Mount Fuji, located on Honshu Island, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft). An active stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707–08, Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres (60 mi) south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers.
Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” (三霊山 Sanreizan?) along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku. It is also a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and one of Japan’s Historic Sites. It was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site on June 22, 2013. As per UNESCO, Mount Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”. UNESCO recognizes 25 sites of cultural interest within the Mt. Fuji locality. These 25 locations include the mountain itself, Fujisan Hongū Sengen Shrine and six other Sengen shrines, two lodging houses, Lake Yamanaka, Lake Kawaguchi, the eight Oshino Hakkai hot springs, two lava tree molds, the remains of the Fuji-kō cult in the Hitoana cave, Shiraito Falls, and Miho no Matsubara pine tree grove.
Mount Fuji is an attractive volcanic cone and a frequent subject of Japanese art especially after 1600, when Edo (now Tokyo) became the actual capital and people saw the mountain while traveling on the Tōkaidō road. Among the most renowned works are Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji and his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji, as well as Utagawa Hiroshige’s similarly titled 36 Views of Mount Fuji (1858). The mountain is mentioned in Japanese literature throughout the ages and is the subject of many poems.
It is thought that the first ascent was in 663 by an anonymous monk. The summit has been thought of as sacred since ancient times and was forbidden to women until the Meiji Era. Ancient samurai used the base of the mountain as a remote training area, near the present day town of Gotemba. The shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo held yabusame in the area in the early Kamakura period.
The first ascent by a foreigner was by Sir Rutherford Alcock in September 1868, from the foot of the mountain to the top in eight hours and three hours for the descent.:427 Alcock’s brief narrative in The Capital of the Tycoon was the first widely disseminated description of the mountain in the West.:421–7 Lady Fanny Parkes, the wife of British ambassador Sir Harry Parkes, was the first non-Japanese woman to ascend Mount Fuji in 1869. Photographer Felix Beato climbed Mount Fuji in the same year.
On March 5, 1966, BOAC Flight 911, a Boeing 707, broke up in flight and crashed near the Mount Fuji Gotemba New fifth station, shortly after departure from Tokyo International Airport. All 113 passengers and 11 crew members died in the disaster, which was attributed to extreme clear air turbulence caused by lee waves downwind of the mountain. There is a memorial for the crash a short distance down from the Gotemba New fifth station.
Today, Mount Fuji is an international destination for tourism and mountain climbing. In the early 20th century, populist educator Frederick Starr’s Chautauqua lectures about his several ascents of Mount Fuji—1913, 1919, and 1923—were widely known in America. A well-known Japanese saying suggests that a wise person will climb Mt. Fuji once in their lifetime, but only a fool would climb it twice. It remains a popular meme in Japanese culture, including making numerous movie appearances, inspiring the Infiniti logo, and even appearing in medicine with the Mount Fuji sign.