Restricting Mt. Fuji Climbers: Measures Necessary to Enable Safe Ascents of Legendary Peak

Mt. Fuji has long attracted people with its majestic presence. Many people hope to stand on its summit at least once. Sufficient measures must be taken to ensure safe and comfortable climbing.

The Yamanashi prefectural government has decided to limit the number of users of the trail on its side to 4,000 per day from July 1, the opening day of the climbing season. The move is aimed at reducing congestion. A toll of ¥2,000 per person will also be collected.

A gate will be set up near the entrance to the trail at the 5th Station, and access will be closed once the number of climbers reaches the maximum limit. The toll fees will reportedly be used for maintenance and management of the gate as well as for safety measures for climbers.

The number of climbers on Mt. Fuji totaled about 220,000 last summer, recovering to levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic. The mountain trails get crowded, and there have been some cases of bad manners, such as the reckless overtaking of other climbers.

To preserve the appeal of the mountain and reduce the risk of accidents, certain restrictions are unavoidable. The toll should be considered a necessary cost to ensure safe and comfortable climbing.

“Bullet climbing,” in which people try to ascend to the summit by climbing all night without staying at a mountain lodge, has become a problem. It creates a high risk for hypothermia and altitude sickness. For that reason, the gate will be closed from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. The move should help deter the dangerous climbing behavior.

The trail on the Yamanashi Prefecture side has the highest number of users, accounting for about 60% of the total climbers. To avoid confusion at the site, it is necessary to thoroughly make the restrictions known to the public. Efforts should also be made to publicize the restrictions among foreign visitors, whose numbers have been growing rapidly in recent years.

On the other hand, the three routes on the Shizuoka Prefecture side do not limit the number of climbers or collect tolls. Instead, a pilot system will be introduced to ask people register their climbing itineraries in advance via smartphones or other devices, so that the number of climbers can be tracked as part of an effort to prevent people from attempting bullet climbing.

This is because there are several roads leading to the trails, making it difficult to collect tolls from all climbers. However, the routes on the Shizuoka Prefecture side may become crowded in the future with those who try to avoid paying the toll.

For the time being, it is important to analyze data from the planned pre-registration system to grasp the congestion situation. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to consider introducing a restriction on the number of climbers.

It is also important for each climber to be aware of the issues. Even if a long-awaited climb is achieved, the effort will all come to nothing if the climber suffers injury, illness or other troubles in the process. Ideally, climbers should take all possible precautions and make a sensible plan.

Overtourism, a situation caused by the concentration of large numbers of tourists, has become a problem in many places. How can the environment of tourist destinations be protected? Society as a whole must think about the issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 4, 2024)