundantly, “Mt. Fujiyama”.
Japanese speakers refer to the mountain as “Fuji-san”. This “san” is not the honorific suffix used with people’s names, such as Watanabe-san, but the Sino-Japanese reading of the character yama (山, “mountain”) used in Sino-Japanese compounds.
In Nihon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki romanization, the name is transliterated as Huzi.
Other Japanese names which have become obsolete or poetic include Fuji-no-Yama (ふじの山, “the Mountain of Fuji”), Fuji-no-Takane (ふじの高嶺, “the High Peak of Fuji”), Fuyō-hō (芙蓉峰, “the Lotus Peak”), and Fugaku (富岳／富嶽), created by combining the first character of 富士, Fuji, and 岳, mountain.
Mount Fuji is an attractive volcanic cone and a frequent subject of Japanese art, especially after 1600, when Edo (now Tokyo) became the capital and people saw the mountain while travelling on the Tōkaidō road.
According to the historian H. Byron Earhart, “in medieval times it eventually came to be seen by Japanese as the “number one” mountain of the known world of the three countries of India, China, and Japan”.
The mountain was mentioned in Japanese literature throughout the ages and is the subject of many poems.
The summit has been considered sacred since ancient times and was forbidden to women until the Meiji era in the late 1860s.
Ancient samurai used the base of the mountain as a remote training area near the present-day town of Gotemba.
The shōgun Minamoto no Yoritomo held yabusame in the area in the early Kamakura period.
The first ascent by a foreigner was by Sir Rutherford Alcock in September 1860, who ascended the mountain in 8 hours and descended in 3 hours.
On March 5, 1966, BOAC Flight 911, a Boeing 707, broke up in flight and crashed near the Mount Fuji Gotemba New fifth station, shortly after departure from Tokyo International Airport.
All 113 passengers and 11 crew members died in the disaster, attributed to the extreme clear-air turbulence caused by lee waves downwind of the mountain.
There is a memorial for the crash a short distance down from the Gotemba New fifth station.
Today, Mount Fuji is an international destination for tourism and mountain climbing.
In the early 20th century, populist educator Frederick Starr’s Chautauqua lectures about his several ascents of Mount Fuji—1913, 1919, and 1923—were widely known in America.
A well-known Japanese saying suggests that a wise person will climb Mt.
Fuji once in their lifetime, but only a fool would climb it twice.
It remains a famous symbol in Japanese culture, including making numerous movie appearances, inspiring the Infiniti logo, and even appearing in medicine with the Mount Fuji sign.
In September 2004, the human-crewed weather station at the summit was closed after 72 years of operation.
Observers monitored radar sweeps that detected typhoons and heavy rains.
The station, which was the highest in Japan at 3,780 metres (12,402 ft), was replaced by a fully automated meteorological system.
Mount Fuji was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site on June 22, 2013. However, the inscription became controversial after two professors at the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Centre, Shizuoka, were forced to quit their jobs because of academic and racial harassment by officials of Shizuoka prefecture government in March 2018.