Beauty of Mount Fuji

Experts are red-alert claiming that Mount Fuji volcano is about to erupt. Mathematical models created in September 2012 by the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention suggested that the pressure in Mount Fuji’s magma chamber could be at 1.6 megapascals higher than it was in 1707. The media jumped on this to claim as meaning an eruption of Mt. Fuji was imminent. We’ll leave that for the scientists to decide because nothing can be done to stop a natural disaster. Meanwhile, Mount Fuji has applied to be a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. It’s been around in Japanese art since ancient times when samurai warriors trained at the base and women were forbidden from climbing to the sacred summit. Nowadays people travel from all over the world specifically to see this view; about 300,000 adventuresome souls climb to the summit annually. It’s thought Mount Fuji means “everlasting life.” Ironically at the northwest base of Fuji there are 14 sq miles (35-sq-km) that represent the opposite of life—the taking of life. Aokigahara Forest, also called the Sea of Trees, is infamous as a dense forest where troubled souls go to commit suicide. So we interrupt the scheduled panic and doomsday disaster news, to take in the beauty before it is allegedly destroyed in an eruption. Here’s the magnificent 12,389 ft (3,776.24 m ) Mount Fuji, one of Japan’s ‘Three Holy Mountains’ and the Suicide Forest.

It’s all over the news; volcano researchers’ reports warning that an eruption of Mount Fuji in Japan is ‘looming’ and ‘imminent.’ While we certainly hope that such doom and gloom reports of Mount Fuji being a ‘ticking time bomb’ are wrong, we wanted to take a look at the magnificent beauty of the highest mountain in Japan. It’s located on Honshu Island, but towering in at 12,389 feet (3,776.24 meters), the active stratovolcano can be seen from so very many beautiful places in Japan. Here is Mount Fuji and seen from gorgeous green tea fields.

Majestic Sunrise from the Summit of Mount Fuji. While no one is exactly certain, it is thought that the first ascent was in 663 by an anonymous monk. In ancient times, samurai trained at the base of Mt. Fuji and women were forbidden from climbing to the sacred summit. Nowadays people travel from all over the world specifically to see this view; about 300,000 adventuresome souls climb to the summit annually. Most hikers climb the mountain at night in order to be in a position at or near the summit to see a sunrise such as this. The morning sunshine is called “Goraikō” which means “honourable arrival of light.”

Mount Fuji as seen from the International Space Station (ISS). All the recent worry about an eruption started after the 2011 disasters like the 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that wreaked so much devastation. In September 2012, the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention used mathematical models that suggested that the pressure in Mount Fuji’s magma chamber is higher than it was the last time the Japanese volcano erupted in 1707. Other scientists have claimed that is poppycock and it’s pure hysteria to spread such fear in the media.

Nothing can be done to stop a natural disaster. Instead, we wanted to examine the beauty of Mount Fuji and its exceptionally symmetrical cone which has been a subject of Japanese art and stories throughout the ages. Here, 7 Navy aircraft fly in front of the snow-capped Fuji volcano.

It’s thought the mountain got it’s name from the Ainu language of the native Japanese people and means “everlasting life.” Ironically, there are 14 sq miles of forest at the northwest base of Fuji that represent the opposite of life—the taking of life. Here in the foothills, we see Aokigahara Forest, also called the Sea of Trees, which is infamous as a dense forest where troubled souls go to commit suicide.

Estimates are as high as 100 bodies being recovered every year from the suicide hotspot of Aokigahara. “In 2010, 247 people attempted suicide in the forest, 54 of whom completed the act. Suicides are said to increase during March, the end of the fiscal year in Japan. As of 2011, the most popular means of suicide in the forest were hanging and drug overdoses.” A zombie sneaking through Suicide Forest? No zombie apocalypse to go along with the doomsday for Fuji volcano eruption warnings. This photo is a production still for 緋色の陰 Puddle of Lust event. For people fascinated with doomsday reports and the coming eruption of Mt. Fuji, we’ll get back to the bizarre and scary aspects of the otherwise sublime Sea of Trees.

Magnificent Mount Fuji from Lake Yamanaka, the highest, yet the shallowest, of the Fuji Five Lakes. Lake Yamanaka is located in the village of Yamanakako in Yamanashi Prefecture near Mount Fuji. The lake is also the third highest lake in all of Japan.

Harvesting fields as Shinkansen Bullet Train screams past the mountain.

Night view with fall foliage from Kanagawa, Japan.

Fuji volcano capped with snow while cherry blossoms bloom beside a pagoda at Tokyo, Japan.

Most people hike up Mt. Fuji between July 1 and August 27, but there were over 300,000 climbers during all 2009. That means you should expect crowds of climbers at the summit. Climbing from October to May is very strongly discouraged and many people who ignore the warning have died due to accidents and the cold. On average, “around 4 people die and over a dozen are injured every year on Fuji by hypothermia or falling rocks.” Climbers are advised in this guide: “Mount Fuji is divided into ten stations with the first station at the foot of the mountain and the tenth station being the summit. Paved roads go as far as the fifth station halfway up the mountain. There are four 5th stations on different sides of the mountain, from where most people start their ascent.”

Human soaring like an eagle while paragliding over the south side of Mount Fuji. Wikipedia adds, “Paragliders take off in the vicinity of the fifth station Gotemba parking lot, between Subashiri and Hōei-zan peak on the south side from the Mountain, in addition to several other locations depending on wind direction. Several paragliding schools use the wide sandy/grassy slope between Gotenba and Subashiri parking lots as a training hill.” This view is from Gotenba which is by far the lowest 5th Station with an altitude of about 1400 meters. If walking, the ascent to the summit is reportedly much longer than from here than the other 5th stations. The Gotemba Trail leads from the Gotemba 5th Station to the summit. There are about four huts around the 7th and 8th station. Ascent: 7-10 hours. Descent: 3-6 hours.

Endless fields of purple flowers in foreground, Mount Fuji still capped with snow in the background.

Aerial view of snow-capped crater located on the highest peak of Mt.Fuji. Fantastic Japan explains, “This iconic natural wonder is not actually a single volcano but three. The youngest volcano, the one we all know today: Fuji, lies on an older volcano known as Kofuji, underneath which is Komitake volcano. The first peaks were possibly formed about six hundred thousand years ago.”

Mt. Fuji, one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains,” as seen from the Shibazakura Flower Festival.

View of Shinjuku skyscrapers and Mount Fuji as seen from the Bunkyo Civic Center in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan – seen from the North Observatory 45th floor – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. If Mt. Fuji volcano erupts, Tokyo is only about 60 miles (100 km) away. That could effect about 10% of Japan’s total population. As of October 1, 2011, the population of Tokyo was estimated to be 13.189 million; it has the largest population among all the 47 prefectures.

An SH-60F helicopter from the Warlords of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light 51 Det. 11, flies in front of Japan’s Mt. Fuji. The squadron, based in Atsugi, Japan, provides combat-ready armed anti-surface and anti-submarine helicopter detachments to ships deploying in the Korea, western Pacific and Persian Gulf regions.

View of Mt Fuji and Asagiri Plateau from Mount Kenashi which is a “1,964 m (6,444 ft) mountain on the border of Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures in Japan. According to Wikipedia, “There are two stories behind the naming of the mountain, which have opposing meanings. The first story says that the name was derived from the mountain having absolutely no trees (木無し kenashi, lit. ‘treeless’). The second story says that the name came from the mountain having many trees (木成し kenashi, lit. ‘abundant trees’). Through the years, the kanji for the name has changed to the current 毛無, which means ‘hairless’.”

Mt. Fuji viewed from the Fuji Five Lakes region, Motosu Lake, of Yamanashi Prefecture. “Lake Motosu is 140 meters deep, making it the ninth deepest lake of Japan. This lake, Lake Saiko and Lake Shojiko were all formed by lava flowing across what is now Aokigahara Jukai Forest and into the enormous lake that once dominated the area. All three lakes are still connected by underground waterways.”

Sunset over ‘Diamond Fuji’ with the Tokyo Sky Tree in the foreground. The 3,776-meter peak straddles the border of the two prefectures, both of which celebrate the mountain on Feb. 23. About 240 schools, including 93 prefectural high schools and elementary and junior high schools in nine municipalities close on that day to celebrate their beloved mountain. The Shizuoka Prefecture designated Feb. 23 as Mount Fuji Day in December 2009 and then the Yamanashi Prefecture followed suit in December 2011.

Snow-capped Mount Fuji and flowers. The Japanese government proposed making Mount Fuji a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site; the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is expected to make a decision in summer of 2013.

Lake Ashi. The photographer wrote, “Shot near Motohakone-ko. Mt. Fuji-san can barely be seen from the back as well as the water gate (The Red Torii Gate).”

Mt.Fuji and Lake Shojiko at sunrise, one of the Five Fuji Lakes. “Lake Shoji is the smallest of the five lakes. Remnants of lava flow still jut out of the water. Locals usually fish from these rocks.”

Limited Express “Asagiri” in Gotemba line against the background of Mt.Fuji.

Shiraito Falls is a waterfall in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, near Mount Fuji, Japan. It’s part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and a protected Japanese Natural Monument since 1936. The falls were regarded as sacred under the Fuji cult.

The photographer wrote, “The experience at the summit of a God Volcano is like no other.” Successful Mt. Fuji climbers have embedded coins in the Torii gate (posts) at the summit. As for the hook, “they used to hang a traditional temple bell from it.”

“Silence is golden,” the photographer noted. “The old hut at sangome (3rd station) of Mt. Fuji.”

Japan Fujiyoshida and Mount Fuji. Climbing Mount Fuji is “very popular not only among Japanese but also foreign tourists, who seem to make up more than a third of all hikers. The peak season for climbing Mount Fuji is during the school vacations which last from around July 20 to the end of August. The peak of the peak is reached during the Obon Week in mid August, when climbers literally have to stand in queues at some passages. While you may want to avoid the Obon Week, we believe that by avoiding the crowds in general, you would miss out one of the most interesting aspects of climbing Mount Fuji, which is the camaraderie and unique experience of ascending the mountain among hundreds of equally minded people from across the world.”

Varying views via cable cars, ranging from breathtaking to dense fog.

Sunrise and journey to the top of Mount Fuji. The photographer wrote, “Welcome to Shizuoka!” WikiTravel states, “The thing to do on Mt. Fuji is, of course, to climb it. As the Japanese say, a wise man climbs Fuji once, and a fool twice, but the true wisdom of this phrase is usually only learned the hard way.” Most people climb Fuji in “4 to 8 hours at walking speed (depending on your pace), and the descent another 2 to 4. An overnight climb in order to reach the top for the sunrise (go-raiko) is the most traditional thing, but you will probably be shuffling along in a slow-moving line for the latter stages of the ascent. Consider starting out in the late morning to reach the summit for the equally majestic sunset, with a tiny fraction of the crowds to accompany you. Afterward, you can try to sleep in a mountain hut and catch the sunrise if you like; two for the effort of one.”

Curved trees on mystical Mount Fuji.

Bridge to the Sea of Trees, aka Aokigahara. The ‘Suicide’ Forest is listed under the top ten haunted places in the world: “Considered as one of the most haunted forest in the world, it is located in the bottom of Mount Fuji. After the Golden gate bridge, this forest is the second most popular place for suicide. Far away from the busy streets of modern world, valued by paranormal investigators.”

Even though Aokigahara Forest is called the Suicide Capital of the World by some people, it is undoubtedly gorgeous. Some say “due to the wind-blocking density of the trees and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being eerily quiet. The forest has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and is a popular place for suicides.” There are reportedly 100 bodies discovered yearly, “despite numerous signs, in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions. The annual body search, consisting of a small army of police, volunteers, and attendant journalists, began in 1970. There are also a variety of unofficial trails that are used semi-regularly for the annual ‘body hunt’ done by local volunteers. In recent years, hikers and tourists trekking through Aokigahara have begun to use plastic tape to mark their paths so as to avoid getting lost. Though officials try to remove the tape time and time again, tourists and thrill-seekers inevitably leave more and more litter, and a great deal of it lies scattered throughout the first kilometer of the forest, past the designated trails leading to tourist attractions such as the Ice Cave and Wind Cave. After the first kilometer into Aokigahara towards Mount Fuji, the forest is in a more ‘pristine’ condition, with little to no litter and few obvious signs of human presence.”

Some suicides scenes are staged for movies, such as about to happen on left, but the scary, haunted feeling is real enough in the Sea of Trees. For those people brave enough to hike beyond the blocked and closed walking paths at Aokigahara Forest, they often encounter signs of real suicides in the Suicide Forest.

Skull and bones, human remains and evidence of another suicide. Destination Truth reported, “Aokigahara Forest is considered the most haunted location in all of Japan.”

But there’s so much more than death to seen close to Mount Fugi. There’s beauty like the carpet of pink flowers and fun like at amusement parks.

Mount Fuji from Yokohama, Japan.

Will this be the same Mt. Fuji during fall that people will see next autumn, or will the volcano erupt as experts predict? Wired Science says that although the hype behind Mount Fuji erupting has the “interwebs all worked up,” it’s instead like a “zombie in a horror movie….It seems we’ve entered the DOOOOM season in the media this month. I’m not sure what triggers this cascade of apocalyptic thinking, but once it gets going, it is like a game of ‘telephone’. What starts off as a benign report about some piece of volcanologic research ends up with” the media hysteria.

Aerial photograph of Mount Fuji taken from the ISS. Will it erupt like Mount St. Helens did in the USA, bringing wide-scale destruction and disaster? Or is this yet another hailing of coming Apocalypse, common among the doomsday 2012 phenomenon predictions?