Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, which is height 3,776 meters and it is a cone shape active volcano, which located at Honshu Island. Mount Fuji is an active volcano. Its volcanic activity contributes it to become a focus of religious devotion, as well as poetic inspiration. In 2013, Mount Fuji was designated by UNESCO when Mount Fuji was made a World Heritage Site for being a sacred place and the object of artistic inspiration.

Fujisan no zu was created by Sawaguchi Seiō in 1848, during Tokugawa period. Fujisan no zu was made using the woodcutting technique. When the map is flat, the size is 91.4 x 96.5 cm. However, a unique feature of this map is that it can be folded into a three-dimensional map, which reflects the cone shape of the mountain itself. The focus of this map is the sacredness of the mountain and the sacred places on Mount Fuji. The map includes pilgrimage routes, temples, statues, meditation caves, shrines, and other important sacred points of interest. Therefore, the target audiences for this map are worshippers, ascetic practitioners and pilgrims who intend to travel to the mountain by following the different signals on the map. These signals show the ways to climb the mountain, and also show different sacred places. The following analysis will focus on the sacredness of the mountain with a specific focus on Shugendō, Fuji-kō, and the fujiko cult.


The Sacred Mountain

Fujisan no zu is a map which focuses on the sacredness of Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji has a long history, and people considered the Mount Fuji as a god. The volcanic activity during 8th and 9th centuries led locals performing pacification rites and reading Buddhist sutras in order to pay respects to the mountain. At that time, Mount Fuji was given the status of god, which led to the construction of Sengen shrines, and the beginning of worshipping Mount Fuji. Some of these Shinto shrines are marked on Fujisan no zu, such as the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine. The following analysis will focus on how Fujisan no zu evolved into a place for ascetic practice, Shugendō, and pilgrimage, Fuji-kō, which led to the emergence of the Mount Fuji or fujiko cult.

Shugendō is the practice of mountain ascetics in Japan. This practice can be seen as a mix of Buddhist, Daoist, and Shinto practices. Fuji-kō were Shinto sects from the Edo period which were dedicated to the worship of Fujisan, and who were responsible for elite Mount Fuji pilgrimages. The fujiko cult was established by Kakugyō Tōbutsu. He unifed the various sacred and religious Mount Fuji practices, and made popular pilgrimage possible.

Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine

This evolution began with the mountain’s early status as a god, called kami. There are many stories from the 8th and 9th centuries that establish the mountain as a sacred place for elite practitioners. One of these stories involves En no Ozunu, a Buddhist ascetic, who is the founder of Shugendo. These stories relate how he would fly to the top of Mount Fuji every night to practice ascetics and Buddhist austerities. These stories said that he is the first person to climb summit of Mount Fuji, but it is not known if he actually climbed the mountain. The practices of En no Ozunu inspired other Buddhist ascetic mountain practitioners.

Hitoana & Tainai Cave

Fujisan no zu has many posts which indicate where meditation caves are. One of the most famous of these caves is the Hitoana cave. According to the beliefs, this cave is where the mountain goddess of Fuji, Sengen Daibosatsu lives. According to the legend, the founder of Fuji-kō, Hasegawa Kakugyo, entered this cave to practice ascetics and meditation, and then disappeared because he transcended to Nirvana. There were 230 monuments near the cave. These monuments were built to pray and pay homage to Kakugyo. These monuments were built by different sects of Fuji-ko, and they are also marked on the map. The practice of Shugendo on Mount Fuji continued to grow during the Heian period (795-1186). Another one of the caves on the map is Tainai, which means “womb”, and is believed to be the birthplace of Sengen, the god of Mount Fuji.

Hitoana cave

Kakugyō Tōbutsu & Jikigyō Miroku 食行身禄

One of the noticeable features on Fujisan no zu is two pictures of famous mountain ascetics. These two men are Kakugyō Tōbutsu (1541-1646), and his successor Jikigyō Miroku. Kakugyō is recognized as the founder of the Mount Fuji Cult, who combined the various beliefs related to the mountain.These two men were the successors of other important Mount Fuji practitioners of Shugendo. Moreover, these two men are included on the map because of their importance for the practice of popular pilgrimage.

2 men
Right: Kakugyō   Left: Jikigyō

About Kakugyō Tōbutsu & Jikigyō Miroku 食行身禄

One of the most important predecessors to Kakugyō is En no Ozunu, whose practices and beliefs were formed the foundations of Shugendo. En no Ozunu have him fly to the top of Mount Fuji, and the stories associated with Matsudai, who have him climbing the mountain many times. While En no Ozunu is considered to be the first yamabushi, which means one who prostates on the mountain, Matsudai is seen as the founder of the Fuji-ko movement and the father of Murayama Shugendo. He actually walked to the top of Mount Fuji many times. According to Earhart, “Matsudai established the vertical structure of Murayama Shugendo, and Raison elaborated its horizontal structure. In the early fourteenth century Raison was responsible for organizing the pattern for climbing Fuji, practicing asceticism and devotions at various shrines and temples.” The important fact is that civilians can now climb the mountain, which leads the development of pilgrimages. However, the pilgrimage routes were still under control of Murayama Shugendo, and the group maintained a strict hierarchy over all the proceedings on the mountain. However, the elitist connections of the Murayama Shugendo left people to find someone different, which opened the door for Kakugyō.

The two men on the map emerged from this tradition, but not as ascetics from the Murayama Shugendo school. Kakugyō emerged as an important leader at this time because he was not from the Murayama Shugendo tradition. Kakugyo brought various practices together which were connected to Mount Fuji and unified them under the Fuji-kō cult. His unifying ideas and practices brought the different ascetic and pilgrimage practices together and united them became the basis for popular pilgrimages. Even though his belief utilized a great deal of Murayama Shugendo thought, he traced his lineage to En no Ozunu, whom he encountered in a revelation. En no Ozunu told Murayama that it was his duty to bring peace and success to war-torn Japan, which he could do this by practicing ascetics in the Hitoana cave. Through ascetic practices, it was revealed to Kakugyo that through asceticism and pilgrimage, the order of the universe could be restored.

The second ascetic on the map is Jikigyō Miroku, who was Murayama’s successor, and who continued the tradition of the fujiko cult. He dedicated himself to give relief to people, and he fasted himself to death at the Eboshi-iwa rock. These two men helped popularize the Mount Fuji pilgrimage, and expand the pilgrimage routes up to the mountain.



Earhart, Byron. “Mount Fuji and Shugendo.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (1989): 205-226.

“Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration,” UNESCO, list/1418/

Fumiko, Sugimoto. Cartographic Japan. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2016.

Gill, Andrea K. “Shugendō: Pilgrimage and Ri tual in a Japanese Folk Religion,” Pursuit -eJournal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee 3, no. 2, (2012): 49-65.

“Hitoana Fuji-ko Iseki,” Official Travel Guide: Yamanashi,


Contributor: Charlotte Hsu
Published April 22, 2018