JapanWill Mt. Fuji Still Be Free-To-Climb?

7394 min

For thousands of years, Mt. Fuji has been free-to-climb. This is about to change.

For those who’ve been living under a rock (though obviously not a reddish-orange volcanic rock on Mt. Fuji), Mt. Fuji (also known as “Fujisan,” but NOT “Fujiyama”) is the tallest mountain in Japan, a dormant volcano that last erupted between 1707 and 1708. It stands 3,776.24 meters tall, or for those of you using the imperial system, that’s approximately 12,389.24 feet. Yes, in an amazing coincidence, both the metric and imperial system measurements end in .24, which is only the beginning of Mt. Fuji’s mathematical magic… Last year, 67.4% of climbers from Shizuoka and 67.2% of climbers from Yamanashi (yes, both approximately 67%) made the voluntary ¥1,000 donation to maintain the mountain. The mountain was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site a few years ago, and its popularity has increased. Over 300,000 people climb it each year. However, this has placed strains on conservation efforts, as well as facilities on the mountain.

First of all, hikers leave trash. Second, they’re a burden on the facilities; the latrines need to be maintained/renovated, and so do the mountain huts and operation aid stations by the trail. The Fujisan World Cultural Heritage Council is in charge of these things, and they started a donation system, which, as previously mentioned, into which about 67% of climbers from both prefectures that the mountain straddles paid. This was up from 50% previously. More people are willing to make the donation, so the Fujisan World Cultural Heritage Council decided “If so many people are willing to make the voluntary donation, why not make it mandatory?”

The Council convened on Monday. They voted to make the donation mandatory. The Council consists of experts regarding mountain climbing and issues about the environment, as well as reps from Shizuoka and Yamanashi. Although they voted to make the donations mandatory, the move will not be formally approved until the Council meets again in March.

We still don’t know how much the fees will be, or how they’ll be collected. Will it be in cash? Credit card? Suica Card? Another payment method? Some combination of these? It isn’t known, yet.

The mandatory fees will take effect in the summer of 2022 at earliest. What will the impact of the fees be on the level of the facilities, especially the latrines? Will there be less trash on Mt. Fuji? For a family of four, this makes the ascent ¥4,000 more expensive. Will the number of climbers decline?