Cover Image via: Travelplanet
Speaking of Japan, why does everyone intend to visit Mount Fuji whenever travel to Japan? Most of the people claim that, the biggest regret they have made during the Japan tour is that they have never visited Mount Fuji. So, why must we visit Mount Fuji when we travel to Japan?
A different-coloured Mount Fuji throughout the year
Mount Fuji is the highest peak in Japan, its main peak reaches up to 3776 metres above sea level. Mount Fuji is not only impressively high, but also stunningly beautiful. Mount Fuji is a classic stratovolcano. The mountain is notable for its symmetrical cone-shaped profile, which is built up by many layers of lava and volcanic ashes since the Archaeozoic era. At the summit of Mount Fuji, the crater spans about 800 metres in surface diameter and sinks to a depth of about 200 metres. Mount Fuji changes with different scenery during different seasons, hence, tourists are able to see its unique beauty in anytime.
Why is Mount Fuji regarded as the holy mountain by the Japanese?
Japanese have been worshipping mountains since the ancient times. They believe that gods and spirits live in the mountains, and respect them sacredly. Most of the mountains in Japan contain obvious characteristics such as volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, and so on. The eruption of an active volcano is regarded as holy sign due to its destructive power. Japan lies on the top of the Pacific volcanic belt, a narrow zone around the Pacific Ocean, and that’s why earthquakes and eruption occur frequently in Japan. These volcanoes are worshipped and respected by local people, and Mount Fuji is the most typical representative in particular.
Mount Fuji is now regarded as the “holy mountain” and a holy symbol in Japan. On the top of Mount Fuji, there is an Asama shrine which is used to worship the gods of Mount Fuji. It is said that the goddess Konohanasakuya-hime appeared in Kojiki is worshipped in Asama shrine.
According to the legend, Japanese minority ethnic Ainu was the earliest ethnic group who lived under Mount Fuji and created their own culture. They believed that there was fire goddess who lived in the mountains. She was named “fire goddess” as her anger always led to volcanic eruption. During Nara period (AD710-794 ), Japanese Emperor expended its territory to the south of Kyushu which led to Ainu people’s surrender. Despite the retreat of Ainu people from Honshu, the name of “fire goddess” was then passed down to descendant and later transliterated as “Fuji”.
During the Edo period, a cult arose around the mountain, and one of whose major devotional rites was to climb to the peak of Mount Fuji. People have been piling up Fujizuka, an artificial small mound commonly found in places where one could look over to Mount Fuji. A shrine is also built on top of the mound for the purpose of worshipping. Pilgrims who were unable to climb Mount Fuji would ascend one of these mounds instead. Many of these Fuji mounds are named “Asama” or “Asakusa”. Moreover, there is a custom to build a monument for Shinto shrine in harbor from which one could look over to Mount Fuji.
With the growing beliefs in the gods of Mount Fuji, many Shinto practices and Buddhist-mixed religions were created during Edo period. These religions are related to the present Maruyama practice and Fusukuji practice. Even in modern days, there are many religious organizations such as Aum Shinrikyo and Fahua Saharan which based on Mount Fuji religion, set up their headquarters in the foothills of Mount Fuji.
How did Mount Fuji get its name?
There is never an exact opinion about the origin of the name of Mount Fuji. Apart from the “fire goddess”, the most popular opinion regarding the name of Mount Fuji comes from the Japanese Heian period (early 10th century) literary works The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.
A long time ago, there was an old bamboo cutter who discovered a three inch-sized little girl among the bamboo grove deep in the forest and took the little girl home. Three months later, the little girl has suddenly turned into a beautiful young lady. Many young men in the country proposed to the girl but they were rejected ─ including the young king. It turned out that the little girl was in fact a fairy in heaven. She was demoted into the mortal because of going against the rule. The little girl returned to heaven in the third year of Mid Autumn as her bond is redeemed on that day. Before leaving, she left the king a packet of immortality elixir. The king was so upset that he ordered his men to burn the elixir on the mountain which is the nearest to heaven. Strangely, the elixir could never be burned out. The king’s longing for the girl turned into the endless smoke and drifted into the horizon.
The chosen mountain was called “mountain of immortality” or “mountain of uniqueness”. In Japanese, “immortality” and “uniqueness” are pronounced the same with “Fuji”. Hence, that’s how Mount Fuji got its name.
Due to the popularity of Mount Fuji, many places in Japan got their name “Fuji”. Places that are able to look over Mount Fuji are called “Fujimi”, while mountains that are similar to Mount Fuji are named after “Fuji”. Some Japanese emigrants would call the mountains nearby where they live “○○ Fuji”. For instance, local Japanese who live in Washington, U.S would call Rainier Hill the “Tacoma Fuji”.
It depends on your luck to visit Mount Fuji
Since we have been talking so much about Mount Fuji, why not take a look at the photos of Mount Fuji that were taken by me? By the way, why am I saying that it depends on your luck to visit Mount Fuji? That is because Mount Fuji is covered by snow all year round, so you may not get the view of the peak of Mount Fuji very clearly. When I was in Mount Fuji, the mist was so heavy that I could only get the view of Mount Fuji as below:
(Where is Mount Fuji?)
Fortunately, the weather suddenly turned clear when I went off Mount Fuji, and I could get a brief view of the amazing Mount Fuji.
(Tips: the further away from Mount Fuji, the more of a perfect view you could get)
Unfortunately, I have only been to Fuji Subaru Line 5th during the visit to Japan. For those who have free time during the trip to Japan, I strongly suggest you to climb to the top of Mount Fuji and feel the way Japanese people do for their sheer determination to conquer Mount Fuji.
Some of the information above is sourced from internet.
Translated from: 没去过还真不知道！富士山被日本人视为神山的原因～