Introduce Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is also known as Fujiyama, Fuji-YoNama andFujisan. It is a cone-shaped volcanic mountain. Its last eruption happened in 1707. Mount Fuji is 12,388 feet, and it is the highest mountain in Japan. Mount Fuji as tall as the cloud. The top of the Mount is always full of snow. Mount Fuji is the most sacred mountain. Mount Fuji is located on the island of Honshu. (Whalen,2) Mount Fuji is the most famous mountain in Japan. Mount Fuji added to the World Heritage Site in 2013. Mount Fuji is pilgrim place, and there are many literary works base on Mount Fuji. Therefore Mount Fuji is the representative of Japan, and it is very sacred.

Literary works based on the Mount Fuji

During Japanese era 713, Japanese starts to write fudoki (風土記)that report provincial geography, culture, agriculture.Etc. There is one fodoki called “Hitachi no Kuni Fudoki (常陸国風土記) “has recorded a story about Mount Fuji. There is a deity of heaven travel all around Japan. The deity visits Mount Fuji first. Mount Fuji refuses deity’s request to stay in Mount Fuji overnight because Mount Fuji believes that it does not need deity’s blessing. Mount Fuji already has the perfect shape and the high peak. Then, the deity visits the Mount Tsukuba inside the Hitachi province. Mount Tsukuba lets deity stay and offering food humbly. As a result, Mount Fuji always has snow covering the peak, and it is always cold. On the other hand, Mount Tsukuba is very colorful with the season changing.
Later, there are many legends about Mount Fuji come out. In the 10th-century Japanese fiction prose narrative called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter(竹取物語)”. The book talks about a bamboo cutter called Taketori no Okina finds a little girl inside the bamboo when he is cutting the bamboo. Taketori no Okina brings the little girl home. Taketori no Okina and his wife treat the little girl as their own daughter and name her Kaguya-hime which means “princess of flexible bamboos scattering light”. Three months later, the little girl grows up and the news of her beauty spread. Therefore, many young men come to Taketori no Okina and ask for marry Kaguya-hime. The emperor also become one of the men ask for marry Kaguya- hime. However, Kaguya-hime refuses all of them. Kaguya-hime is the fairy of the moon. And she has to go back to the moon on the August 15th in the third year. Before Kaguya-hime returns to the moon. Kaguya-hime leaves elixir of immortality for her parents. Taketori no Okina does not live forever without his daughter. Taketori no Okina hands the elixir of immortality to the emperor. The emperor burns the elixir of immortality and the letter on the peak of the highest mountain. Therefore, the word immortality, Fushi不死(never dead) became the name of the mountain – Mount Fuji. Therefore, Japanese solider will have the figure of Mount Fuji on their clothes. They believe that Mount Fuji means Fushi.

The religion based on Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji used to be treated as a sacred mountain, because of the volcanic eruption. People believe that Mount Fuji has the power of fire and water. (Earhart)
First, Mountain valued more because it is suitable for Buddhism practice. Around six century C.E. Japanese get influence from Chinese religion. During that time, Buddhism is the main religion in China. Taoist notions and Confucian ideas are also popular. Therefore, people believe that the best place for meditation is a flat area deep in the mountains base on the Buddhism sutra.(Earhart). So, the mountain has more meaning.
Second, because there are building and rites are located on the mountain peak and mountainside. Therefore, climbing mountain is also a religious practice. For example, the Fuji pilgrimages. (Earhart). Mount. Fuji uses to be a sacred place that people can only look at but not able to climb because of the volcanic eruption. Later, climbing Mount Fuji has become a religious practice. The pilgrimage route to the summit of Mount Fuji has been establish on the fourteenth century. There are two cultic related to Mount Fuji: fire rituals and climbing the mountain.

The Fuji-ko (富士講) performs fire ceremonies before people climbing the mountain, and burn the mini straw replicas Mount Fuji. (Brockman, 355) Just like the picture below on the left side. During Edo period, some people might live too far away from Mount Fuji. They cannot afford to go to Mount Fuji, and women are not allowed to climb Mount Fuji. Therefore, people contribute a mini Mount Fuji on the direction of Mount Fuji so that they can pray to the mini Mount Fuji. (Brockman,355).
“Pilgrims starts at a shrine at the base of the mountain. Each of the routes has ten rest station…the most popular route has ninety-nine switchbacks.” (Brockman, 355). The six people on the right-hand side of the picture are the people who are climbing the mountain.

Third, these later develop to express the mixture of tradition. (Earhart).
The key point of all the legend about Mount Fuji is Asama Shrine (浅間神社).”In Kakugyo’s time, the two chief religious institutions devoted to Mt. Fuji were the Fuji Sengen (or Asama) Shrine 富士浅間神社.”(Tyler,252). Asama Shrine still has 1300 branches nowadays. Therefore Asama shrine still have a large influence in Japan as we can see from the number. During Edo period, there are many religions base on Mount Fuji. These religions are the new religions that mix Shintoism and Buddhism. During this time, Assma Shrine also becomes a “bodhisattva” in Assma. Mount Fuji is very important in religions believes at that time. (Earhart)

“Fuji ascetic Kakugyo 角行 (書行藤佛)(1541- 1646), the founder of the Edo- period (1600-1868) cult of Mt. Fuji.” (Tyler, 252). During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, society and religion are mixed together because of the warring state. “ The central message and key leader of Fuji religiosity came not from Murayama and its professional Shugendo priests but from the ranks of the common people – a wandering practitioner named Kakugyo.” (Earhart). Kakugyo Tobustu Ku is the right-hand side figure of the two mountain ascetics featured on the map. The name Kakugyo Tobustu Ku is meaningful. Kaku means “square”, Gyo means “practice” , To can be read as “fuji”, Butsu is the name of the Buddhism and Ku means honor. Therefore, the name Kakugyo Tobutsu Ku means square, fuji, practice buddha and honor.

Kakugyo Tobustu Ku has two great disciples. One is Jikigyo Miroku 食行身禄 (1671-1733)and Murakami Kosei 村上光清 (1682-1759. These two people are great sixth-generation successors that turned the cult into a mass movement. (Tyler, 253). Jikigyo Miroku is the figure above that on the left side. Miroku means Maitreya 弥勒 in Buddhism which is the Buddha who is to come. Jikigyo Miroku gets the name Miroku 身禄 from Fuji deity directly (Tyler,261). Jikigyo Miroku’s death launched the Fuji cult as a mass movement. Jikigyo fasted to death on the height of Mt.Fuji. Jikigyo Miroku uses his death to feed the world. (Tyler, 261)

During that time, Japan has many religion bases on the nature worship. The religion base on the nature worship still has influence till now. All these worship and religions are the people want to have some supernatural that can help their life, make their dream come true by using a fantasy way. That is the original Japanese religions. It related to Earhart has mentioned: “ At Fuji, as is true within all of the Japanese religion, power- even destructive force – may be venerated as well as feared, worshiped at the same time as it is pacified. “ (Asasm shirne)

In conclusion, the religion base on Mount Fuji is a mixture of Shintoism, Buddhism, Taoism and some folk belief. All these elements reflect that the relationship between Mount Fuji and Japanese.

Reference:
1.Whalen, Ken. Fuji, Mount. Sage Knowledge, 2017,
http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/10.4135/9781412953924.n437. Access Mar 26, 2017.
2.Earhart, Byron. Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan. The University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
3.Brockman,Norbert C. Encyclopedia of sacred places. 2011.
4. Tyler Royall, The Book of the Great Practice: The Life of the Mt. Fuji Ascetic Kakugyō Tōbutsu Kū. Nanzan University, 1993.

 

Contributor: Yuly
March 27, 2017