Mount Fuji - climb Fuji or admire from a distance


Nothing prepares you for the scale of this mythic Japanese volcano

My mother sent me an email recently responding to a photo I sent her of me grinning with a snow capped Mt Fuji looming in the background; Have you climbed right up there again? The words she chose to express interest implied that I had perhaps scaled the equivalent of a 20 foot tall tree or worked my way up a fireman's ladder. As a novice hiker who's proud to admit to having once climbed Mount Fuji I was amused at the thought of how I too once figured Mount Fuji for an above average sized hill which could be conquered in an hour.


OK, I know we're not talking about Mount Everest here and its far from being the world's tallest volcano (which is arguably Ojoas de Salado at 6887m), but at 3776m from its base to towering summit it is a truly impressive sight. So stunning is Fuji, that its easy to forget that its a dormant volcano, a sleeping giant; Just ask the the The Cabinet Office of Japan who only recently assembled a committee to draft evacuation protocol after an alarming 200 earthquakes beneath the cone were detected throughout 2001.


I take no joy in envisioning the ash and magma fury unleashed upon the hub of modern Japan should another major Fuji eruption happen any time soon. Located approximately 100km /60miles east of Honshu's Urban Corridor ,with over 16 million people living in Tokyo and Yokohama nearby. Fuji can be seen on a clear day from Tokyo tower and the city outskirts, appearing to kneel just above the horizon with an motive that is unknown. The last time Fuji had a violent eruption was in 1707 and fortunately there were no deaths linked to the eruption. Of course, 300 years on the population and infrastructure has grown significantly larger and ultimately, so has the potential danger. On that grim note, let's move on...

Should history repeat itself, government officials estimate the financial cost of a disaster could be as high as two trillion yen (21 billion dollars). Without getting too Old Testament or Hollywood here, lets examine a possible eruption from point blank and the the Tokyo perspective: In the first moments of an eruption, 7,800 people would have to evacuate immediately. Lava could potentially reach as far as the Shinkansen tracks in Shizuoka and melting snow would flood neighboring rivers. Tephra (volcanic debris) could reach Ibaraki prefecture. Narita and Haneda Airports would be forced to closed, delaying the transit of 200,000 passengers and a whopping 28 million rail users would be affected. Most concerning however, is the potential loss of 200,000 homes in a predicted initial earthquake. Furthermore, its estimated that 12.5 million people would be vulnerable to eye, ear and throat and lung complaints.

On a side note, recently I rented a film titled Magma (2006) which drew me in by means of its elaborate forced perspective graphic of a smoke and lava spewing Mount Fuji engulfing Tokyo in a fiery lake of...well...magma. As with most low-budget blockbusters (yes, an oxymoron we now live with thanks to affordable CG) the actual film barely resembles the grand scope promised by the DVD cover art.

Nevertheless, the film was a good laugh, and something to watch if you enjoy laughing at films that fall short of their filmmakers vision!

In reality, Tokyo could expect a shower of volcanic ash and debris creating havoc far worse than that of heavy snowfall. Even a centimeter of snow can cause traffic jams in Tokyo (but at least snow melts). Other complications include the loss of electricity and the uncertainty of the effect of ash on the railway system. No one has ever seen the effects of ash particles on an electronic megacity like Tokyo, given that most major eruptions have occurred in remote areas or developing countries.

If Mount Fuji does blow its top, we are almost guaranteed that this national icon, the world's most recognizable volcano will look different. Below is a before and after shot of Mount St Helens and as you can see, the volcano was rendered unrecogniseable after its disastrous 1980 eruption.

What if this happened to Mt Fuji? It's difficult to imagine countless
photo prints of this symbol of purity being run off depicting a smoldering hole in the ground. And what of the cultural significance? Will it still be a national symbol, the embodiment of permanence, good fortune and a popular pilgrimage destination? Will it still be regarded as the dwelling of gods and goddesses? The severity of Fuji's future eruptions will ultimately decide for Japan. In the meantime, a further understanding of the volcano in this time of slumber will help residents to cooperate with this natural wonder.


At the youthful age of 200,000 years old (for a volcano that is), Fuji started to taken on its reconiseable form about ; Given that scientists have calculated Mount Fuji at having a 300 year eruption cycle its possible that an eruption could happen at any time. Mt Fuji is known for being restless, having erupted 13 times in the last 1,000 years.

Given that the 1707 eruption was the most violent eruption in recorded history, one can only hope that Fuji has already unleashed its full potential and will go out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Let's take a moment to unwind from that chaos above and appreciate the Mount Fuji of Today; a must-see for any visitor to Japan, and certainly one of the most beautiful mountains on the planet. If you want to enjoy the serenity of Mount Fuji without the grueling hike, the erratic weather or simply can't get to Japan, English Tree can make the following recommendations:


  View Mount Fuji from every angle from the comfort of your home. It doesnt get any easier than this. Climbing Mount Fuji may not necessarily be for you.

One of the extremely few Mount Fuji DVD's available is Spiritual Earth - Mount Fuji. Six years in the making, Spiritual Earth offers many stunning views of Mount Fuji with a soothing soundtrack.

One of the web's most illustrious Mount Fuji pages
A dormant volcano rumbles back to life leaving James Bond and Sarah Connor in peril! This is definitely one of the better volcano movies available.