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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mount Fuji, Japan's Enduring Powerful Force

Above, a view of Mount Fuji from a shinkansen. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Mount Fuji is a near-perfect volcanic cone that last erupted in the 1700s, the mountain means a lot more to the Japanese than just a volcano.

Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article on what Mount Fuji means to the Japanese.

They begin it with:
It’s dawn on the first day of January and a crowd in the hundreds has gathered at the base of Mount Fuji to watch the rising light of hatsuhinode—the maiden sunrise—usher in the new year. The Ainu, mainland Japan’s ancient indigenous people, believed that the sun was among hundreds of gods, and one of the most important. To witness a hatsuhinode is considered a sacred act. 
Against a brilliant blue sky, the sun crests near the peak of the country’s tallest volcano and shimmers like a gem. When it aligns perfectly with the summit, the rare sight is called Diamond Fuji. On a hillside redoubt in nearby Fujinomiya-shi, a tour guide named Keisuke Tanaka marvels as the snowy peak, sharp against the horizon, grows indigo, then plum before retreating behind a curtain of cloud. “On clear days you can see Fuji-san from Tokyo, 60 miles northeast,” he says. 
On dim days—which is to say most days—it’s less a mountain than an allegation, obscured by fog and industrial haze even 60 feet away from the summit. Many cultures hold mountains to be sacred—the ancient Greeks had Olympus; the Aztecs, Popocat├ępetl; the Lakota, Inyan Kara—but nothing equals the timeless Japanese reverence for this notoriously elusive volcano. Parting earth and sky with remarkable symmetry, Fuji is venerated as a stairway to heaven, a holy ground for pilgrimage, a site for receiving revelations, a dwelling place for deities and ancestors, and a portal to an ascetic otherworld.
Known as "the shy mountain", Mount Fuji is usually obscured by cloud cover. I have been to Japan eight times and it was only during my 2015 trip to Japan that I was able to see it clearly during the day from a distance. That took place during a shinkansen trip to Osaka.

To read more, go here.

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