Mount Fuji (富士山, Fujiyama, Fuji-san) is an active stratovolcano that last erupted in December 16th, 1707 and continued erupting until January 1, 1708. One of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains" (along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku) it is the highest peak in Japan at 3,776 m (12,388 ft).
Once believed by the Japanese to be the center of the universe, Mt Fuji boasts over 13,000 shrines, and each year thousands of Buddhists ascend the mountain to pray at its shrine on the belief that they receive spiritual merit for climbing it; especially on the 33rd and 88th ascents. Some people have even committed suicide by leaping into the crater with the belief that they would then reach nirvana after death.
Mount Fuji's exceptionally symmetrical cone is a well-known symbol of Japan, frequently being depicted in art and photographs, as well as being visited by tourists, sightseers and mountain climbers all-year long.
The volcano's last recorded eruption was from the Hoei Craters on the southeast flank of the mountain in 1707. The eruption lasted for 16 days and combined with a fissure eruption, created a mudflow resulting in overflowing rivers and leaving rice fields barren for the following 100 years. Such was the extent of the eruption that even Tokyo (60miles/96km away) was sprinkled with ash.
Of all the notable eruptions that have been recorded, the majority of blasts have been from the flanks; Fuji has only had recorded summit eruptions in 1033 and April 11th 800 AD.
Fuji has erupted at least 16 times since 781 AD. Most of these eruptions were moderate to moderate-large in size. Fuji's largest recorded eruptions occurred in 1050 and 930 BC.
According to an ancient folktale Mount Haku was once higher than Mount Fuji. "Once the female deity of Fuji (Sengen-sama) and the male deity of Haku (Gongen-sama) had a contest to see who was higher. They asked the Buddha Amida to decide who was loftier. It was a difficult task. Amida ran a water pipe from the summit of Haku to the summit of Fuji and poured water in the pipe. The water flowed to Fuji, so Amida decided that Fuji was defeated. However, Fuji was too proud to recognize her defeat and she beat the summit of Haku with a big stick, so that his head was split into eight parts, and that is why Mount Haku (originally known as "Yatsu-ga-take" (Eight Peaks)) now has eight peaks."
- Mt Fuji has continually failed to acquire a World Heritage Listing due to the abundance of rubbish, namely beer cans and debris from the ruins of shelters left there by ignorant mountain climbers.
- The summit has been thought of as sacred since ancient times and was forbidden to Japanese women until the Meiji Era (1868). It is thought that the first ascent was in 663 by the monk En-no-Shokaku.
- The first ascent by a foreigner was by Sir Rutherford Alcock in September 1860. Lady Fanny Parkes, the wife of British ambassador Sir Harry Parkes, was the first non-Japanese woman to ascend Mount Fuji in 1867. This action saw the end of a 110-year government ban prohibiting women from climbing the mountain.
- The forest at the base of Mount Fuji is named Aokigahara. Folk tales and legends tell of demons, ghosts, and goblins haunting the forest, and in the 19th century, Aokigahara was one of many places poor families abandoned the very young and the very old.