Mount Fuji: the Most Famous Mountain in Japan

Fuji Mountain in Autumn
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Mount Fuji, with an elevation rise of 12,388 feet, is the 35th most prominent mountain in the world. Located on Honshu Island, Japan (coordinates: 35.358 N / 138.731 W), it has a circumference of 78 miles and a diameter of 30 miles. Its crater is 820 feet deep and has a surface diameter of 1,600 feet.

 Mount Fuji Distinctions

  • The highest mountain in Japan.
  • It is an ultra-prominence peak as the 35th most prominent mountain in the world.
  • A cultural site on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
  • On Japanese list of "Places of Scenic Beauty".

Mount Fuji Name

Mount Fuji is called Fuji-san (富士山) Japanese. The origin of Fuji's name is disputed. Some say it derives from the Ainu language used by the Japanese aboriginal people and means "everlasting life." Linguists, however, say that the name is from the Yamato language and refers to Fuchi, the Buddhist fire goddess.

Early Mount Fuji Ascents

The first known ascent of Mount Fuji was by a monk in 663. After that, the peak was regularly climbed by men, but women were not allowed on the summit until the Meiji Era in the late 19th century. The first known Westerner to climb Fuji-san was Sir Rutherford Alcock in September 1860. The first white woman to ascend Fuji was Lady Fanny Parkes in 1867.

Active Stratovolcano

Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano with a towering symmetrical volcanic cone. The mountain formed in four phases of volcanic activity which began 600,000 years ago. Mount Fuji's last eruption occurred on December 16, 1707, to January 1, 1708.

Sacred Mountain in Japan

Fuji-san has long been a sacred mountain. The native Ainu revered the great peak. Shintoists consider the peak sacred to the goddess Sengen-Sama, who embodies nature, while the Fujiko sect believes the mountain is a being with a soul. A shrine to Sengen-Sama is on the summit. Japanese Buddhists believe the mountain is the gateway to a different world. Mount Fuji, Mount Tate, and Mount Haku are Japan's "Three Holy Mountains."

Mount Fuji is the World's Most Climbed Mountain

Mount Fuji is the most climbed mountain in the world with over 100,000 people trekking to the summit every year. Unlike many sacred mountains, people make pilgrimages to climb the peak. About 30% of climbers are foreigners, with the rest Japanese.

Japan's Most Popular Attraction

Mount Fuji, one of the world's most beautiful mountains, is Japan's most popular attraction. It's loved for its beauty and symmetry and has been painted and photographed by generations of artists. Springtime is perhaps the most beautiful time of the year to see Fuji. The snow-covered mountain is framed by pink cherry blossoms, giving Fuji the name Konohana-Sakuahime, which means "causing the blossom to brightly bloom."

Views of Fuji from Tokyo

Mount Fuji is 62 miles (100 kilometers) from Tokyo, but from Nihonbashi in Tokyo, which is the zero mile marker for Japanese highways) the distance by road to the mountain is 89 miles (144 kilometers). Fuji can be seen from Tokyo on clear days.

Mount Fuji is Symbol of Japan

Mount Fuji, in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, is Japan's most famous mountain and symbol. Five lakes -- Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Yamanaka, Lake Sai, Lake Motosu and Lake Shoji -- surround the mountain.

How to Climb Mount Fuji

The official season to climb Mount Fuji is in July and August when the weather is mild and most of the snow has melted. The peak time is from mid-July until the end of August when schools are on vacation. It can be extremely busy on the mountain, with queues at congested sections. The steep climb, following four different trails, usually takes 8 to 12 hours to ascend and another 4 to 6 hours to descend. Many climbers time their ascent so they are able to witness the rising sun from the summit.

4 Trails Ascend to Summit

Four trails ascend Mount Fuji-Yoshidaguchi Trail, Subashiri Trail, Gotemba Trail, and Fujinomiya Trail. Ten stations are found on each trail, each offering basic amenities and places for resting. Drinks, food, and a bed are expensive and reservations are necessary. The 1st Stations are found at the mountain base, with the 10th Station on the summit. The usual place to begin is at the 5th Stations, which are reached by bus. Other mountaineering routes with technical climbing are found on Fuji.

Most Popular Trail to Summit

The most popular way to the summit is on Yoshidaguchi Trail, which begins partway up at Kawaguchiko 5th Station on the east side of Fuji-san. It takes eight to twelve hours for the round-trip hike from here. Several huts are found by the 7th and 8th stations on the trail. Ascent and descent trails are separate. This is the best trail for novice climbers.

Climb Mount Fuji in Two Days

The best way is to climb to a hut near the 7th or 8th station on your first day. Sleep, rest, and eat, and then climb to the summit early on the second day. Others begin hiking in the evening from the 5th Station, trekking through the night so the summit is reached at sunrise.

Mount Fuji's Crater Rim

Mount Fuji's crater has eight peaks. A walk around the crater's edge to all the summits is called ohachi-meguri and takes a couple hours. It takes about an hour to hike around the crater to Kengamine peak, Fuji's high point (also Japan's high point), which is on the opposite side of the crater from where Yoshidaguchi Trail reaches it.