Mount Fuji (富士山) is the tallest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters. Having last erupted in 1707, the mountain, which is still an active volcano, sits between Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures west of Tokyo and the cities of Gotemba, Fujinomiya, and Fujiyoshida surround it. It has become, throughout the history of Japan, a national symbol of the country and is often depicted in imagery and photography of Japan.
Standing at 3,776 meters or 12,388 feet, Mount Fuji is a geographical centerpoint of the main island of Honshu. It is also part of the Fuji-Hakone Izu National Park and a stratovolcano. Geologically, the mountain has four distinct phases in its development. The first phase, the Sen-komitake phase is represented by its andesite core. The second phases is the Komitake Fuji, a basalt layer formed more than 500,000 years ago. The Old Fuji phase covered that layer about 100,000 years ago and the top layer or New Fuji was formed about 10,000 years ago.
Today, Mount Fuji is considered an active, but low risk volcano with the last recorded eruption starting on December 16, 1707 and ending on January 1, 1708 in the midst of the Edo period. This eruption, or the great Hoei Eruption as it is called spewed ash and cinder across Japan.
The history of Mount Fuji in Japanese recorded annals starts in 663 with the first ascent is believed to have been made by an unknown monk. Until the Meiji Era, the summit of the mountain was considered sacred and only men were allowed to ascend it. The first foreigner to ascend the mountain was Sir Rutherford Alcock in 1860 and today it has become a highly popular tourist and climbing destination.
Throughout history, Mount Fuji has been popularized by Japanese artists with it appearing in many works including Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji and One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji pieces. It is also mentioned in almost every major piece of Japanese literature dating back to the Heian Period and in numerous poems.
Located at the base of the mountain is the Aokigahara Forest, known throughout Japanese history as a place of folk tales and legends, where demons, goblins, and ghosts haunted. During the 1800s when the destitute abandoned their young and elderly, this is where they would take them. Behind the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, it is the second most frequent site of suicide in the world with more than 500 people having committed there since the 1950s and a high amount of 80 in 2002.