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7 facts about Mount Fuji

| Words by Rachel McCombie |

Find out more about this iconic volcano with seven lesser-known facts about Mount Fuji.

The snow-capped, incredibly symmetrical peak of Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s most famous symbols. Fuji-san, as it’s known in Japan, is a true icon in Japanese culture, and it’s one of the most instantly recognisable volcanoes in the world. You probably already know that it’s the highest peak in Japan, but you may not have known the seven facts we’re about to share with you.......

1. It’s valued more as a cultural site rather a natural one

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Mount Fuji is primarily of geological importance, but it’s actually recognised by UNESCO first and foremost as a site of cultural significance; it’s a sacred place that “has long been the object of pilgrimages and inspired artists and poets.” There are 25 sites on and around Mount Fuji that are testament to this, including shrines and lodging houses. In ancient times Samurai warriors trained here, and it has also been a site for Buddhist training.

Recognised by UNESCO as site of cultural importance

2. It is three volcanoes in one

It may not look like it, but this icon is actually made up of three separate volcanoes: Komitake at the bottom, Kofuji in the middle and Fuji at the top.

3. Women were forbidden until 1868

Because of its sacred importance, Mount Fuji was forbidden territory for the fairer sex until 1868, the dawn of the Meiji era. Though the first ascent of the volcano is thought to have been by a monk in 663, it wasn’t until 1869 that a woman reached the summit. It was Lady Fanny Parkes, wife of a British ambassador, who had the honour of being the first non-Japanese woman to make the trip to the top.

A sacred site, Mt Fuji was once off-limits to Japanese women

4. It used to take 8 hours to reach the top

The first non-Japanese person to ascend the peak, Sir Rutherford Alcock, had only done so the year before Lady Parkes made her ascent. It took him eight hours to get to the top but only three to get back down again. Things are a little easier for the modern climber, as there are well signposted paths leading you up four carefully chosen routes. It’s only open to climbers from July to September, so go to Japan in the summer if you want to include a Fuji climb.

5. It's an active volcano

Don’t let the beauty of Mount Fuji deceive you: it’s an active volcano, albeit one with a classified low risk of eruption. It hasn’t erupted since 1707, when it erupted for two weeks, sending ash raining over neighbouring cities and forming a new crater and peak on its southeastern side. The overall cone shape visible today was formed during the latest of four identified phases of volcanic activity detected on Mount Fuji. This latest layer, known as “New Fuji” to geologists, is thought to have formed around 10,000 years ago.

Japan’s Mt Fuji is rigorously monitored by geologists

6. There is potential for an eruption

Despite its classification as a low-risk volcano, recent evidence suggests that the pressure below it rose after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. Using seismic sensors, scientists measured what’s known as “seismic noise”, the fluctuations of which tell them about disturbances in the bedrock. What they’ve found, they believe, indicates a “high potential” for volcanic eruption. But don’t let that put you off a visit; the volcano is under the watchful eye of a team of geologists, and it’s unlikely to erupt with no prior warning signs.

7. It is surrounded by hot springs

Because of the geothermal activity in the area, one of the most popular things to do on a trip to Mount Fuji is relax in one of its famous hot springs. The Five Lakes area is the place to go if that sounds like your cup of tea, the highlight being views offered by some of the local hotels of Fuji from their open-air baths. The perfect way to unwind after a hard day’s climbing!

See Mt Fuji for yourself on a small group tour of Japan.