Japan Tightens Access to Majestic Mount Fuji Amid Safety and Preservation Concerns

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In an attempt to preserve its majestic beauty and address safety concerns, Japan has imposed new regulations on those seeking to scale its iconic Mount Fuji along the popular Yoshida Trail. Starting from July 1st to September 10th, eager climbers will now need to reserve a slot and pay a fee.

This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, standing proudly at approximately 12,300 feet, is located on the Yamanashi side of the mountain. Yet this scenic stratovolcano has been battling the adverse effects of overcrowding, littering, and ambitious climbers, rushing recklessly to the summit.

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The Yamanashi prefecture, through a statement from the Foreign Press Center of Japan, revealed that a daily quota of 4,000 climbers will be allowed on the trail. These adventurers will each have to pay a hiking fee of 2,000 yen — roughly equivalent to $18. A pro-digital approach is being promoted, with 3,000 slots being made available for online booking while the remaining 1,000 slots can be secured in person on the actual day of the climb.

In addition to this, hikers have the choice of making a generous contribution of 1,000 yen (about $9) towards the conservation efforts of this majestic natural monument. Reservations can be made through the Mount Fuji Climbing website, a collaborative initiative of the Environment Ministry and both home prefectures of the mountain — Yamanashi and Shizuoka.

Before attempting the ascent of Mount Fuji, climbers must contemplate between a day hike or an overnight sojourn to one of the trail-side huts. Their choice is validated by a QR code, scanned at the 5th station—the halfway mark to the summit. Anyone with no secure lodging for the night will be turned back and prevented from moving forward between the hours of 4 p.m. and 3 a.m. This is an active measure to curb the dangerous trend of ‘bullet climbing’ – the reckless rush to the summit without sufficient rest and acclimatization.

Though Mount Fuji is a symbol of Japan and a traditional site of pilgrimage, it has a modern appeal luring hikers to conquer its summit to see the sunrise. This influx has unfortunately resulted in tons of litter left along the trail, including abandoned plastic bottles, food, and clothing.

Officials are particularly grateful for the climber’s understanding and cooperation towards the preservation of Mount Fuji, as expressed in a statement by Yamanashi Gov. Kotaro Nagasaki. Additional measures to balance tourism with environmental responsibilities are also under consideration in Shizuoka prefecture, southwest of Mount Fuji.

Crowding at Mount Fuji has been substantial with climber numbers during the 2023 season reaching 221,322. With this number nearing pre-pandemic levels, authorities anticipate even more visitors this year.

In a somewhat related incident, a town in Shizuoka recently resorted to placing a large black screen on a sidewalk to obstruct the view of Mount Fuji. This drastic step came as a response to an influx of tourists intruding into local life and business, due to the social media phenomenon dubbed “Mount Fuji Lawson.”

Overtourism has been a continuing challenge for other popular destinations such as Kyoto and Kamakura since the lifting of coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Coupled with an increasingly weaker yen, foreign visitors have flooded these locales. Japan hosted over 25 million visitors last year, and the projected figures for 2024 are estimated to exceed nearly 32 million — a record set in 2019, as provided by the Japan National Tourism Organization.