The title of the map, Fuji ryōdō ichiran no zu 富士両道一覧之図, literally means “the illustration of the two paths of Mount Fuji”. The height of Mount Fuji is 3776 meters which equals to approximately 12,389 ft. It is the highest mountain in Japan. The location of Mount Fuji is in between Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture. Mount Fuji is a very popular tourist site for numerous travelers all around the world. Despite its quiet appearance, Mount Fuji is actually a volcano and the last time it was active was back in the year 1708.

Mount Fuji is an important symbolic existence of Japan and it is very famous across the world. Many tourists would visit the Mount Fuji on their trip to Japan. Mount Fuji’s significance is apparent in this quote: “A large crowd milled around it as politicians, pundits, and policymakers, speaking from a nearby stage, loudly condemned the ‘privatization’ of Fuji, ‘symbol of the Japanese people’ …” (Bernstein, 51) According to the data provided online with the map, it was painted or created in the 8th month of the year 1859. The time period that this map was illustrated was labelled as was the Ansei period(安政)which was before the Manen period and after the Kaei time period. The Ansei time period lasted from roughly the year 1854 to the year 1860. During this particular time, Japan was beginning to be modernized near the end of the Edo period which is also known as Bakumatsu. This map was painted by an artist called Utagawa Sadahide and the collaborator of this map is called Komakichi Moriji.

Click here to see the entire image on the UBC maps collection site.


This is a comparison of the routes of climbing Mount Fuji that are illustrated in the map and the mountain routes today. As one can see, there are similarities and differences of the mountain routes. In the map “Fuji Ryōdō Ichiran no Zu”, the mountain routes were illustrated in two different colours which are red and yellow. The purpose of the colours red and yellow is probably to indicate the two different routes of climbing up to the top of the mountain.

Despite the different colours, there are several similarities of the Mount Fuji climbing route of the Edo Period and today. The yellow route that is being labeled in the map is likely to be identified as the Gotemba trail at the modern day Mount Fuji. The location and position of the yellow route and the location of the Gotemba trail is roughly the same or similar. Furthermore, the entrance of the route Gotemba 御殿場 is labeled on the bottom of the yellow route in the map and it is quite close to the Subashiri route 須走口. In the map of the mountain routes on the right, the blue route is the Fujinomiya trail, the green one is the Gotemba trail, the red one is the Subashiri trail, and the yellow is the Yoshida trail. The labels of the places of the route are quite similar in general. Moreover, even the mountain, Houeizan, remains the same. Houeizan is the biggest lateral volcano near Mount Fuji and was generated by the big eruption that took place in around the year 1707.

There are also differences between the mountain routes in the map and the routes of climbing the Mount Fuji today. For example, there are four distinct routes to climb up the Mount Fuji today, but the routes in the map is not as clear and distinctive. There seems to be numerous labels or names of the stops of the mountain routes in the map, but the order of the labels are not as clear or easy to follow as the one on the right. Another difference of the Mount Fuji illustrated in the map and the modern day Mount Fuji is the name of the peak of the mountain. The name of the peak of the mountain has changed a little bit, but it still has the same reference to Asama. In the map that was created in the Edo period, the peak of the mountain was simply labeled as Asama. However, the peak of the mountain is labeled as Asama Sengen Okunomiya. It is a temple located on the peak of Mount Fuji and was constructed by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first Tokugawa shogunate of that time and the history of the initial construction of the temple is mentioned in the research by Berstein: “…the new shogunate funded the reconstruction of the shrine’s main hall of worship, which had burned to the ground in 1582.” (Berstein, 55)

The religious significance of the Sengen temple is also apparent in the research by Berstein: “Over the ensuing centuries, other institutions dedicated to worshiping Fuji’s Sengen deity, but unbeholden to Sengen shrine…” (Berstein, 53) In addition to Asama, the peak of the mountain is also labeled with honzon dainichinyorai and yakushi. The phrase, honzon dainichinyorai, refers to mahavairocana or vairocana and is an important Buddha figure. Furthermore, the word yakushi refers to the healing Buddha. As one can see, the influence from Buddhism on this map of Mount Fuji is significant. It also further suggests the important role that Buddhism or religion as a whole had been playing during that particular period of time. It is possible that those names were given to the peak of the Mount Fuji because this particular mountain was thought to be or treated as a sacred place to a certain extent and this belief further adds a sense of spiritual significance to the Mount Fuji. Another difference between the old Mount Fuji and the present-day Mount Fuji is the name of the Sunabashirimichi 砂走り道. In the map, Fuji ryōdō ichiran no zu, this path or trail is simply labeled as Sunabashirimichi. However, the same path is labeled as gezanmichi sunabashiri 下山道.

One important detail about of this map is the western influence that is apparent in the illustrations. The light blue pigment that was used to paint the sky above the Mount Fuji was produced in Europe. Therefore, it is possible that there were ties or connections between the Western countries and Japan at a quite early time period in order for the goods such as paints to be imported to Japan.

The significance of Mount Fuji is also apparent in various Japanese literary works and sources including paintings, waka, monogatari, haiku, and kanshi. For example, Mount Fuji is mentioned in the ninth episode of the Ise Stories. The rough meaning of the first few lines of this episode is that “when you look at Mount Fuji, there is white snow that has been falling and accumulating even though it is the end of May. This mountain is the mountain that is known to be unaffected by seasons”. Furthermore, Mount Fuji is mentioned in a classic literary work called Taketori monogatari which is also known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. This literature piece was written in the tenth century and it is said to be the oldest Japanese tale. Mount Fuji is suggestively referred to as “the mountain that is closest to the moon” at the end of the tale. Also, Mount Fuji is apparent in waka such as Manyoshu and One Waka from A Hundred People on Mount Fuji 富士山百人一首 which was originally known as The Tanka of Mount Fuji. It is interesting that it was likely that many people in the Heian period did not have the chance to visit or see the Mount Fuji in person. Therefore, Mount Fuji was thought to be a volcano that was the source of inspiration for many people based on their imagination. Mount Fuji was often used to describe the feelings or passions of love and the smoke of the volcano was used as a metaphor for expressing the ideas of “burning feelings” ,”intense passion”, or “eager longings”. In the Kamakura period, Mount Fuji was thought to be a beautiful and sacred place and also a place for religious austerities to visit. In the Edo period, Mount Fuji was no longer a place only for the mountain ascetics to visit. Rather, it was visited by ordinary people as well. After the Meiji period, the fame and significance of the Mount Fuji in the world was more acknowledged to a certain extent and this is apparent in one of the tanka in The Tanka of Mount Fuji.

A photo that I took while traveling in Japan in the summer of 2014.

Even though it might be a little difficult to see Mount Fuji clearly in this photo, the real Mount Fuji was magnificent and breathtaking. The scenery looked mysterious because of the fog and the clouds that seemed to be surrounding it. The mountain was not very clear to see but its outline was vaguely recognizable from our bus as were were driving by. Mount Fuji looked enormous and it had a sense of calmness and tranquility as it quietly sat there.


Works Cited

Bernstein, Andrew. “Whose Fuji? Religion, Region, and State in the Fight for a National Symbol.” Monumenta Nipponica 63.1 (2008): n. pag. Web. 28 March 2016.

「世界遺産 富士山とことんガイド」,<; 2016年4月5日アクセス.


Image Source


Contributor: Alice Jin (Sheng Hui)

(Edited by Elle Marsh)