If you have literally no other mental references for Japan, you’ve got Fuji. It’s everywhere — tourism campaigns, textbooks, you name it. But nothing matches seeing Japan’s most revered mountain in person.
Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture share the honor of being home to Japan’s most famous landmark. It’s called Mount Fuji, Fuji-san, or Fujiyama interchangeably — but never Mount Fujiyama. In the past it was also known as the Lotus Peak.
Nobody knows where the name came from. Some suggest “Immortal”, “Nonpareil” or “Neverending”, meanwhile a few dogged souls link it to wisteria or rainbows or, interestingly, ears. Whatever the explanation, the name Fuji goes back to some point before the ninth century.
Fuji-san holds a lot of significance in Shinto mythology — the mountain is sacred to the goddess Konohanasakuya-hime. The top eight stages of the mountain are part of the grounds of her temple (the rest of it is at Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka). It is one of Japan’s three holy mountains, along with Mount Tate in Toyama Prefecture and Mount Haku in Gifu/Ishikawa/Fukui Prefectures.
A tenth-century monk is the first person known to climbed Mt Fuji. However, the mountain only really became the super-ubiquitous symbol of Japan during the Edo period, when daimyo travelling along the Tokaidō Road from Kyoto to Tokyo spotted it as they passed through Shizuoka. A modern-day Shinkansen version of this trip has, among other things, the major advantage that you can get rather good coffee on the train.
Mount Fuji is the highest peak in Japan, at 3.7km, and it’s visible from Tokyo on a clear day. However, it does not tower over Tokyo — despite what certain photoshopped images online might have you believe.
Things to do in and around Mt Fuji
If hiking up to the top of the world isn’t your jam, there’s plenty to do lower down. For one, you can gaze upon its loveliness from one of these equally lovely but less intense vantage points. You can also admire some flowers, or do a spot of shopping before soaking in a hot spring. Exhausted by all the options? Then stay the night so you can hit them all in.
We also have a very comprehensive and frankly damn handy guide on getting to Mt Fuji from Tokyo.