Mt. Fuji

Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Japan is the near-perfect, snow-capped cone of Mt Fuji dominating the Tokyo skyline. Known affectionately as Fuji-san, Mt Fuji is not only a natural wonder, it is a sacred site said to be imbued with a living spirit, and has long been a source of inspiration for poets and artists alike.

Rising up from the Pacific Ocean to a majestic height of 12,388 feet, Mt. Fuji stands on the border between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. One of the most visible Japan attractions and easily one of the most picturesque mountains in Japan, Mt Fuji can be seen from both Tokyo and Yokohama on a clear day. Today a dormant volcano, Fuji-san last erupted in 1707 and covered Edo (present day Tokyo) some 60 miles away. Most tourists who visit Japan travel to Mt Fuji, if not expressly to climb the mountain, then to view it up close and hike and camp in the surrounding Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes resort areas.

If your Japan travel plans are to visit Mt Fuji, head first to the Fuji Five Lake region (Fujigoko) at the foot of the mountain. Featuring some of the best Mount Fuji restaurant and hotel options in the area, the Five Lakes region is a perfect place to view the mountain or to prepare for the climb ahead. And as its name suggests, this resort area is famous for a series of crystal-clear mountain lakes that constitute one of the most serene Japan attractions. In addition to outdoor activities, and the many Mount Fuji restaurant and hotel choices, the Five Lakes region offers an amusement park with one of the world"s highest roller coasters, Fujiyama.

But for those true alpinists whose only roller coaster is the struggle up and down Mt Fuji, it is important to remember that if you are planning to climb Mt Fuji you most likely won"t be alone. Anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 people (concrete numbers are difficult to come by) climb Mt Fuji each year. Of all the mountains in Japan, Mt. Fuji is the most crowded. The climbing season lasts from July 1st to August 31st. During this time the weather is stable and the mountain huts that serve as overnight camping spots are mostly open. If you climb Mt Fuji during this season, be prepared to struggle to the top with the masses, or if you are an accomplished mountaineer, plan to summit out of season with the requisite snow climbing equipment.

In short, not only is Mt Fuji one of the most famous and well-traveled mountains in Japan, the foothills surrounding the mountain are among the most heavily trafficked Japan attractions outside of the major cities. If you are looking for un-crowded outdoor activities, you would do better to head north to Sapporo, or the Japan Alps region. If however, you are pressed for time, Mt Fuji is a perfect two day trip from Tokyo or Yokohama. And like the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon or the Pyramids of Giza, Mt Fuji is universal attraction that should be witnessed if for no other reason than to be able describe its majesty to your grandkids.

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