Mt. Fuji has been loved by Japanese for a long time, and its beautiful appearance has been depicted in various paintings. It is also an object of worship as a "mountain where God lives" and remains in the historical sites and festivals today. This article introduces the charm of Mt. Fuji, the home of the Japanese mind.
Mt. Fuji in Japanese history
Many people would depict Mt. Fuji as a calm and beautiful white figure with snow on the top in the blue sky. Although it is hard to imagine from its magnificent appearance today, it used to be a volcano that repeatedly erupted.
Just as the ancient Greeks respected natural objects and phenomena as gods, the Japanese have worshiped nature. Mt. Fuji is one of them, and in the late 8th century, people worshiped Mt. Fuji as a god and built a shrine to pray the eruption to calm from the distance.
In the 12th century, people started to climb Mt. Fuji when the eruption of Mt. Fuji subsided. The practitioners of “Shugendo”, a fusion of ancient Japanese beliefs and Buddhism, tried to gain the sacred power of Mt. Fuji by climbing it.
The 17th century was an era without wars. People became economically rich and various cultures flourished. A religion called "Fujiko" was born among the common people, and the believers began to climb Mt. Fuji hoping for the benefit of present life.
With the modernization and the development of transportation networks such as railways, more people enjoyed climbing Mt. Fuji. Religious consciousness has diminished, but the longing for Mt. Fuji has been still rooted in the hearts of the Japanese.
Maestros of Ukiyo-e
Mt. Fuji became famous all over the world as it is today because of the pictures of Mt. Fuji drawn in Ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e, the popular art prints during the Edo period, drove the Japonisme movement in Europe in the late 19th century.
"Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji" of Hokusai
Hokusai Katsushika, a painter representing the Edo period, depicted various aspects of Mt. Fuji in the "Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku)". One of the most famous is "Kanagawa Okinamiura", whose bold composition and transparent indigo color not only fascinated the people of Edo, but also had a great influence on Post-Impressionist painters such as Van Gogh and Edgar Degas. It is also said that Claude Debussy was inspired by this work and composed his symphonic poem "La mer".
"Fifty-three stations of the Tokaido" of Hiroshige
Along with Hokusai, Hiroshige Utagawa had a great influence on Western painting. Hiroshige produced "Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido", which depicted 53 post stations from Edo to Kyoto.
During the Edo period, a travel boom occurred among the common people living in Edo. People left Edo for the purpose of visiting shrines and temples such as Ise Jingu, and traveled on the Tokaido by walk. The series of "Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido" vividly depicts the appearance of travelers and people living in each land.
Hiroshige's Ukiyo-e also had a great influence on Claude Monet and Van Gogh. The bright and light colors, which were not found in Western oil paintings, attracted Impressionist painters.
Climbing Mt. Fuji in the summer
Mt. Fuji is close to Tokyo and many people come from overseas. There is also a driveway up to an altitude of 2,300 meters, so you can go up by bus. This is a trailhead to Mt. Fuji as well as a point where you can enjoy the unique scenery of Mt. Fuji, such as the Fuji Five Lakes and the sea of clouds.
It is possible to climb Mt. Fuji from July to early September, and many foreigners come to Japan for the purpose of climbing. Mt. Fuji has gentle slopes and well-maintained mountain paths, so even beginners can climb it. A popular course is to stay overnight in a mountain lodge in the middle and watch the sunrise at the top.
Mt. Fuji that you should definitely visit
Mt. Fuji, which was introduced to the West along with Ukiyo-e in the late 19th century, was registered as World Heritage Site in 2013 and is one of Japan's leading tourist spots.
Mt. Fuji has been a source of inspiration for faith and art since ancient times. It will continue to attract people with its magnificent beauty.