Mount Fuji


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Fuji, Mount

(fo͞o`jē),

Fujiyama

(fo͞o'jēyä`mä, fo͝ojē`yämä), or

Fuji-san

(fo͞o`jē-sän), volcanic peak, 12,389 ft (3,776 m) high, central Honshu, Japan, in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (472 sq mi/1,222 sq km; est. 1936). The highest mountain in Japan, it is a sacred mountain and the traditional goal of pilgrimage. According to legend, an earthquake created Fuji in 286 B.C. The beauty of the snowcapped symmetrical cone, ringed by lakes and virgin forests, has inspired Japanese poets and painters throughout the centuries. Its last major eruption was in 1707.
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Mount Fuji (Japan)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

One of the most recognizable sites in Japan, Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest peak at 12,389 feet, and it is a major reminder of the island’s volcanic past. The near-perfect volcanic cone became a sacred site in prehistoric time, and its natural appeal was integrated into both Shinto and Buddhism. Early activity relative to the mountain included dances performed by young women dressed in white robes reminiscent of the puffs ofsmoke periodically emitted from the volcanic peak. The women were identified with two mythic females known for their beauty and heroism. The mountain also became the home to a number of female shamans/mediums, many of whom resided in the caves near its foot.

Mount Fuji also became a major site for the development of Shugendo, a mountain-based religion that reacted to the attempt to impose Buddhism on Japan in the seventh century CE. Shugendo drew teachings and practices from a wide variety of religions then available in Japan (including tantric Buddhism). Shugendo emerged as a method for developing psychic or spiritual powers. Its practitioners, the Yamabushi (literally, “those who sleep in the mountains”), chose mountains like Fuji as their training grounds. The Yamabushi, who constituted a male fraternity, withdrew from ordinary society, adopted a special diet, and underwent a variety of physical trials. They believed that in the mountains they could be in direct contact with the divine entities who resided there. The Shugendo remained an active religious tradition until the Meiji reforms in the late nineteenth century.

Climbing Mount Fuji became a popular activity over the years. An old path up the mountain, originating in the village of Murayama, was created and dominated through the centuries by the Shugendo. Today, there are four other popular routes to the summit.

In the thirteenth century, legends began to build around Hitoana, a large cave located near Fujinomiya. It was seen as the home of the Bodhisattva Sengen, a female being who was discovered by Nitta Shiro Tadsune (d. 1203), a representative of the shogun. Nitta’s adventures would later be embellished by Japanese fiction writers.

Religious reverence focused on Mount Fuji was significantly elevated in the seventeenth century by the activity of Hasegawa Kakugyo (1541–1646), who settled in Hitoana, lived an ascetic life, and claimed a variety of revelations. These revelations, which included the production of a set of undecipherable symbols, became the focus of Fuji Ko, the cult of Fuji, that exists to the present day. It was perpetuated by Kakugyo’s successors, who brought veneration of the bodhisattva Maitreya, the future Buddha, together with Fuji Ko.

Much to the consternation of Japanese authorities, Fuji Ko spread across Japan and spawned several offshoots, such as the Millennial Fuji Ko. These have survived to the present and even received a boost from the post-World War II secularization of Japanese culture and the promotion of pictures and replicas of the mountain for tourist consumption.

Today, late summer is the most popular time for visiting the mountain. Many people, from mountaineers to religious pilgrims, attempt the climb to the summit. Each of the old routes is now marked by the presence of rest stops. Pilgrims carry a staff, and the station’s name is burned onto the staff as they reach each successive rest point. Paths up the mountain are such that those not otherwise trained in mountain climbing can reach the top.

Sources:

Kasahara, Kazuo. A History of Japanese Religion. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing, 2001.
Uhlenbeck, Chris, and Merel Molenaar. Mount Fuji: Sacred Mountain of Japan. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2000.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fuji, Mount

 

(also Fuji-san, Fujiyama), an active volcano on the island of Honshu. The highest peak in Japan, Mount Fuji reaches an elevation of 3,776 m. It is located 90 km west-southwest of Tokyo.

Mount Fuji is almost a perfect cone. The crater at the summit is 700 m in diameter and approximately 100 m deep. Lateral craters and slag cones are found on the slopes. The volcano covers most of the ancient volcano of Ashitoka, the summit of which emerges on Mount Fuji’s southeastern slope. Since 781, Mount Fuji has erupted 14 times, discharging streams of basalt lava. The last eruption occurred in 1707. Evergreen forests and shrub-covered wasteland are found on the slopes. The summit is covered with snow ten months of the year.

Mount Fuji is considered sacred and attracts tourists and religious pilgrims. A favorite motif in Japanese art, it is depicted in paintings and embroideries and on porcelain ware. Mount Fuji is part of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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