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10 Sep, 2023 05:54

Japan’s Mount Fuji ‘in real crisis’ – officials

The authorities have warned of “overtourism” at the country’s highest active volcano
Japan’s Mount Fuji ‘in real crisis’ – officials

Mount Fuji, one of Japan’s sacred mountains and a popular pilgrimage site, faces a crisis if the number of visiting tourists is not brought under control, local authorities have warned.

“Fuji is screaming in pain. We can’t just wait for improvement,” Masatake Izumi, a Yamanashi prefectural government official, told CNN during a tour for foreign media on Saturday, adding that “overtourism” needs to be tackled urgently. 

“Fuji faces a real crisis” because of the “uncontrollable” flow of tourists, Izumi was quoted by Reuters as saying. “We fear that Mount Fuji will soon become so unattractive, nobody would want to climb it,” he said. 

According to government officials, the post-Covid tourism boom has brought thousands of hikers to the mountain, causing environmental damage and placing extra pressure on local first aid services. 

Despite the introduction of a campaign urging visitors not to litter, with volunteers removing tons of trash each year, both hikers and caretakers complain about overcrowding and the piles of litter left along the path.

Mount Fuji ranger Miho Sakurai told reporters that there are “way too many people on Mount Fuji at the moment,” including many inexperienced “first timers,” often underdressed, poorly equipped, and prone to hypothermia or altitude sickness. As a result, rescue requests have increased by 50% from last year and one person died in April in a climbing accident. 

An active volcano standing at 3,776 metres, known for its picturesque snowcap and one of Japan’s national symbols, the mountain was recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2013. The number of visitors to Fuji more than doubled between 2012 and 2019 to 5.1 million, according to CNA news agency.

This week, government officials met to discuss “overcrowding and breaches of etiquette” across high-traffic tourist spots, with Yamanashi Governor Kotaro Nagasaki proposing the construction of a light railway to control the number of people accessing the site. 

“We need a shift from quantity to quality when it comes to tourism on Mount Fuji,” Nagasaki said. A local ranger called the prospect of Mount Fuji losing its heritage status “devastating.”

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