Japanese parents teach their children that everyone should climb Mt. Fuji once, but only once. There is a saying that climbing Mt. Fuji once makes someone a wise person, but only an idiot would climb Mt. Fuji twice.
In this article, we will discuss what is about Mt. Fuji makes it a magnetic attraction for tens of millions of Japanese people, what it is like on the mountain and what it is like to climb the mountain, and what you need to prepare to climb Mt. Fuji yourself if you are ever in Japan.
Mount Fuji Facts for Kids
- Mt. Fuji stands 12,388 feet (3,776 meters) tall.
- It is the highest peak in Japan
- Mt. Fuji is visible as far as 200 miles (323 km) away.
- Over 300,000 people climb Mt. Fuji every year.
- Mt. Fuji is an active volcano.
- Mt. Fuji is said to be the home of the Cherry Blossom Goddess.
The importance of Mt. Fuji to Japan
Mt. Fuji is located on the island of Honshu, the part of Japan where major cities like Tokyo and Osaka are found. This peak is just 60 miles (about 100 km) from Tokyo, where people can see its exceptionally symmetrical cone on clear days.
The mountain is capped with snow about five months of the year, making it a beautiful icon of Japan that appears in photographs and works of art all over the country.
When you are speaking in Japanese, you refer to Mt. Fuji as Fuji-san, giving it a title of respect. Traditionally, Japanese people included Mt. Fuji in the Sanrenzan, the Three Holy Mountains, along with Mt. Haku (pronounced ha-Koo) and Mt. Tate (pronounced ta-teh).
In historical Japan, each of the Three Holy Mountains was believed to possess a natural superpower given it by the gods. Mt. Fuji had volcanic power, Mt. Haku had water power, and Mt. Tate had the power of the spirits of the dead.
The Three Holy Mountains still have great significance in the practice of the Shinto religion. Many shrines dot the landscape around the base of Mt. Fuji, and Shinto shrines to the kami, or supernatural spirits, are found along the hiking trail and at the top of the mountain.
Part of Mt. Fuji has a dark history. The northwestern flank of the mountain is covered by the deep, dark, dense vegetation of the Aokigahara forest, also known as the Sea of Trees.
Two hundred years ago, poor families left children and old people they could no longer feed in the forest to fend for themselves. Legends say that the forest became inhabited by demons and evil spirits.
Physical Facts About Mt. Fuji
Mt. Fuji is an active volcano. The mountain was formed by a huge eruption about 100,000 years ago, and it has blown its top several times since the Japanese started writing down their history 2,300 years ago.
Mt. Fuji’s last long eruption lasted from 1707 to 1708. First, a massive earthquake forced molten rock about 12 miles (20 km) down into one chamber in the base of the volcano.
This heavy lava forced a column of lighter lava to rush up to the mouth of the volcano in a Plinian eruption, an eruption like the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius over Pompeii in the ancient Roman Empire.
The torrents of basaltic lava that came out of the mouth of Mt. Fuji turned into searing, hot volcanic ash that covered much of the island of Honshu with a layer of volcanic debris, even Tokyo 60 miles away.
Japanese scientists now carefully monitor Mt. Fuji for signs of another eruption. They know that when there are earthquakes deep inside the volcano, the volcano releases carbon dioxide.
These scientists have set up carbon dioxide detectors at the top of the mountain and at volcanic vents all over the mountain as an early warning system for another volcanic catastrophe caused by the mountain.
The summit of Mt. Fuji is very cold. Even in the middle of summer, afternoon temperatures only reach about 45 °F (7 °C(, and the very warmest summer day ever on the mountain only saw an afternoon high of 64 *F (18 °C). Rain, wind, and snow are possible every day of the year at the top of the mountain.
What’s it like to climb Mt. Fuji?
You don’t have to be Japanese to climb Mt. Fuji. People come from all over to have the experience of climbing the mountain and to take in its natural wonders.
The climb up Mt. Fuji is a one-day trip for hikers in good physical condition. You have to be at least 16 years old to join an organized tour, but children as young as six years old have made the trip to the summit with their parents.
About half of the people who go up Mt. Fuji have never climbed a mountain before. The park authorities have created an easy trail for them that takes about seven hours to reach the summit and four hours to come back down.
It’s easy to get started on the Yoshida Trail for beginners because a train drops you off at its base. There are shops that sell anything you may have forgotten for your climb at the base of the trail, and there are 11 huts where you can rest on the way up.
Advanced climbers often take the Subashiri trail. It starts near a Shinto shrine. It is paved about halfway up, and there are mountain huts you will see about every 30 minutes that have restroom facilities.
However, the top half of the trail is gravel, and it’s hard to see at night. You need to time your trip so you can make the seven and one-half hike up the mountain and the five-hour hike down the mountain at a time you have daylight to help you find your way on the top half of the trail, or you will need good lighting equipment.
There is also a really steep path to the summit called the Fujinomiya Trail. If you are in great shape, you can get up and down the mountain in less time on the Fujinomiya Trail than on the others, in about 11 hours, but many parts of the trail are rocky and very steep.
There is a fourth trail for advanced hikers called the Gotemba trail that takes you through the most scenic parts of the forest, but it is even rockier and steeper than the Fujinomiya Trail.
Primetime for climbing Mt. Fuji comes in high summer, in late July and August. It’s always best to choose a day that is forecast to be warm and sunny. Whichever trail climbers choose, most start a couple of hours before the first light sunrise, which comes about 5 o’clock in the morning.
If you have trouble adjusting to the altitude, or if you just need more than a day to get up and down the mountain, there are places to spend the night with dozens of bunk beds crammed into an unheated hut.
They aren’t very comfortable, but most climbers are so tired that they don’t care. These lodges are a good place to stay if you want to hike the last hundred meters to the summit at 3:30 the second day of your hike so you can see the sunrise from the summit of Mt. Fuji.
Climbers usually agree that it’s worth the sweat, aching muscles, and altitude sickness to take in the view from the summit of Mt. Fuji once — but it would be foolish to do it twice!
Frequently Asked Questions About Mt. Fuji
Here are some of the questions kids ask most frequently about Mt. Fuji with their answers.
What is Mt. Fuji famous for?
The beautiful, triangular, snow-capped peak of Mt. Fuji has become the symbol of Japan. Souvenir shops are filled with items that depict Japan’s tallest and most photographed mountain.
People who live in Tokyo often keep photos or artwork of it to remind them of the mountain they could see on every sunny day.
A majority of Japanese people even today practice a kind of spiritual belief known as Shinto. There have been Shinto shrines at Mt. Fuji for about 1400 years. In Shinto, Mt. Fuji is the home of a deity known as Princess Konohanasakuya, the goddess of the cherry blossom, another iconic symbol of Japan.
The shrines to Konohanasakuya, the cherry blossom deity, are known as segen. There are over 1,000 segen all over Japan, but the main segen are at Mt. Fuji.
Here are some more reasons Mt. Fuji is famous:
- The term “Fuji” can mean inexhaustible, immortal, or peerless.
- In the late summer, Mt. Fuji looks like it is on fire as the sun sets on it. This is another iconic image of Japan. Many people honor the belief that gazing on the red sunlight on Mt. Fuji brings prosperity and business success.’
- There is a Japanese expression dokkoisho that means something like “heave-ho.” Mt. Fuji gives the senses a “heave-ho” and wakes them up.
- Lake Motosu, at the base of Mt. Fuji, has Japan’s version of the Loch Ness monster.
- Mt. Fuji was the first ski slope in Japan. A few skiers have skied all the way from the summit to the base of the mountain.
Does anyone live on Mt. Fuji?
Mt. Fuji is actually part of a Shinto temple. There are people who take care of the shrines who live on the mountain nearly full time, but if you aren’t a Shinto priest, you can only live near the mountain, not on it.
What animals live on Mt. Fuji?
There are 37 species of mammals that live on Mt. Fuji, including black bears, foxes, squirrels, and a unique kind of goat known as a serow.
There are 100 kinds of birds on the mountain, as well as streams filled with fish. In the spring, there are butterflies, and in the summer, there are cicadas chirping in the trees at the lower elevations.