Conquering Mt. Fuji: 17 secrets even Japanese people don't know

Conquering Mt. Fuji: 17 secrets even Japanese people don't know

Live Japan

Boasting the greatest height of domestic single peak mountains in the country, Mount Fuji is loved as a sightseeing attraction representative of Japan throughout the world. In fact, over 300,000 mountaineers flock to it every year.

In addition to being registered as a World Cultural Heritage in 2013, recent years have once more seen various features in the media seeking to express the allure of the mountain, further calling attention to it.

Now, we will reveal 17 of Mount Fuji’s unknown secrets, conquering the peak of this majestic symbol of Japan!

1. What is “Red Fuji?”

“Red Fuji” is a phenomenon that occurs during sunrise and sunset when the mountain shines in bright red.

Usually, Mount Fuji impresses with the contrast of the blue mountain range’s peak being covered in white snow. Under certain conditions, it changes its appearance to a crimson color of sublime beauty.

The time between late summer and early autumn brings several factors together that make this possible, including clear air and altostratus clouds that reflect the red light.

A rare phenomenon, “Red Fuji” is a seasonal word. Because the snow on Mt. Fuji’s peak begins to melt and exposes the reddish at the beginning of summer, the tinged sunlight emphasizes this and the mountain appears vividly red.

The ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai’s famous work called “Fine Wind, Clear Morning” (gaifūkaisei) of the “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” series is the reason why the “Red Fuji” became so famous.

Gaifū means southerly breeze; with the cirrocumulus clouds floating in the scenery of a blue sky, the drawing of the revered mountain’s crimson-dyed appearance boasts a spectacular impact.

2. Diamond Fuji and Pearl Fuji

Diamond Fuji

Mount Fuji has various different appearances that change with time span and season. Apart from the Red Fuji, there are other rare sceneries of the mountain with curious names.

In the hours of both sunset and sunrise, there is a moment the view of the sun perfectly dancing on Mount Fuji’s summit. This looks just like a diamond and is thus called “Diamond Fuji.” The sun right over the mountain shines dazzlingly in a blazing light; this graceful scenery is a true masterpiece of nature!

Pearl Fuji

The full moon sitting on Mt. Fuji’s summit is called Pearl Fuji. Compared to the sparkling of the blazing light of Diamond Fuji’s sun, Peal Fuji’s soft light of the moon is of a gentle radiance – just like a pearl. This wondrous scenery that can be observed once a month truly leaves one stunned by its sheer beauty.

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3. There Is More: Rare Mount Fuji That Doesn’t Appear Often!

Fuji Upside-down

When Mount Fuji is reflected upside-down on the calm, waveless waters of alake, you see “Upside-down Fuji.” This can be seen on days with clear air and without any wind, allowing us to enjoy various different sceneries that change with the season. This is the upside-down image that is printed on the back of 1,000-yen bills!

The backside of the 1,000-yen bill shows Mount Fuji Upside-down together with cherry blossoms.

4. Mount Fuji’s Peak

To think that Mt. Fuji is even found in places like this!
When one’s hairline creates an M-shape on the forehead it is referred to as “Fuji’s peak” in Japanese.

In English, this is known as widow’s peak. It is one of the factors of beauty and can be seen on the foreheads of many women depicted in ukiyo-e and Japanese paintings.

5. Those Pictures of Mt. Fuji on the Internet, Where Are Those Taken?

Kawaguchiko (Yamanashi Prefecture)

Moss phlox and Mount Fuji (Kawaguchiko, Motosu)

Lavender and Mount Fuji (Kawaguchiko, Oishi Park)

Lake Kawaguchiko
Address: Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi, 401-0301
View Map
Nearest Station: Kawaguchiko Station (Kawaguchiko Line (Fujikyuko))1 minute on foot
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Yamanakako (Yamanashi Prefecture)

Swans and Mount Fuji (Yamanakako, Nagaike Water Park)

If you want to photograph Mount Fuji’s scenery, you cannot ignore the Fuji Five Lakes! At the lakes Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko, and Motosuko, formed when the cave-ins of the mountain's eruptions were filled with water, various pictures of sceneries can be taken, from lake shores to Mount Fuji.

Among them, Kawaguchiko and Yamanakako are famous as locations that numerous photographers visit, regardless of whether they’re professionals or amateurs. If you are especially lucky, you can encounter both the rare Red Fuji and Upside-down Fuji at once!

Lake Yamanaka
Address: Yamanakako-mura, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi, 401-0500
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Nearest Station: Kawaguchiko Station (Kawaguchiko Line (Fujikyuko))
Phone Number: 0555-62-3100
View Details

Arakurayama Sengen Park

Cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji

Autumn leaves and Mount Fuji

This world-famous view of Mount Fuji can be seen at Arakurayama Sengen Park in the city of Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture. With the sublime slope in the background, the scenery of Chūreitō Pagoda, a piece of sublime Japanese architecture, makes for a magnificent view.

The seasonal cherry blossoms and autumn leaves make it that much more beautiful still; this is one of the landscapes that are truly representative of Japan.

Arakurayama Sengen Park
Address: 2-3353 Asama, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi 403-0011

Shiraito Falls

Shiraito Falls and Mount Fuji

The Shiraito Falls in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Fujinomiya City. The water that pours down the rock cliff as if it was fine white threads is, with the exception of a part of the main falls, mainly spring water from Mount Fuji.

Tender green in spring, the beauty of colorful foliage in autumn, the refreshing breeze of the water in summer, and even in winter, the waterfall stays at a temperature of 12 degrees and does not freeze.

Shiraito Falls
Address: Kamiide, Fujinomiya-shi, Shizuoka, Hara, 418-0103
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Nearest Station: Fujinomiya Station (JR Minobu Line)30 minutes by bus
Phone Number: 0544-22-1155
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6. Is Mount Fuji on Private Land? Who Owns Mt. Fuji?

Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha (Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture)

“Who does Mount Fuji belong to?” is a question that most Japanese would answer with “Everyone.” However, a part of it – from 3,360m to the top – is actually private land!

Mt. Fuji strides across Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture, so debates about who actually owns the place come up from time to time.

Many naturally assume as a Mount Fuji fact that such an iconic mountain would be owned by the state. But the truth is, from the 8th stage and upwards, Mt. Fuji is the private territory of Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha, which owns more than 1,300 temples around the island nation.

Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun of the Edo period who won the Battle of Sekigahara, constructed around 30 buildings such as the main hall as an expression of gratitude; it is said that in 1606, he donated the area from Mount Fuji’s Eighth Station upward to become Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha’s shrine grounds.

Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha has its origins in worshiping Asama no Okami to calm the eruptions of Mount Fuji, so the land from the Eighth Station became the sacred area of the rear shrine.Asama no Okami spread along with the Fuji belief throughout the country, now counting 1,300 affiliated shrines. Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha is the head shrine of all Asama shrines in Japan.

For a period of time in 1871, the Meiji government did in fact nationalize Mt. Fuji. After World War II, government-owned sites from around the country were returned to the temples and shrines they originally belonged to, but the mountaintop of Mt. Fuji remained nationalized.

Sengen Taisha took the country to court and won a judgment recognizing them as the rightful owner in 1974. In the year 2004, the land was officially returned to Sengen Taisha.

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7. You Can Have a Wedding at Mount Fuji?!

At Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha, wedding ceremonies can be held at the main hall on days without festivals or events. The vermilion-lacquered precincts are beautiful; cherry blossoms and wisteria bloom at the lush Asama shrine that is also a popular sightseeing destination.

The wedding ceremony itself is engulfed in traditional court music as the ancient ceremonial rites are performed; blessed words are not only cast upon friends and family but also on the many tourists that visit the Asama shrine.

Should there be such a ceremony as you visit the shrine yourself, let yourself be engulfed by the warm atmosphere and share the happiness of the couple.

8. Counting the Climb to the Top of Mount Fuji – What are “Stations?”

Mount Fuji’s altitude is 3,776 meters, but the unit that is often used to outline the mountain paths, dividing the climb into 10 steps up to the peak, is called “Station.”

The starting point is the First Station and Murayamasengen Shrine’s torii, the Fifth Station is the middle, and the Tenth Station is the top. In Fuji belief, the Fifth Station is the human realm and the Sixth Station is the heavenly realm; there lies the border between “heaven” and “earth.”

Today, Mount Fuji climbers point upwards from the Fifth Station: from there, they will have to continue on their own two feet with their own strength.

By the way, the Japanese word for “Station” is gō and appears in the shaku-kan system as a unit of volume, used to weighing rice.

There are various opinions as to why gō is used for Mount Fuji's climbing trails, it is said that it comes from 10 gō making one shō, and a pile of rice that weighs one shō resembles the revered mountain.

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9. Is it True That Mount Fuji Has a Front and Backside?

Mount Fuji seen from Shizuoka’s tea fields

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Mount Fuji seen from rice paddies in Yamanashi Perefcture

Mount Fuji seen from Suruga Bay in the central part of Shizuoka Prefecture is called “Front Fuji,” while the version seen from the Fuji Five Lakes is called “Back Fuji.”

Historically speaking, there seems to have been the general perception that the southern foot of the mountain was the “front,” while the northern foot was the “back.”

The location where Fuji stands spans both Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefecture; especially the portion seen from the Yamanashi side is called “Back Fuji.” However, the people of Yamanashi insist that “This is the front!” So the expression “Back Fuji” is rarely used.

There is constant discussion surrounding Mt. Fuji as to whether the view from the Yamanashi or the Shizuoka side is more beautiful and the two prefectures are eternal rivals!

10. The Top 3 Things Japanese Want to Dream of! “a. Fuji, b. Hawk, c. Eggplant”

Mount Fuji and hawk


“1. Fuji, 2. hawk, 3. eggplant” is the top three of things to dream of during the first night of the new year.
If Mount Fuji, a hawk, or an eggplant appears in the first dream of the first night of the New Year, it is said to be an auspicious omen.

There are only speculations about the origin of this, but one explanation states that these three words sound similar to other good things; Fuji sounds like buji (be in good health), taka (hawk) sounds like takai (to succeed), and nasu (eggplant) sounds like nasu (the fulfillment of a wish).

11. Mount Fuji Originally Was Called “Immortal Mountain!?”

The harvest moon in autumn and Mount Fuji

Currently, the way Mount Fuji is written in Japanese (富士山), it means Prosperous Mountain. But a popular theory says the name was originally written to mean Peerless Mountain (不二山) since it is a mountain that is like no other in Japan.

Another theory claims that because snow never disappears from the summit, the name originally meant Inexhaustible Mountain (不尽山).

And yet another theory suggests that the elixir for immortality mentioned in The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter was concocted at the peak of Mt. Fuji, so the mountain's name was originally Immortal Mountain (不死山).

A commemorative stamp with Princess Kaguya

Japanese children know this ancient book as the Tale of Princess Kaguya, a story about a beautiful princess born inside bamboo. She is courted by nobles and gives each of them an impossibly difficult task and, in the end, even refuses a proposal from the emperor before returning to the moon during the harvest moon in mid-autumn.

While the general tale of Kaguya ends here, the original text of the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter sees her give both a letter and the elixir of life to the emperor.

However, he said that “Without Princess Kaguya, I do not wish to live forever,” and burned both the letter and the elixir on top of the tallest mountain.

Even though the princess’ thoughts were not able to reach the emperor, this mountain became known as “the mountain that does not even fall in battle” and was a popular place among samurai of later centuries.

This is the story of how the “Immortal Mountain” became the "Mountain Abounding with Warriors," which is what today’s Mount Fuji means.

Other names carry meanings such as “only one in existence” (不二山) or “everlasting energy (不尽山). Both of those words portray the thought of worshiping Mount Fuji.

Of course, these are just hypotheses that can't be verified, but it's certainly interesting to know how Mt. Fuji can mean so many different things to different people!

Since ancient times, Mount Fuji has been a symbol of faith for Japanese people; a symbol of admiration. This beautifully formed shape of grandeur leaves a deep impression on the onlooker, filling one’s heart with sublime bliss.

How to enjoy Mount Fuji, how to express Mount Fuji – Japanese people agonized over these questions, giving birth to legends and beliefs manifold.

By all means, please savor the stunningly beautiful Mount Fuji to your heart’s content, surrounded by lush nature, colored by Japan’s four ever-changing seasons!

12. "Dokkoisho" is said to have originated from Mt. Fuji

"Dokkoisho" is something like the Japanese version of "heave-ho". This is a phrase many Japanese say when making some effort to stand up from a seated or lowered position, and there is a theory going around that the phrase originated from Mt. Fuji.

The mountain has a long history of being a central religious site for the Japanese, and pilgrims were thought to have chanted the phrase "Rokkon Shōjō" as they made their way up to the peak of this sacred mountain as part of their pilgrimage.

Rokkon refers to the six sense organs of humans - eyes, nose, ears, tongue, body, and mind. The phrase Rokkon Shōjō literally means to purify the six sense organs, and when spoken with an accent, it sounds like Dokkoisho, becoming the basis of this theory.

13. Mossie, Japan's very own Nessie in Lake Motosu

Japan has a Loch Ness Monster of its very own?!

In the 1970s, an unidentified mysterious animal (UMA) later named "Mossie" was sighted in Yamanashi Prefecture's Lake Motosu, and it caused a huge stir at the time.

Mossie is said to be 30 meters (about 98 feet) in length, with a few humps on its back and a crocodile-like rugged body. Like Nessie, however, the real identity of this UMA remains enshrouded in mystery down to this day.

Nevertheless, there are many theories. One of the most well-accepted one is that it was probably an enormous sturgeon that was released into Lake Motosu during the time of its alleged sighting.

Sturgeons don't usually grow to the size of the reported UMA, but the conjecture is that being released into Lake Motosu gave it a unique growth environment, allowing it to reach the size purported in the claims.

14. Mt. Fuji was the first ski site in Japan

Japan's first ski area was at Mt. Fuji

Skiing is a representative sport of the winter season, and many today still flock to ski resorts when winter rolls around to have a bit of fun in the snow. Bet you didn't know that Mt. Fuji was actually the site of the very first bout of ski activity in Japan!

Back in 1911, when Austrian soldiers, Major Theodor Edler von Lerch - known as the father of skiing in Japan - and Egon Edler von Kratzer skied down from the 9th stage of Mt. Fuji, it marked the start of the sport in Japan.

There's still a plaque on the 5th stage of Mt. Fuji commemorating this event down to this day! Here's another trivia for you: The first two Japanese to successfully ski downhill from the Fuji mountaintop were Kōki Takei and Hajime Katsuda in the year 1935.

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15. Mount Fuji is an active volcano comprised of three volcanos

Mt. Fuji is a popular place that many mountaineers try to tackle during the summer climbing season, giving the impression that it's completely safe and harmless. But, wait! Did you know that Mt. Fuji is actually still considered an active volcano?

In fact, while it looks like a single mountain, Mount Fuji is made up of three successive volcanoes. At the base of Mount Fuji the Komitake volcano, the first eruptions of which may have occurred some 600,000 years ago. Around 100,000 years ago, the Ko-Fuji (Older Fuji) Volcano was superimposed on it, and on top of this, the Shin-Fuji (Younger Fuji) Volcano formed around 10,000 years ago, forming the mountain we know today.

Because the last time Mt. Fuji erupted was more than 300 years ago, for a while it was classified as a dormant volcano. Sometime around the 1960s, however, the Meteorological Office changed the definition of an active volcano to all volcanoes that have ever been recorded to erupt before.

Ever since then, Mt. Fuji has been classified as an active volcano. In 2003, the Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcano Eruptions redefined an active volcano as a volcano that has erupted before within the last 10,000 years and is still showing signs of fumarolic activity.

Mt. Fuji continues to be classified as an active volcano under this new definition as well.

16. The first woman to climb Mt. Fuji disguised herself as a man

Until 1872, women were prohibited from climbing Mt. Fuji

Nowadays, Mt. Fuji is an enjoyable mountain climbing site for both men and women, but did you know that women were prohibited from this activity until 1872?

Specifically for Mt. Fuji, women were only allowed up to the 2nd stage.

Back then, pilgrims would journey up Mt. Fuji for seclusion training, and having women around apparently interfered with the training, hence the prohibition.

Therefore, when Tatsu Takayama, a woman who really wanted to climb Mt. Fuji made her climb, she had to clip her hair short and dress up as a man to do so - a show of her steely determination.

In 1833, Tatsu and five other men reached the summit without incident, and that's why she's said to be the first woman to climb Mt. Fuji.

After this, Tatsu became an advocate for gender equality and worked towards lifting the prohibition on women climbing Mt. Fuji.

17. Who was the first non-Japanese to climb Mt. Fuji?

dimakig /

Regular visitors to Mt. Fuji will probably know about the Rutherford Alcock memorial plaque near Fujinomiya City's Murayamasengen Shrine Information Center.

Sir Alcock was the first British ambassador in Japan. He reached Mt. Fuji's summit in 1860 together with his pet dog and 100 guards and is said to be the first non-Japanese to climb Mt. Fuji to the top.

This experience was recorded in one of the books he later wrote, The Capital of the Tycoon. The first non-Japanese woman to reach Mt. Fuji's peak was Lady Fanny Parkes in the year 1867.


Via Live Japan

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