Japan looks at curbs as swarms of tourists defile sacred Mount Fuji

FUJIYOSHIDA: On a grey, rainy Saturday a steady stream of tour buses arrive at a base station of Japan’s Mount Fuji depositing dozens of lightly dressed foreign tourists in front of souvenir shops and restaurants. The scene evokes a theme park image, not the veneration most Japanese would expect below the 3,776-metre mountain worshipped as sacred by the Japanese, and a source of pride for its perfectly symmetrical form.
Mount Fuji, which straddles Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures in eastern Japan, has always been popular with local and overseas tourists. But a recent surge in inbound tourists to Japan has led to extreme levels of pollution and other strains, authorities say, adding they may be forced to take drastic measures such as restricting the number of visitors by making the mountain only accessible by a yet-to-be-built tram system. “Fuji faces a real crisis,” Masatake Izumi, a Yamanashi prefecture official said on Saturday.
Mount Fuji was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site 10 years ago, but it came with conditions that Japan reduce overcrowding and environmental harm. However, overcrowding has worsened. “Subaru”, the fifth and largest base station, had about 4 million visitors this summer, a 50% jump from 2013. Despite the frenetic pace of cleaning by janitors, businesses, and volunteers, social media is rife with posts about soiled bathrooms and mounds of litter along the climbing path.

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