Mount Fuji (富士山 Fuji-san, IPA: [ɸuʝisaɴ]) is the highest mountain on the island of Honshu and indeed in all of Japan. It straddles Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures in central Japan just west of Tokyo, from which it can be seen on a clear day. It is located near the Pacific coast of central Honshu.
Fuji-san (onyomi) is sometimes referred to as Fuji Yama (kunyomi) in some Western texts, because the third kanji of its name, 山 meaning mountain, can also be pronounced "yama". Today, most Japanese find the name "Fuji Yama" to sound old fashioned and say Fuji-san instead, but both names are acceptable.
It is surrounded by the five lakes of Mt. Fuji: Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Yamanakako, Lake Saiko, Lake Motosuko and Lake Shojiko. It is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
Image of Mount Fuji taken by NASA.
A sacred mountain since ancient times, Mt. Fuji's summit was forbidden to women until the Meiji Era. Now it is a popular tourist destination and common destination for mountain-climbing. The yearly "official" mountain climbing season is from the start of July to the end of August. Thousands will climb Mt. Fuji during this two-month period. Most climb during the night to watch the sun rise in the morning.
The volcano is currently classified as active with low risk of eruption. The last recorded eruption occurred in 1707 during the Edo period. At this time, a new crater, along with a second peak, named Hōei-zan after the era name, formed halfway down its side.
Mt. Fuji is an attractive volcanic cone and a frequent subject of Japanese art. The most renowned work is Ukiyo-e painter Hokusai's masterpiece 36 views of Mt. Fuji. It is also mentioned in Japanese literature throughout the ages and the subject of many poems.
Image of Mount Fuji taken from an airplane.
After the rise of the samurai in the feudal Japanese Middle Ages (12th and 16th centuries), the current kanji for "Fuji" came into use. fu 富 means "wealth", ji 士 means "samurai" and san 山 means "mountain".
The origin of the name "Fuji-san" is unclear, but it has been associated throughout history with various Chinese characters according to folk etymologies. One of the earlier folk etymologies claims that Fuji-san means "Mountain Without Parallel," "Mountain Without Equal," or "Unrivaled Mountain," and its name has therefore often been written with the Chinese characters 不二山 ("not" + "two" + "mountain"). Another folk etymology claims that Fuji-san means "Unwearing Mountain" or "Neverending Mountain," and it has therefore been written with the Chinese characters 不尽山 ("not" + "exhaust, use up; deplete" + "mountain").
Torii near summit of Mt. Fuji
Perhaps the most popular folk etymology about the name of Fuji-san is the one that claims that the mountain's name means "Mountain Abounding with Warriors," according to which the name is written with the Chinese characters 富士山 ("abundant, ample; rich, wealthy" + "scholar, gentleman; soldier" + "mountain"). This is the standard way of transcribing the name of Fuji-san in Modern Japanese. The folk etymology of "Mountain Abounding with Warriors" has often been associated with a story that appears in the ancient and eternally popular Taketori Monogatari (竹取物語, Legend of the Bamboo Harvester), which is also known as "Kaguya-hime-no Monogatari" (かぐや姫の物語, Legend of Princess Kaguya). The main characters in this legend are Taketori-no Okina (竹取翁, the Old Man who Harvests Bamboo), Kaguya-hime (かぐや姫, Princess Kaguya) - a mysterious girl, discovered inside the stalk of a great bamboo plant by Taketori-no Okina when she was a tiny babe, who is said to be from Tsuki-no Miyako (月都, semantically "The Capital of the Moon," or phonetically "The Capital of Tuki") and who has unusual hair that "shines like gold"), and the reigning Tennō (the Emperor of Japan). To make a long story short, the Tennō falls in love with the strangely beautiful Kaguya-hime and asks her to marry him, but Kaguya-hime does not accept the Tennō's request; her behavior becomes increasingly more erratic until an embassy of "Heavenly Beings" arrives at the door of the Bamboo Harvester's house, where Kaguya-hime has resided ever since she was found in her infancy by the Bamboo Harvester. The heavenly entourage takes Kaguya-hime back to Tsuki-no Miyako against her will, and the forlorn Tennō dispatches an army of soldiers to the tallest mountain in Japan, the great mountain of Suruga (Suruga is the ancient name of a region that is now part of Shizuoka Prefecture; it is the region where Mt. Fuji is located). The mission provided by the Tennō to the army is to climb to the summit of the great mountain and to burn a letter from the Tennō to Kaguya-hime there, with the hope that his message would reach the now distant "princess." The image of the innumerable soldiers of the Tennō's army ascending the slopes of Mt. Fuji is said to have been immortalized by naming the great mountain the "Mountain Abounding with Warriors". The Legend of the Bamboo Harvester is nearly identical in form to a Tibetan tale of a similar name, and some researchers believe that the Japanese legend may have been drawn from the Tibetan one, perhaps through ancient contacts with China. Of course, the part of the legend that relates to the name of Mt. Fuji is unique to the Japanese version.
Other Japanese names for Mt. Fuji, many of which have become obsolete in the modern language, include Fuji-no-Yama (ふじの山, the Mountain of Fuji), Fuji-no-Takane (ふじの高嶺, the High Peak of Fuji), Fuji-no-Ne (ふじの嶺, the Peak of Fuji), and finally Fu-gaku (富岳, a Sino-Japanese appellation meaning "Rich Peak" or "Ample Peak," but actually deriving from the first character of 富[士山] "FU[ji-san]," i.e. Mt. Fuji + 岳 "GAKU," i.e. a mountain peak).
- Singer Kyu Sakamoto once had a grand piano brought to the summit for a concert.