Professor Watanabe Toyohiro of Tsuru University, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, has written an amazing and provocative book about the environmental challenges facing Mount Fuji. Professor Watanabe is very clear about the cultural importance of Fujisan and how it relates to the Japanese spirit and identity. However, he also points out some very severe problems and raises questions about whether Mount Fuji as a “tourist mountain” is sustainable in the long term.

In his book “Mount Fuji’s Light and Shadow,” (富士山の光と影) Professor Watanabe asks if the people of Japan will be able to save a mountain that he sees as badly damaged and suffering. He sees the sacred mountain as a heritage site facing a huge crisis that needs immediate remedial action.

When Mount Fuji was registered as a World Heritage site, on 22nd June 2013, the whole of Japan rejoiced at the big news. Indeed, the professor admits that he celebrated the news while auditing a World Heritage Committee in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The committee had denied the request for Fuji to be included as a natural heritage site in 2003 and, while granting Mount Fuji’s status as a World Heritage site ten years later, it was clear that there were still very serious question marks over whether the mountain’s environment could be adequately preserved.

The roads leading to the Fifth Station make it easy for people to climb the mountain — and also very easy to dump rubbish on it! Just pull your vehicle over and throw it out!!

The professor points out that the committee was acknowledging Fuji’s undeniable artistic and spiritual inspiration in Japan’s past. However, matters relating to Mount Fuji’s present — the preservation of the environment and scenic beauty, the enforcement of safety standards, and the desirable control of tourism-related development —  are all shrouded in uncertainty. Clearly, we need to think seriously about how tourism in the area can be carried promoted in a sustainable fashion.

Mount Fuji's light and shadows
Can Japan save a scarred mountain!?
First edition June 16th, 2014.
Watanabe Toyohiro

Seiryu Publishing Company