Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Mount Fuji



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Mount Fuji

Climate change is causing Japan's mountains to warm up on average faster than those in other countries. The summit of Mount Fuji and its glaciers are therefore in danger right now. Considered one of the three sacred mountains of the country together with Mount Tate and Mount Haku, to the point that Shintoists consider at least one pilgrimage on its slopes in life a duty, it was included in the list of the famous one hundred mountains of Japan by Kyūya Fukada.

With its snow-capped peak for ten months a year, it is one of the symbols of Japan, a special place of scenic beauty and one of the historical sites of Japan, as well as a world heritage site as a UNESCO cultural site. The origin of Fuji is closely linked to volcanic activity.

According to popular tradition, the mountain was formed following an earthquake in 286 BC, but in reality it can be classified as a stratovolcano and its regular and almost symmetrical conical shape is the consequence of the superimposition of various layers of solidified lava and volcanic ash.

Volcanologists have in fact ascertained that the current Fuji is the result of four distinct phases in volcanic activity that have characterized its shape and structure. The first, called Sen-komitake, is characterized by a nucleus of andesite recently discovered in its innermost part.

The second, known as the Komitake Fuji, is a layer of basalt formed several tens of thousands of years ago. About 100,000 years ago, Hurui Fuji was formed on top of Komitake Fuji. The current Fuji, Shin Fuji, is believed to have formed around 10,000 years ago on the top of the old mountain.

It is located on the fault that is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The first sources describing the cult linked to the figure of Mount Fuji date back to before the beginning of the Heian period (794-1185). In fact, the literature and mythological tales of this period tell of a god called Miogi-no-Mikoto who, having asked in vain for hospitality for the night at Mount Fuji, was forced to look for another accommodation at Mount Tsukuba.

Later the god decided to take revenge, condemning the Fuji to always be covered with snow and to spend its existence in isolation. In the collection of Man'yōshū poems, the first references to the mountain as a kami can be found.

In fact, Fuji, having been an active volcano until 1708, has aroused fear and respect in the Japanese since ancient times, ending up being revered as a real divinity. According to the Association of Shinto Shrines in Japan, there are more than 1300 jinja dedicated to the worship of mountain-related kami.