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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fujizuka - The Fake Mt. Fuji(s)

Regular readers will be aware that I never saw Mt. Fuji—the tallest mountain/still-active volcano in Japan—during my three+ years living in Japan.

People say it was just a combination of bad luck and crappy weather.

I mean… just because the stupid mountain should be visible from about one kilometer away doesn't mean I should be able to see it. After all, it's only 3,776.24 meters (12,389.2-feet) high.That's sarcasm, by the way.

It's why I think the whole Mt. Fuji thing is one of those (CONSPIRACY THEORY ALERT!!!) fake things created by the Japan Tourist Association, creating a fake Mt. Fuji that tourists and would-be seekers of wisdom or stupidity (if you climb it more than once, apparently) could ascend.

My theory involves mass hallucination, the Japan Tourist Association, complete with VR (virtual reality) 3D imaging, drugs and a con job that makes the moon landings (all six of them) seem like a walk in the park. You can read that HERE.

I'm nuts, right? Well… did you know that IS such a thing as a FAKE Mt. Fuji?

In fact, there were around 300 fake Mt. Fuji's constructed around the Tokyo area.

I'm not sh!tting ya.

These fake piles of rock are called fujizuka (富士塚)… and were supposed to be miniature replicas of Mt. Fuji were tourists could climb easily enough (they were essentially plain old hills or hillocks), and could gaze in wide wonder at the real Mt. Fuji.

I'm thinking the real Mt. Fuji was destroyed by the Allies at some point during WWII, but perhaps that's a thorazine-induced story for another day.

(I don't require any such medication or narcotic drug. I know, I don't believe it either. Let's just say my reality is far more fantastic than most people's fantasy.)

These fujizuka were were constructed from rocks and plants taken from the mountain itself—even soil from the summit of the purported real Mt. Fuji was placed upon the top of the fujizuka.

Why create fake Mt. Fuji(s) for people to climb?

Well… regardless of the era, Mt. Fuji is supposed to be a difficult and daunting trek, what with buffeting winds, cold at the top, a lack of oxygen… so much so, that people dropped dead all the time trying to seek wisdom by climbing it.

There's your wisdom.

New Fuji at Meguro, Tokyo - by Hiroshige, April 1857.
As well, if you were a woman, you weren't allowed to climb the sacred Mt. Fuji… something about that whole bleeding thing they do every few weeks…

It's the same reason that women aren't supposed to be allowed to be sumo wrestlers. Yes, that's the reason… although I do know that girls can do sumo (nowadays), it's just that once puberty and menstruation set in—you are not allowed to ever continue. But I bet that will change.

Anyhow, until a gaijin woman climbed Mt. Fuji (see HERE), no woman had ever climbed it before. Nowadays… hey, menstruate all you like and enjoy the view.

How sacred is Mt. Fuji? Well, if you were going to climb it back in the old days - say before us dumb gaijin started to infest Japan - one had to wear white clothing, seeing as how the color white represents the sacred. How profane.

If you are doing any menstruating, however, reflect on the wisdom of wearing white clothing.

I'm kidding, of course.
In the early days of the Japanese empire, Mt. Fuji was revered as part of the Shinto belief system, and when Buddhism came, this Shinto mountain simply transformed itself into a Buddhist mountain.

Transformation within Japanese religion is easy.

The whole idea behind the sacredness of Mt. Fuji is the fact that it was once thought (and perhaps still is by some people) to be the incarnation of a spiritual god.

Anyhow… as you can see - lots of negatives to those people who wanted to climb Mt. Fuji in the old days.

It wasn't until the Edo jidai (Edo era) of 1603-1867, however, that the folks who lived in the Mt. Fuji area - the fujiko, or rather Mt. Fuji pilgrims and Mt. Fuji pilgrimage associations - thought to themselves - 'hey, how can we make the Fuji experience more enjoyable for all?'

So, if you build it, they will come.

The fujiko built the temples in and around Mt. Fuji and build the fujizukas well.

At its peak (no pun intended), there were over 200 fake Mt. Fuji hills.

Not a single Mt. Fuji has been built since 1930. Maybe.

Along with the never visible "real" (finger quotes) Mt. Fuji, 56 (I also read 58 in another source) fujizuka still exist as of 2015.

Open Garden at the Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa, Tokyo. By Hiroshige, August 1857. Fake Fuji has the path going up it.
Some of the fake fuji can be found at:
  • Teppozu Inari Shrine in the Hatchobori district;
  • Hatomori Shrine in Sendagaya;
  • Shitaya-sakamoto Fuji within the grounds of the Onoterusaki shrine;
  • Nagasaki Fuji beside the main shrine building of the Fuji Sengen shrine;
  • Ekoda Fuji within the grounds of the Ekoda Sengen shrine;
  • and at Shinagawa Shrine near Shinbanba station in Tokyo.
Now… if you were to buzz around Tokyo, you might note that there are quite a few hilly areas with the term 'fujizuka' in it. That's cool, because fujizuka doesn't mean 'fake Fuji' or 'little Fuji', rather it means 'hill to see Mt. Fuji'.

Now, everyone knows of the famous Japanese artist Hokusai, who created his famous, but incredibly inaccurately named "Thirty-Six Views Of Mt. Fuji" set of ukiyo-e art. There's 46. With the 'real Fuji' as his focus, he created images that even the casual viewer of art would recognize. See HERE for all the images -there's a link there to my Picasso photo album where I have scanned in all the images.

But, it was his contemporary, ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige, that did a few drawings of the fujizuka… which I have presented within this blog. It's from his collection known as One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. Edo is the old name for Tokyo.

The image in the middle is New Fuji at Meguro, Tokyo. It was built in 1829, and was one of the few Fuji replicas to actually be covered in grass and having a smooth look to it.

The usual representation of a fujizaka was to be made from those real blocks of lava from the real Fuji, piled up into a mass.

The image at the very top is known as Original Fuji in Meguro, Tokyo as it was constructed in 1812 - hence 'original' Fuji, despite it also being a copy of the real volcano.

The bottom image shows what looks like a fantastic scene of great beauty - but the entire thing is an image of a man-made garden - including the fujizuka in the back where you can see a dark green path. in fact, the land here is reclaimed from the waters.

All of these fake Fuji's - these fujizuka, there were constructed to be anywhere from one to 10 meters high. I would imagine the low-end fujizuka wouldn't tax the legs of too many people.

Kiyose Nakazato no Fujizuka. Image from Wikipedia. There are 10 steps or way stations, if you will just like there are on the real Mt. Fuji - if it exists.
So… the next time you feel the urge to climb Mt. Fuji to see the spectacular whatever it is you can see form the summit, perhaps a better view might be to climb one of the remaining fujizuka, and instead glimpse the majesty of the sacred deity that is Fuji.

I'd do it, but I probably wouldn't see anything.

Happy trails,
Andrew Joseph

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