Mt. Fuji (Fujisan)
Fujisan was definitely the most beautiful and breathtaking sight I’ve seen so far in Japan. It may even be my top natural sight that I’ve seen anywhere in the world (Notre Dame is my top man-made sight). I would classify it as a “Must See” if you’re in Japan and have an even remote appreciation for nature.
Fujisan is 12,388 ft, making it pretty damn impressive (though, for perspective, there are some peaks in the Rockies that rise into the 14,000-something territory). I think (having seen both the Colorado Rockies and Fujisan) that it appears more impressive because of its shape and the fact that it’s essentially standing alone. There are other mountains in the area, but it stands alone in the fact that no other mountains are garbled onto it. You can clearly see its mostly smooth, nearly symmetrical, sloping outline and it’s volcanic conical top. It makes it more beautiful, and seem more gargantuan, than any mountain I’ve seen before.
Fujisan is one of Japan’s 3 Holy Mountains (note that it’s called “Fuji-“san”, and not “Fuji”-“yama”, which is the normal suffix for mountain; “-san”is more respectful). Next year it will become a Cultural World Heritage Sight. Mt. Fuji is an active volcano (and as of early 2013 has been even MORE active…eek) but it last erupted in the early 18th century.
We took a bus tour up to the fifth station, which is at about the tree line, and as high as you can go by vehicle and during the spring. In the summer you can hike up to the summit, but those trails are closed in May. At the fifth station there are souvenir shops (where you can buy what I believe is canned air from the summit) and restaurants and a small museum, as well as picturesque views of the summit and the surrounding valleys and mountains.
We also stopped at a park with beautiful pink flowers (“ground” sakura? was the translation I got from my Japanese-speaking friend), and gorgeous views of Mt. Fuji. There were of course numerous food stalls open here as well, as seems to be the case anywhere in Japan that may have tourists. (You will seriously never go hungry in this country).
So, if I had to wrap this up with one resound piece of advice, it would be GO TO MT. FUJI. It’s awesome. You won’t regret it, even if you end up spending a little more money on a sightseeing tour than you wanted.