Mountain Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It height is an altitude of 3,776 meters. It has an active volcano. In June of 2013, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage property, under the name of ‘sacred place and source of artistic inspiration.’ As ‘the great object of universal devotion’ and ‘a source of artistic inspiration,’ Mountain Fuji has been effecting to Japanese people’s lives, and their nature and culture. In the past, the mountain kept repeat eruptions and had become an object of fear. However, it slightly became friendly to people because of an appearance of Fujiko, and Ukiyo-e. Fujiko was a group of people who were full with faiths. Ukiyo-e was a new genre of painting and mountain Fuji was painted with this technique. It is one of the unique things about mountain Fuji that human and nature are being in a symbiotic relationship through religious belief and art. In this writing, the relationships between mountain Fuji and religious belief, and

Mountain Fuji and religious belief

            Mountain Fuji has been considered as a sacred presence to Japanese. As the great object of universal devotion, it influenced Japanese’s outlook on nature. Japanese looked up the mountain and worshiped when it had volcanic activity. When the activity finished, the faith toward mountain and foreign Buddhism were combined, and the mountain became a place of asceticism. Especially people aimed to go up to the top and walk through the path with worshipping their gods. After few years, common people who were called as believers climbed the mountain to follow the ascetics. In the middle of Edo period, after 17th century, Fujiko was appeared and spread. Fujiko was kind a lesson that taught a doctrine of Fuji religion. Many of Fujiko believers worshipped with walking the foot of the mountain and Oshi houses were reorganized to support believers who climbed the mountain. Oshi houses offered a place to sleep and some foods.

(The reason why there are so many pilgrims and toriee(?) on the map)

A start of mountain Fuji religion – A long time ago, people formed a community or performed religious ceremony at the food of the mountain. Around 8-9th century, people thought the repeating volcanic activities were anger of a god of fire ‘Asamanookami.’ To clam her down, people started to worship her from a distance. They looked top of the mountain and prayed, and it became a custom. Because of the custom, a place was created in order to worship from afar, like Yamamiya sengen shrine. After 800 years, mountain Fuji kept repeating great volcanic activities. To calm it down, some shrines were built again to pay people’s respects to the souls of Asamanookami.

Fuji religion became popular – Around 12th century, mountain Fuji’s volcanic activities were calm down. Men of religion who were called as ascetics climbed the mountain to get some power from gods because they believed mountain Fuji was a land of asceticism. On the top of the mountain, a base of religion was built along the wall of craters. Around the craters, there were eight peaks and people thought they were eight floral leaves of lotus. People went on a pilgrimage to the eight peaks and it was called ‘Ohachimeguri.’ Matsudai Shonin, who was famous for climbing the mountain the most, built a temple, which was named ‘Dainichiji,’ on the top of the mountain. Moreover, he built ‘Murayama sengen’ shrine and it was a base for practice asceticism among men of religion. After 14th century, common people could be pilgrims and climbed the mountain to follow the ascetics. From the entrance of the mountain, trails were reorganized and communities were formed for the climbers.

Prosperity of Fuji religion – In 17th century, Fujiko was created that came from ‘Hasegawa gaku’ religion. They worshipped mountain Fuji as making a pilgrimage to scared places in a foot of the mountain such as Saiko, Shojiko and Oshino Hatkai. There were known as Gaku religion’s asceticism places. In 18th century, Fujiko gained explosive popularity among common people. Therefore, the number of climbers increased and Oshi houses were developed. As living at the Oshi houses, monks led and took care the believers. In the middle of 19th century, path of pilgrimage in mountain Fuji was not the only one. It should not have to walk through by turns. It was made with many routes, which could be walk with various purposes of pilgrimage.

(The reason why there are no women on the map)

Mountain Fuji’s also had a mountain spirit and it was a woman. Her name was ‘konohananosakuyahime (コノハナノサクヤビメ)’ and she was a god of blooming flowers. As a god of mountain Fuji, she was enshrined at Shingen shrine. However, one ironic thing is, women could not climb the mountain and they were banned even though the mountain spirit was woman….


Contributor: HyoEun
March 29, 2017