is a country steeped in myth
and legend. Considering the country is 71% mountainous terrain, it is
understand why much of Japans' folklore concerns the mountains on the
islands (2). Japan has 109 volcanoes, in differing states of activity (3).
Mt. Fuji is also the highest and most venerated mountain in Japan,
standing at 3776 meters tall (2).
Mount Fuji is also perhaps the worlds most well known mountain. From the beginnings of
history in Japan, Mt. Fuji has been important to Japanese culture, tradition, myth and legend
mountain was considered a sacred place for
the people of Japan, until the Meiji Restoration, which occurred in
importance of the mountain is stated rather elegantly in a passage from Myths and
Legends of Japan
"Fuji dominates life by it's silent beauty: sorrow is hushed,
quieted, peace seems to flow down from that changeless home of peace,
of the white lotus." (1)
Fuji" By Hokusai
name Fuji is
believed to be derived from "Huchi" or "Fuchi", the words for the Aino
of Fire (Davis 141)
There are many folk tales surrounding Mt. Fuji, known
popularly as Fuji-san
in Japan (san meaning
mountain, not to be confused
with the male
honorific San) (2). Mt. Fuji is a stratovolcano located in Honshu, Japan's largest island. The
last eruption occurred in 1707 when a main vent eruption deposited 6" of
volcanic ash on Edo (Tokyo) (3) Though it
been dormant since then,
it is still a very important symbol in Japanese culture(2).
have been climbing the mountain as a show of religious piety for
shown by a record from June of 1500 A.D. describing the masses of
journeys up the sacred mountain (2). Now every
summer, close to 500,000
people make trips up the mountain; however, unlike the pilgrimages of
women are now permitted to ascend the mountain (2).
Pierson, 1995 (U.S. Geological Survey).
creation of Mt. Fuji is itself a matter of legend in Japan - the tale
goes that the mountain was born in a
single day (1). The story
relates the experiences
of a woodsman named
Visu. He was awoken one night by a loud noise,
seemingly coming from under the Earth. The woodsman believing it to be
earthquake, grabbed his family and ran from their home (1).
When he emerged
from the doorway, he saw that the land near his home, which had been
dead, had become a mountain! Visu was so in awe of this occurrence, and
majesty of the mountain, that he named it "Fuji-yama", the Never-Dying
While geologically, Mt. Fuji dates back to around 8500 B.C. (3),
myth places the legendary creation of Mt. Fuji in (2)86 B.C. (4).
later date roughly coincides with the geologic record of an explosive eruption
occurred around this time frame (3). While it
known what the true
source of this myth is, it is not outside the realm of conjecture to
that the myth could have been influenced by the aforementioned
Fuji is the source of many
myths, underscoring its importance in Japanese society; it has been the
multiple deities, including the goddess Sengen, also known as the
Fuji, whose temple was once said to reside on the summit of the mountain (1).
In the days of religious pilgrimages to Mt. Fuji, it is said that
throw from the mountain any pilgrims that were impure of heart (1).
Shinto shrine dedicated to
Sengen, the Goddess of Fuji, who is said to reside within the main
the shrine (city.fushiyoda)
Fuji, Fuji-san, or Fuji-yama;
no matter the name, it is clear that the mountain has been an important
part of Japan from time immemorial (2). The
mountain is home to many more
myths not covered here, and the reader is encouraged to find out more
his/her own, and discover that the tales of its creation were truly
beginning for this mountain.