- Hundreds descend on Mount Fuji for start of climbing season
- Extra interest expected from World Heritage listing
- Concerns about damage and littering if too many tourists come
The inclusion of Mount Fuji in the UNESCO World Heritage list recently has spurred a huge reaction among international travelers and agencies.
This Monday, as normal, hundreds of hikers flocked to Mt Fuji for the beginning of the summer climbing season.
Climbers started to ascend the 3,776-meter peak as early as 3 a.m. to watch the sunrise from the summit. They lit torches and walked in long winding queues along the path that leads up the mountain.
So numerous were the climbers in their colorful outfits it looked a little like a busy morning in a Tokyo subway station.
Worshiped for centuries
The cone-shaped mountain has been worshiped in Japan for centuries. It is considered the symbol of this island country home to a reported 118 volcanoes.
While Mt Fuji was already popular among tourists, the UNESCO World Heritage status will spark a new wave of interest, say local officials.
According to The Japan Times, Japan Travel Bureau Corp. announced Monday a series of day trips for foreigners, accompanied by English-speaking tour guides.
East Japan Railway Co. also offered a 50% discount on tickets for people who use the Chuo Line to visit the mountain.
Risk of erosion
Environmentalists warn the extra tourists pose potential environmental problems, such as erosion or littering.
It was reported that Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, where Mt Fuji is located, will collect entrance fees to the site on a trial basis this summer to help pay for its preservation.
Mt. Fuji attracts around 300,000 trekkers each year.