Last Updated: May 31, 2023
Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha
F@$#ing typhoons! Right now, I am supposed to be traveling up to northern Japan on a bullet train to spend time in the mountains with a group of ascetics known as Yamabushi. Alas, these travel plans are now completely FUBAR due to the fury of Typhoon Hagibis, a storm that is being heralded as the worst typhoon in over a millennia. Stuck with the prospect of being trapped indoors for the next two days, possibly with no electricity, I’m going to make the most of the situation and cover a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for some time. This time, we’ll be taking a look at Mt. Fuji but not as a mountain to climb. Instead, we’ll delve into the peak’s ancient past as an object of spiritual worship. Note that this one might get a bit complex so be sure you’re settled and ready to read a heavy piece before proceeding.
To begin, understand that Mt. Fuji has been revered as a sacred mountain for as long as Japanese have lived on the main island of Honshu. Archeological evidence shows that as far back as Japan’s Jomon period (14,000 BCE — 1,000 BCE), people were revering the mountain in what can only be described as a form of proto-Shintoism. The current site was actually home to dual peaks that had emerged from the earth due to the crags sitting atop the junction of three tectonic plates. One day though, the old Mt. Fuji cataclysmically collapsed, leaving behind the current, new Mt. Fuji that we see today. I imagine it must have been a mighty shock for the hunter-gatherers living in the vicinity at the time.
Truth be told, little is known about what form the worship of Mt. Fuji took in the days of yore. Archeologists have done what they can to piece together what they can yet much has been shrouded by the mists of time. Much of the information on hand regarding the mountain as a religious site dates from the first millenia of the common era. For example, the first recorded ascent was only in 663 CE by an anonymous Buddhist monk. Before that, those following proto-Shintoism would have seen the peak as the home of the gods and not have dared to desecrate this hallowed ground with their presence. Obviously, this belief has changed over time but even today, people continue to view Mt. Fuji as a holy site.