Japan’s Iconic Mount Fuji Shuts Its Trails Amidst Overtourism Crisis
Mount Fuji, the beloved 12,388-foot UNESCO World Heritage site in Japan, will close its trails to visitors for the remainder of the year due to the overwhelming influx of tourists causing environmental degradation.
Tourist Overload: Local authorities have expressed concerns over the escalating environmental challenges posed by the surge in visitors, a phenomenon exacerbated by the post-pandemic tourism boom. The fifth base station, commonly referred to as “Gogome” and located halfway up the mountain, is particularly overwhelmed, accommodating 90% of the visitors. The primary access route from Tokyo, the Fuji Subaru Line, faces congestion from a mix of buses, taxis, and electric vehicles.
Risk of Irresponsible Hiking: The popularity of “bullet climbing,” where hikers ascend and descend Mount Fuji in a single day, has led to a surge in rescue requests, with a significant portion coming from non-Japanese tourists. Despite the dedication of janitors, local businesses, and volunteers, efforts to combat littering and maintain clean facilities along the paths have proven challenging.
Radical Solutions: Governor Kotaro Nagasaki of Yamanashi prefecture, elected in 2019 with a mandate to address overcrowding issues, has proposed radical measures. These measures include a ban on passenger buses and cars, replacing the Fuji-Subaru access road with a light-rail train service, and implementing a substantial roundtrip fare increase to 10,000 yen ($68). These changes are aimed at attracting a more discerning demographic to the site.
Rallying for Change : The crisis of overcrowding on Mount Fuji has sparked grave concerns among conservationists and authorities. Yasuyoshi Okada, President of ICOMOS Japan, emphasized the imperative need for addressing overtourism to safeguard the sacredness of Mount Fuji and preserve its UNESCO World Heritage status. Masatake Izumi, an official from Yamanashi prefecture, pointed out that littering and the escalating CO2 emissions are among the most pressing issues.
“Mount Fuji is confronting a genuine crisis,” Izumi conveyed to reporters just before the temporary closure of the trails. “The situation has spiraled beyond control, and we fear that Mount Fuji’s allure may soon be marred to the extent that nobody would wish to climb it.”