9 Smashing Trivia Bits on Japan's Mount Fuji | The Thinking Blog ~ Knowledge Grows When Shared
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18 January 2008

9 Smashing Trivia Bits on Japan's Mount Fuji

Sacred Mount Fuji, Japan's tallest mountain, has bewitched and beguiled onlookers for countless centuries. If you think that "Fuji-san" is nothing more than the poster child for Japan, though, you'd be wrong. Here are nine nifty facts on Mount Fuji with amazing images showing the many moods of this most honorable mountain!

9) Mount Fuji in Modern Art Culture

As an instantly recognizable symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji has been co-opted from time to time by companies such as Atari, who used a stylized Mount Fuji design for their logo:

In Japan, colorful paintings of Mount Fuji are often displayed in public baths, supposedly so that patrons can more easily achieve a sense of timeless relaxation as they soak away their cares. As well, the peaceful image of Mount Fuji is said to be a bringer of good luck - as long as it's not an image of it erupting!

Public bath painter.

8) Mount Fuji is a Sacred Mountain and is the Symbol of Japan

Mount Fuji is considered the sacred symbol of Japan.

Absolutely! The mountain's serene, unchanging image - unchanging except for the snowcap that comes and goes with the seasons - graces everything from public bath house walls to postage stamps to currency and more!

Mount Fuji 5000 Yen bank note.

7) Mount Fuji is NOT one of the Tallest Mountains in the World

Not even close, although at more than 12,000 feet high it's the loftiest in Japan and one of the most famous peaks in the world. But "tallest"? Not by half... even two Mount Fuji's stacked one atop the other wouldn't match the height of Mount Everest. Even the world's tallest volcano, Mount Cotopaxi in Ecuador, surpasses Mount Fuji by over 7,000 feet. Mount Fuji only LOOKS extremely tall because it stands alone and is not surrounded by other high peaks like the Himalayas or Andes.

Look closer and 'Fuji-san' is less than sanitary

6) Mount Fuji isn't a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Why? Garbage, LOTS of garbage. Almost a third of a million people visit Mount Fuji each year and the climbing season is only 2 months long. Do the math... the infrastructure just can't handle the load. Waste, both organic and inorganic, is everywhere. Even worse, the beautiful forests surrounding the mountain have become a choice dumping ground for those seeking to avoid trash disposal fees - not to mention being a prime spot for committing suicide (roughly 30 per year).

Trash spoiling Japan's Sacred Mount Fuji.

A major, concerted cleanup is now underway. Included in the effort are new bio-toilets to replace the previous storage-tank models whose contents were simply emptied onto the mountainside at the end of each climbing season. Mount Phew-ji!

5) Historically, Mount Fuji has been Off-limits to Women

Like most high mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji was traditionally seen as an abode of the gods; a place where "unclean" women were forbidden to go. It wasn't until 1872 that the official ban on women climbing Mount Fuji was lifted, partially in response to a well-publicized ascent of the peak in 1867 by Lady Parkes, the wife of a British diplomat.

Mount Fuji poster.

4) Mount Fuji is Privately Owned

Strange but true! But not to worry, neither a Japanese version of "The Donald" nor an absentee Middle Eastern prince lists Mount Fuji among his holdings. The uppermost portion of the peak belongs to the Fujisan Hongu Sengentaisha shrine, having been granted the title in perpetuity by the Shogun in 1609.

A Shinto priest at the shrine, Norihiko Nakamura, has categorically stated that "Mount Fuji is a mountain of the world, not an asset for individuals," thus allaying any fears that the shrine might restrict access to Mount Fuji's summit.

3) Mount Fuji is an Active Volcano

Officially designated as "dormant" (presumably to avoid panic), Mount Fuji last erupted 300 years ago. But... and that's a very big "but"... there's no reason to assume there won't be another.

In 1707, a vent opened on Mount Fuji's flank, spewing molten lava down the mountain's farmed & forested slopes while raining volcanic ash upon Tokyo (then known as Edo). The so-called "Hoei crater" from the 1707 eruption is still visible today and from some angles distorts the view of Mount Fuji's symmetrical cone.

Mount Fuji volcanic activity.

2) What Would Happen if Mount Fuji DID Erupt?

With 10 documented eruptions since the 8th century, Mount Fuji has demonstrated a pattern of activity that worries many - notwithstanding the quietude of the past 300 years. Japanese government authorities have devised detailed plans to deal with a future eruption of Mount Fuji - an event that could cost the country upwards of $21 billion!

Mount Fuji, the active volcano.

In a worst case scenario, nearly 8,000 people living near the peak would have to be evacuated and nearly 2,000 homes would suffer damage. That number would rise to around 11,000 if the eruption occurred in June, during Japan's rainy season. In addition, up to 12.5 million people would suffer adverse affects from fine particles of volcanic ash which would saturate the air.

Mount Fuji city scape.

1) Mount Fuji in Traditional Art - Tsunami Waves?

Colorful images of Mount Fuji in traditional woodblock prints have been admired for centuries. Among the most well-known are the "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji" created by the master printer Hokusai between 1826 and 1829. The pictured image, "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa", is perhaps THE best-known Japanese print and was a significant influence on many of Europe's great artists of the late 19th century.

Mount Fuji Wave Japan

Article by Steve Levenstein from Inventor Spot. Steve writes about weird and wonderful Japanese innovations on a regular basis and you can catch up on current & previous examples at his blog. Submit your thoughts - click here!

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