Table of Contents
Mount Fuji (富士山) is the tallest mountain in Japan, reaching a height of 3,776 meters. The mountain itself has 3 subsidiary volcanoes by the names of Komitake, Ko-Fuji and Shin-Fuji. Shin-Fuji being the most active has actually covered the other two in cinders and lava.1
We have records of its various eruptions with the first recorded erupting dating back to 864AD.2 The mountain has widely been seen as sacred in both Shinto and other faiths, such as the Fujiko; a religion which combinres Shinto and Buddhist elements. It was the Fujiko which established the custom of dividing routes to the summit originally into 10 stations of stages.1
Fuji, as it was considered sacred for many centuries, did not allow women to climb the mountain until 1872.2
One legends states that the sand which is disturbed during the day by pilgrims ascending the mountain would re-ascend to its former position at night. According to Buddhist tradition, Fuji rose from the earth in 286 BC after an earthquake that also created Lake Biwa.3
The man known as En no Ozunu (founder of the Shugendo Religion) is said to have climbed the mountain over 1000 times during his lifetime so that he may meditate upon its summit. It is also said that on on of these climbs he learnt the mantra known as the ‘Peacock King’.7
Origins of the Name
The Kami of Fuji
There are some that cite the kami of Fuji as being Kono-hana-saku-ya-hime and it is said that upon the summit of Mountain resided her palace and that the kami could be seen floating over the crater in a luminous cloud at every moment attended to by invisible servants who would throw down any pilgrim who attempted to climb the mountain if they were not pure of heart.3
Folktale – Princess Glory
The tale of Princess Glory comes from the Shintōshū recounts a tale of Fuji, this document coming form the 14th Century giving tales of various kami. The story is set during the reign of Emperor Yuryaku, the 21st Emperor from the Kofun Period and surrounds the story of an old, childless couple who are graced with a child which they find in a bamboo grove. Later as the child grows, she marries, but once the old couple die she reveals herself as the Lady of Mount Fuji and returns to its summit. Her husband desperately climbing the mountain to find her again.4
Folktale – The Elixir of Life
There is also a tale surrounding Fuji and The Elixir of Life. The Emperor of China, hearing that the Elixir of Life can be found on Mount Fuji, immediately sets out to take it for himself. However, things don’t end well for the Chinese Emperor.3
Folktale – The Bamboo Cutter
In the folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, we see Mount Fuji visited right at the end of the tale by the Emperor. He takes with him a vial of the Elixir of life which was given to him by Kaguya Hime and at its summit he burns it. This is said to be the reason why smoke rises from Mount Fuji.8
(This section will expand over time to include poems of Fuji) Many poems over the centuries have been written about Mount Fuji.
|Tago no ura ni
fuji no takane ni
yuki wa furitsutsu
|Coming out on the Bay of Tago.
there before me,
snow still falling on her peak,
a splendid cloak of white.
1. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
2. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
3. Davis, F. H. (1992) “Myths and Legends of Japan.” New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
4. Tyler, R. (1987) “Japanese Tales.” New York: Pantheon Books.
5. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2008) “Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide” Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd.
6. MacMillan, P. (2018) ”One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse”. St. Ives: Penguin Classics.
7. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2012) “Ninja Attack: True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.
8. Ozaki, Y.T. (2015) “Japanese Fairy Tales” USA: Cavalier Classics.
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