It became fully legal and respectable for women to climb Mount Fuji and other sacred mountains at the beginning of the Meiji Era. Does that mean that no Japanese women ever climbed the mountain before that? Well, it seems that there were certain special days when women were allowed on the mountain as far as the Fifth Station during the Edo Era; we can guess that lots of women knew they were physically capable of the climb. Surely, many Japanese women must have wanted to climb to the top.
While Shugendo was a mountain religion concerned with spiritual transformation through hard experiences, it seems to have remained conservative and closed to women. However, the Fuji-ko （富士講) sect developed a strong interest in social change and some Fuji-ko leaders were sympathetic to women who wanted to climb to the summit.
Actually, it seems likely that women might occasionally (or regularly?) have made the ascent dressed as men. In 1832, Kodani Sanshi, an important Fuji-ko philosopher, helped a 24-year-old woman called Takayama Tatsu to climb to the top. Takayama dressed as a man out of deference to the taboo against women. However, she clearly did not believe in the taboo. What was to stop any healthy, open-minded woman who wanted to get to the top?
Thanks to Mika Tanada for research.
Featured image: An Oshi Lodging House (富士講の御師（おし）の家).