Officials Gird for ‘Unprecedented Number’ of Mt. Fuji Climbers This Season

Mt. Fuji is seen from Shizuoka Prefecture in April.

FUJIYOSHIDA, Yamanashi — A deluge of climbers is expected at Mt. Fuji this year as the national icon marks its 10th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and officials who will be in the thick of things once routes to the summit open July 1 are rightfully concerned.

The increase in visitors is fully expected following the downgrading of COVID-19 to Category V under the Infectious Diseases Law in early May, making it easier to travel after years of restrictions.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mayor Shigeru Horiuchi of Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, speaks at the general meeting of the management council of the Mt. Fuji Safety Guidance Center in his city on May 19.

“We have to consider limiting the number of climbers to the mountain. We will study what measures we can take. We want to ask the prefectural government to take the measures in cooperation with us,” said Shigeru Horiuchi, the mayor of Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, on May 19.

However, the prefectural government, which manages the mountain’s Yoshida Trail on the Yamanashi Prefecture side, believes that it would be difficult to restrict the entry of climbers to the trail. With the climbing season nearing, attention is being focused on how the city and prefecture will deal with the issue, especially when it is feared that there may be more injuries due to crowding on the mountain.

Some of the lodges on Mt. Fuji are already fully booked after being flooded with reservation requests. On May 16, a Fujiyoshida association of mountain lodges and other accommodation facilities wrote to the prefectural and municipal governments to request that measures be taken to restrict people from climbing and descending the mountain overnight without taking any rest and to optimize the number of climbers.

“It is important to prevent people from attempting reckless overnight climbs, while ensuring that an appropriate number of climbers can enjoy the activity,” Horiuchi said at the general meeting of the management council of the Mt. Fuji Safety Guidance Center on May 19. He made the remarks apparently with the written request in mind. The meeting was also attended by Fujiyoshida association and prefectural representatives.

Horiuchi told reporters after the meeting, “We will do everything we can as we expect an unprecedented number of climbers will come to the mountain.”

He expressed his desire to discuss with the prefectural government to optimize the number of climbers.

The Yoshida Trail is a prefectural road and is defined under the Road Law as a “path for general traffic.” Therefore the prefectural government’s section working on the preservation of Mt. Fuji as a World Heritage site regards the trail as something anybody can freely pass. Mt. Fuji was added to the UNESCO list in June, 2013.

“It is difficult [to restrict the entry of climbers to the mountain there],” said Toshiaki Kasai, chief of the section.

While calling for the restriction of the entry of climbers to Mt. Fuji, Horiuchi expressed his intention to strengthen the medical system to accommodate the increasing number of climbers.

The increased number of climbers is expected to lead to a rise in the number of people injured in accidents due to crowding on the mountain, as well as those suffering from hypothermia, altitude sickness and other ailments. The city is considering extending the operation of the first-aid station at the eighth station of the mountain, which usually closes in late August, until Sept. 10, when the climbing season ends.

The city said it will do what it can with the limited available time, while making necessary coordination with related organizations.

The prefecture manages first-aid stations on the fifth and seventh stations. The prefectural government’s section for the preservation of Mt. Fuji said it will “coordinate and discuss with the city of Fujiyoshida how to strengthen the medical system.”