Japanese Scenery (I): Fujisan
Fujisan (Mount Fuji) is located on Honshu island, southwest of Tokyo. It straddles the border of Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. It is the highest peak in Japan, standing 12,388 feet (3,776 meters) in height. Mount Fuji is an active volcano that last erupted in 1707. For centuries, this perfectly shaped volcano has been enshrined as a sacred mountain and is popular among artists and the public.
Muse of Artists
For thousands of years, the magnificent natural wonder has inspired countless artists. The status of Mount Fuji nowadays can be attributed to the ukiyo-e woodblock prints of Hokusai (1760-1849 CE) and Hiroshige (1797-1858 CE). Hokusai was an artist in the Edo period (1603-1867 CE). He created a new art form - the human being is not at the center of the painting. His Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji is one of the highest levels of the depiction of Fujisan. Among the painting series, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is the most famous and representative one.
Fujisan has been eulogized by artists through poems, novels, and paintings during Japan’s 2,000-year history. Japan’s oldest poetry collection, the Manyoshu, contains 11 poems about Fujisan. Then, the earliest Japanese fictional narrative, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, ends with a description of the smoke on top of Fujisan. As for paintings, there were numerous paintings of Fujisan in the Nara period (710-794 CE) and Heian period (794-1185 CE). However, many of them have been lost in the course of history. The most ancient painting of Fujisan is the Illustrated Biography of Prince Regent Shotoku, which depicts Prince Shotoku flying over Mt. Fuji on a black horse.
Sacred Land of Believers
Fujisan is a mountain and a shrine. The Mountain Fuji faith combines Shinto, Buddhism, Shugendo, and folk beliefs. Believers of Buddhism and Shintoism gather here for their practice. Fujisan is surrounded by temples and shrines - there are even shrines at the rim and base of the crater. Climbing the mountain has long been a religious activity. There is even a religious group centered on Fujisan called Fujiko.
In Shintoism, the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha, the head shrine of the 1,300 Asama or Sengen shrines, locates in Fujisan. Apart from the mountain path and the meteorological observatory, the shrine owns all the land above the 8th station (3,100m) of Fujisan. The shrine was originally built to prevent volcanic eruptions. During the Heian Period (794-1185 CE), volcanic activity subsided and Fuji was used as a base for the practice of the testudo.
In folk belief, Mount Fuji is a symbol of good luck. Japanese people consider it the most auspicious omen if they can dream of Fujisan on January 2nd. Moreover, there is also a Japanese custom of overlooking Fujisan on January 3rd.
How to Enjoy Fujisan
If you think climbing is the only way to enjoy Fujisan, you are wrong! No matter your travel preference, Mount Fuji can always suit your taste. UNESCO recognizes 25 sites of cultural interest within the Mount Fuji locality. The snow-capped peaks can be seen from each of these sites.
If you prefer natural scenery, the most famous sites around Mount Fuji are Fujigoko (five lakes around Fujisan), Fuji Hakone Izu National Park, and Miho no Matsubara (a pine forest). There are also hot springs around Fujisan where you can appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Fujisan while bathing. If you prefer human landscapes, there are many temples, shrines, and museums around the base of Mount Fuji, such as the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine and Hakone Open-Air Museum.
If you prefer a leisurely tour, you don't even need to reach Mount Fuji to enjoy its magnificence. All you need is to take the train between Tokyo and Osaka, and you can enjoy the best view of the mountain near Shin-Fuji Station. Or, you can choose to ride the Ferris wheel and enjoy the beauty of Mt. Fuji from a different elevation. Of course, if you want to get moving, climbing Mount Fuji is always the best option. In addition, if you want to do a little more exciting sport, you can ride around the mountain, ski, and paraglide.