Well, it looks like it has finally happened, but not in the way originally planned: Mt. Fuji is poised to make World Heritage listing… as a cultural site rather than a natural site.
From The Japan Times:
Japan’s tallest mountain is expected to be formally listed in June when the World Heritage Committee meets in Cambodia.
However, the advisory panel, known as the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), also said in the late Tuesday announcement that it rejected a Japanese request to add a group of cultural assets in the ancient city of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, to the World Heritage list, citing scarce assets directly linked to the medieval shogunate’s rule.
In its request for registration, the Cultural Affairs Agency said Mount Fuji covers roughly 70,000 hectares in Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, including five major lakes and the Shiraito Falls.
IMOCOS noted that the mountain is a national symbol of Japan and blends religious and artistic traditions, government officials said.
“We are delighted to hear the news. Once Mount Fuji is registered as a World Heritage site, we hope it will be known to more people,” said an official of Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture, at the foot of the mountain.
Yamanashi Gov. Shomei Yokouchi also welcomed the recommendation for registration.
“We would like to cooperate with the central government and Shizuoka Prefecture to make utmost efforts to enable Mount Fuji to be registered as a World Heritage site,” Yokouchi said.
The volcano is seen as a symbol of nature worship in the country and has been depicted in ukiyo-e woodblock prints, the agency said in its filing with UNESCO.
For the 3,776-meter peak to be listed, however, ICOMOS said the Miho-no-Matsubara pine grove, which Japan sought to include as part of the asset, must be excluded, because it is 45 km from Mount Fuji and can’t be considered a part of it, the Japanese officials said.
If formally approved, Fuji will be Japan’s first registered World Heritage site since the historic Hiraizumi area in Iwate Prefecture was listed in 2011, and bring Japan’s total listings to 13.
The government officially asked UNESCO in January 2012 to register the two sites in 2013. In December, ICOMOS requested additional information.
The request for Kamakura covered a roughly 2,000-hectare area, including Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Enkaku Temple and the Great Buddha.
Kamakura was the seat of a samurai government from the late 12th to 14th centuries that nurtured cultural practices including the tea ceremony and Zen rituals.
Registration on the World Heritage list is aimed at preserving precious cultural assets and natural treasures for future generations, but is also significant in boosting tourism.
Poor Mt. Fuji has been the subject of some stupid proposals. In WWII, a hair-brained idea from Washington was floated to “bomb” the mountain with red paint to demoralise the Japanese. In the early 1990’s, there were similarly hair-brained proposals from Japanese corporations for chair lifts at least part way up, if not to the summit. Luckily, neither of these ever came to fruition.
However, Mt. Fuji’s status as “Japan’s highest toilet” and “litter at 3700 m above sea level” inevitably mean it would not qualify as natural heritage. Besides, too many local governments and businesses use the equation ()+World Heritage=￥.
You can’t have over one million climbers in the space of six weeks going up a mountain every year without some major environmental impact. Especially when these climbers demand food, accommodation, and toilet facilities.
My second climb to the summit – over a decade ago – was on the last weekend of the summer holidays, probably the worst time to make the climb. It was just one long Disneyland-esque queue from the start of the trail at the Kawaguchi 5th station (yes, almost all climbers start from about half way up) to the summit.
Strewn here and there were forgotten items of clothing, food wrappers, instant noodle cups and disposable chopstick (hint: just because something is disposable, it doesn’t mean you should dispose of it there and then!!), and hiking staves (the softwood staves sold as souvenirs that you can then get branded with a hot iron at the various huts on the mountain to prove you climbed the it… whatever…), along with rubble from demolished mountain huts.
Toilets were an adventure in themselves. Firstly, there were very few of these on the mountain. Secondly, almost all of them were long-drop toilets (no sewers or septic tanks up here!). Thirdly, because the low temperatures mean bacterial activity is very slow, toilet paper won’t break down quickly enough. Instead of dropping your used toilet paper down the hole, you placed it in a box from which it is collected and burned – hopefully without any being spilled!!
However, according to the Mt. Fuji as a World Cultural Site site, these toilets have all been replaced with more environmentally friendly ones.
Regardless of whether or not Mt. Fuji finally makes the World Heritage list, it seems that the Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectural governments are going to put a fee on climbing.
From the Mainichi:
Climbers face admission fees to scale Mt. Fuji as part of UNESCO World Heritage site bid
KOFU — Climbers of Mount Fuji face admission fees to hike Japan’s highest mountain as regional governments look to have the famous peak registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The governor of Yamanashi Prefecture announced on April 9 that he will go along with neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture’s proposal to charge admission fees to Mt. Fuji starting in the summer of 2013.
The Shizuoka Prefectural Government announced its intention to charge Mt. Fuji climbers with admission fees as part of an action plan that was revised on April 8 to promote the country’s highest peak as a world heritage site. The regional government also introduced a plan to charge entrance fees from this summer on a trial basis and to survey climbers about the charges. The amount of the fees, the collection system, etc. has yet to be determined.
Shomei Yokouchi, the governor of Yamanashi Prefecture, told a news conference on April 9 that he will not object to Shizuoka Prefecture’s proposal to start charging admission fees in the summer of next year as long as locals agree to the plan. Both prefectural governments are set to decide details at a joint council that is promoting Mt. Fuji as a world heritage site, which is made up of local governments around the mountain.
Furthermore, Yokouchi expressed his opinion that even if the mountain did not make it to the heritage list, the introduction of admission fees is “something to consider.”
April 10, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
I don’t have a problem with a small fee for climbing, as long as the money made on Mt. Fuji stays on Mt. Fuji!