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Climbers flock to Mt. Fuji as season begins

July 5, 2013 Destination North Asia No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Hordes of trekkers flocked to Mount Fuji Monday at the start of a two-month climbing season, after it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of its status as a symbol of Japan.

Hundreds of hikers began their ascent of the 3,776-metre (12,389-feet) peak before dawn in a bid to stand at the summit to watch the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean.

Waves of climbers, many wearing colourful mountaineering gear, began to crowd the summit around 3:00 am.

In a scene sometimes compared to Tokyo’s busy morning commuter train stations, climbers packed the routes to the peak.

Torches and lights carried by the trekkers lit up the queue that snaked to the top of the mountain.

Around 4:30 am, the yellow sun gleamed through tiny cracks in the cloud, prompting chants of “banzai” (“hurrah”) among hikers welcoming in the climbing season, TV footage showed.

Others clapped or snapped pictures of each other on mobile phones and cameras.

The cone-shaped volcano has long been worshipped in Japan, attracting pilgrims and followers of the native animistic religion of Shintoism.

UNESCO classified the mountain as a “cultural” heritage site, saying it has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”.

Around 300,000 people climb Mt. Fuji every year, but local tourist officials say this year they expect that number to rise significantly because of its new World Heritage status.

Environmentalists warn such a large number of visitors puts a strain on the mountain, with increased erosion and problems with litter.

Mt Fuji’s official climbing season runs from the start of July to the end of August.

Snow-capped for most of the year, the mountain’s summit is regarded as one of most dangerous in Japan during the off-season due to its steep slopes and constant gusts.

Fuji climbing season opens with 320,000 expected in July, August

The Mount Fuji climbing season opened on Monday morning with huge numbers of climbers expected in July and August now that the mountain has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

About 320,000 people are expected to climb the 3,776-meter mountain over the next two months, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Tour operators have reported that many climbs are already fully booked.

However, authorities are worried about climbers’ safety as numbers can exceed 10,000 on some days. The overcrowded conditions also create a garbage problem.

The Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectural governments will start asking climbers to pay a fee of 1,000 yen on a trial basis from July 25.

Officials said the fee will be voluntary. The plan is to try it out for 10 days before deciding whether to make it permanent from next year. The proposed fee will be used to help preserve the area’s natural beauty.

Local officials are also pondering how to improve traffic access and other facilities to accommodate the anticipated increase in visitors.

Edited By : Bill Hurley

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