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  • Writer's pictureTania Wee

Mt. Fuji Climbing Season Officially Cancelled this Year

There is a famous saying in Japan that goes, “You’re wise to climb Mt. Fuji once, but a fool to climb it twice.” Mt Fuji is Japan's most iconic feature with its perfectly symmetrical cone form that borders two prefectures and can be spotted even from Tokyo on a good day.

Every year, July to mid September is the official climbing season for those wanting a glimpse of sunrise atop Mt Fuji. It's estimated that in 2019, around 236,000 people climbed Mt Fuji. However this year, there will be no first and second times for climbers. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the hiking trails will remain closed throughout the summer.

On Monday, the government of Shizuoka Prefecture, one of the two prefectures by which Mt. Fuji can be accessed, said that they will be keeping Shizuoka’s three hiking trails that lead to the top of the mountain closed throughout the summer. Under normal conditions, the trails would have been open to the public during Mt. Fuji’s official climbing season, which this year was scheduled to run from July 10 to September 10. In response to the pandemic, though, the decision was reached to keep the trails closed.

The closure affects the Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya trails, all of which start at “fifth stations” half-way up Japan’s tallest mountain. Shizuoka’s decision comes after Yamanashi, the other Fuji-adjacent prefecture, already announced that it will not be opening its Yoshida Trail, that leads to the peak, this summer, meaning that all four paths to Mt. Fuji’s summit will be closed.

While alpine slopes with the boundless sky above may not spring to mind when thinking of places likely to be hotbeds of airborne virus transmission, Mt. Fuji’s popularity as a travel destination, combined with a relatively narrow window in which ascents are allowed, can create human traffic jams as hikers stand around in close proximity waiting for their turn to walk on narrow sections of the trails.

There’s also the fact that the most common Mt. Fuji itinerary is to time your hike so that you draw near to the peak late at night, spend a couple hours sleeping in a communal room in a small mountain hut among a large group of strangers, then arrive at the top just in time to see the sunrise.

That kind of close, extended proximity to others isn’t something Shizuoka and Yamanashi want people exposed to, so the trails will be remain closed, and before anyone starts thinking about just hiking up during the off-season, bear in mind that for as gentle and inviting as Mt. Fuji’s slopes may look from afar, a misplaced step can lead to lethal consequences with shocking speed, especially near the top or in cold-weather conditions.

The Shizuoka government has yet to reach a decision as to whether or not access roads to the mountain’s various fifth stations, where the trails start, will remain open while the trails are closed.

“This summer I would invite people to enjoy taking photos of Mt. Fuji,” said Shizuoka governor Keita Kawakatsu, “composing haiku about it, or gazing at it from afar.” We’d add munching on a slice of Mt. Fuji bread to the list of alternatives, while taking the extra time to maybe plan a sea-to-summit hike for 2021 using these bilingual maps.

Source: NHK News Web

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