Mount Fuji Facts, Figures and Musings
Famed for its elegant symmetrical cone, Mount Fuji is actually an active stratovolcano last erupting in December 1707. First climbed by a monk in 663, the sacred mountain is beset upon by an annual pilgrimage to climb its peak during the short two and a half month climbing season. Visitor numbers have spiralled over the years and more so recently since its official inclusion as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2013. The volcano straddles Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures which means plenty of buck passing about how to deal with the accumulated garbage and effectively manage the fragile mountain ecosystem. I had the good fortunate to climb Mount Fuji back in 2000 and hope the following run-down provides some new insights around this majestic mountain.
1. Buddhist monk christens Kyoto as the 19th Prefecture.
2. Starting back in 2005, steps were taken to clean up the mountain.
3. Training playground for the hardiest of climbers.
4. A short window of opportunity.
5. Not for the geographically challenged.
6. Ensure to bring plenty of fluid to hydrate.
7. A long shot of visibility prevails.
8. The Meiji restoration lifts the ban.
9. Best enjoyed in the company of thousands.
10. Attempts to stem the tide through punitive fees.
Interesting stuff. As for Lady Parkes, there is an eyewitness account of her Mt Fuji ascent in a book by Hugh Cortazzi about foreign visitors to Meiji Japan:
“But not all of Willis’s time was taken up by legation work and he accompanied Sir Harry and Lady Parkes to the summit of Mt Fuji in October 1867, well after the close of the usual climbing season. Doubtless the expedition was intended as a relaxation, but even in his unofficial capacity the redoubtable Sir Harry tackled things the hard way. Willis records:
My great piece of news is that I got to the top of Fujiyama some 14,000 feet in the midst of snow and ice. We slept one night on the side of the mountain in a sort of cave and went over the top the following day walking about 30 miles. The party consisted of 10 persons including Lady and Sir Harry Parkes. It was really astonishing how well Lady Parkes went through the fatigue. I don’t believe ever a lady will ascend the said mountain in October. The country from here to Fujiyama is pleasant undulating land and all went on smoothly up to the ascent. It blew hard during the first day with pelting showers of rain. The cave we put up at for the night was cold to an extreme degree. The noise of the storm outside was really terrific and altogether it was a night one would never forget. The weather was still bad next morning but improved after 10 o’clock and we got to the top about one o’clock. The cold was extreme. In the upper regions, the exertion was very fatiguing. The Japanese never ascend so late and it was looked upon as a dangerous proceeding on our part. The Yakunins who accompanied us fell off as we got up and no-one of them got to the top; the cold, I imagine, was too great for them to bear. The Japanese are of course very poorly clad and this tells in such cases. I found I had miscalculated in this respect. Coolies carried up to the cave where we remained the night some provisions and some clothes, but both were scanty. The cave was about 20 feet long by 10 wide, is built of big masses of lava and allows the wind to whistle through it.”
A commendable and very gutsy effort by Lady Parkes…thanking you for sharing her story.
It was a pleasure – but, come to think about it, Lady Parkes was only the first foreign woman to climb Mt Fuji. The first recorded ascent by a women involved a young servant girl from Tokyo by the name of Tatsu in 1823. Then, in 1860, the authorities relaxed the ban on women climbing the mountain, allowing hundreds if not thousands of women to make the ascent during this ‘jubilee’ year. So Lady Parkes was following a well-worn trail ….
Interesting follow up story. You’re right, the likelihood that Lady Parkes was the first woman to have scaled Mt. Fuji did seem pretty low when you think about it. I guess her notoriety emanated from the fact her ascent was better documented than many others.
Very nice article! I didn’t know numbers 1, 7 and 8
Thanking you kindly 🙂 When you think about the total possible number of people who can view the mountain from all 19 prefectures, it must be an incredible number!