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At 3,776 meters, Fuji-san (Mt. Fuji) is the tallest mountain in Japan, a sacred mountain and the traditional goal of pilgrimage. According to legend, an earthquake created Fuji-san in 286 BC The beauty of the snowcapped symmetrical cone, ringed by lakes and virgin forests, has inspired Japanese poets and painters throughout the centuries. Its last major eruption was in 1707.

Nowadays it is a popular tourist destination and common destination for mountain-climbers. The yearly "official" mountain climbing season is during July and August and thousands will climb Mt. Fuji during this two-month period. (Although it can be climbed all year round, the facilities and refuges will not be open at any other time). Most climb during the night to watch the sun rise in the morning. (see picture below) However to view the mountain the best time of year to choose is late autumn through to early spring when the clear air provides stunning views. For most of the rest of the year it is cloaked in a haze of clouds.

  July 1 is the day when Fuji formally opens for the climbing season. (The start of the mountain-climbing season is known in Japanese as yamabiraki, which literally means "mountain opening.") The shrines located near the base hold yamabiraki ceremonies on this day to pray for the safety of climbers.

The route to the summit is divided into 10 stages, or stations. On July 1, bus service to the fifth station (at an altitude of around 2,400 meters, or 7,870 feet) begins and lasts through August 31. It is usually from here that people who want to reach the peak begin their climb.

After the climbers reach the sixth station, there are no more forests; only a few lonely scrub trees dot the landscape. Past the eighth station, even the low trees disappear, and the ground turns into bare gravel. At this point in their journey, many climbers nap at a mountain hut, starting out again a few hours later so they can reach the summit before daybreak, in time to watch the sun rise--one of the goals of most Mt. Fuji climbers. The sight of the sun rising over a thick carpet of clouds is truly breathtaking.

After reaching the summit, some climbers enjoy an optional hike around the beautiful crater, which is 800 meters (2,620 feet) in diameter. This hike takes about an hour and a half. Finally, they descend the mountain, arriving back at the base before twilight.

Despite its height, Mt. Fuji can be climbed by people of all ages. This is because the trails are relatively easy, toll roads can take climbers up to the fifth stage, and there are a multitude of huts (about 60 above the fifth stage) offering shelter. Cold-weather gear is always a necessity, though, since average temperatures at the summit stay below 6 degrees Celsius (42.8 degrees Fahrenheit) even in August.

From July 10 through August 20, the post office operates a branch at the top of the mountain. At this post office, climbers can send regular mail (such as the picture postcards offered for sale in the summit shop) or buy certificates to prove they have made it to the top of Mt. Fuji.

Climbing Mt Fuji is a unique experience that only 1% of the Japanese ever experience. Gaijin (foreigners) have been told that there is an old saying about Mt Fuji. "If you never climb Mt Fuji you are a fool, and if you climb it more than once you are a fool". Roughly 500,000 people climb the mountain each summer




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