Visited: Feb 1-2, 2014
Site Type: Cultural
Background and Opinion:
The 3776 meter high Mt. Fuji has captured the imaginations and sparked creativity in the Japanese people since the beginning of settled life all the way through present times. It is thought to be sacred and its monstrous eruptions over the centuries (most recently in 1707-8) have definitely helped in maintaining this idea. Many famous Japanese paintings depict the mountain, which is visible as far away as Tokyo, in the background.
I came to Fuji by taking an express bus from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station. Kawaguchiko is one of the lakes in the “Five Lakes Area” which came highly recommended from my friend who used to live in Japan. I must say, that advice was totally spot on! No more than an hour into our trip, Fuji was visible through the bus window. Thankfully, the weather was good that day, which was not the experience of other travelers I met in the days before and after I went. Some people reported fog so thick, you couldn’t see a few meters in front of you, let alone the mountain.
Evaluation: (Criticism Time!)
1) Completeness and Originality (8 out of 15): UNESCO admitted this as a cultural, not a natural site, a move I strongly support. There is no doubt that Fuji is a beautiful mountain, but no larger or incredible than say Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, or Mt. Rainer, all impressive but common sites. With that said, it is hard to judge how “complete” it is as the inscription commends Fujisan’s ‘inspiration.’ How am I supposed to grade that. I’ll give it a 8 and move on.
2) Extensiveness of the Site (7 out of 15): Again, as the inscription commends the site as a “source of artistic inspiration,” I’ll just have to use my gut feeling to decide how long that takes. For me to be properly ‘inspired’ with the experience, I biked around the lake in a few hours, and was mesmerized from late afternoon until sunset. This took about 3 hours.
3) Cultural Significance (8 out of 25): The relative isolation of the country itself has meant that its importance was also isolated to Japan and its people.
4) Personal Impact (7 out of 15): I traveled from Seoul to Tokyo and am glad I spent two days in the area. However, with so much to do in Tokyo, it might not be for everyone, especially people from countries with a lot of mountains. I’ll be perfectly honest, if I went to Japan in 2012 and it wasn’t a world heritage site yet, I am not sure I would have gone to see it unless I had a lot more time to spare. If you do go though, you won’t be disappointed.
5) Logistics (8 out of 10): Finding the correct bus station in Shinjuku Station proved to be a bit of a challenge. Every conceivable form of transportation seems to run their own operation leading to a complete commuter’s labyrinth in Japan. The people however, were very helpful and once I found the bus depot, it was very easy. A bus to Fuji costs 1,700 Yen one way, and the hostel was around 2,500 and right next to the lake. Overall, very worth while.
6) Uniqueness (3 out of 20): It is hard to judge this without taking into account that there are similar mountains all over the world. With that said, few mountains have inspired so much art and religion as this one.
Combined Score: 41/100
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