Wednesday, September 20, 2023

“Screaming for relief”: a modest proposal for Mt Fuji

Less transport rather than more may be needed to deal with overcrowding

Only weeks have passed since this blog posted a disquisition on the century-long backstory of the funiculars, cable cars and railways proposed for Mt Fuji over the past century.

Since then, the online media have been erupting almost daily with articles about the present-day overcrowding on the mountain. Mt Fuji is “screaming for relief” says CBS; “Japan says swarms of tourists defiling sacred Mt Fuji” reports Reuters; “Is that sustainable?” asks the Japan Times, only a little less hysterically. 

To deal with the overcrowding, various nostrums are floating about. Charge a higher “peak fee” say some – at present, would-be Fuji climbers can fork over a ¥1,000 fee for “maintenance and conservation”, but only if they feel like it. Meanwhile, Nagasaki Kōtarō, the governor of Yamanashi Prefecture, would like to replace the Fuji Subaru Line roadway with a light railway, the better to control visitor numbers.

Fair enough, but Project Hyakumeizan wonders whether these worthy proposals go far enough. Supposing, he muses, all vehicles – whether buses or light railways – were prohibited on Mt Fuji, so that its suitors would climb the mountain all the way from its foot. 

From the town of Fuji-Yoshida to the top of Mt Fuji is a vertical distance of almost three vertical kilometres. Yes, visitor numbers would certainly fall. Few would make it above the fifth station. But those who did would again drink in the high-altitude serenity that befits a sacred peak.

You know, it might even be quiet enough up there to hear the mountain breathe a sigh of relief...