Mount Fuji (富士山) (genre )

Fujisan (ふじさん)



"Mountains are sacred to the Japanese, but above all Mt. Fuji is the most sacred mountain of the country. The worship of Mt. Fuji is reported to have started from the very beginning of the country, and the Manyoshu contains many poems that give proof to the worship of the mountain by the people.

The sacredness of the mountain has naturally brought about the custom of making a pilgrimage to the mountain, and while it is not known clearly when such pilgrimages to Mt. Fuji actually commenced, it is believed that many people climbed the mountain to worship its spirit at a very early period. In a document written in June, 1500, it is mentioned that there was an endless chain of people climbing the mountain, and it is thus certain that the climbing of Mt. Fuji was already then quite popular among the people. The worship of Mt. Fuji subsequently developed into a sort of religious faith..."

Quoted from Mock Joya's Things Japanese, pp 553-554.


"Many myths are told of Mt. Fuji, and one of the oldest is that the mountain rose in a single night. An old woodsman who subsequently became the Rip Van Winkle of Japan saw it actually rising out of the flat land of Suruga.

Just as he was about to retire, a loud noise rent his ears. He thought it was a big earthquake, and carrying his little children he rushed out of his hut. He saw a great mountain rising where the land was flat, its peak wreathed in flames, and tongues of fire shooting out of it. The mountain was so grand that he named it Fuji (never die).

One day a priest visited him and asked if he prayed regularly. He answered that with his family he was too busy to pray. The priest drew a picture of the horrors of hell, and his rebirth as a toad or a worm." After that all he did was pray even though his wife scolded him that he was neglecting his familial duties. The woodsman felt that his wife's scolding was so severe that he walked out and abandoned his family altogether.

He climbed Mt. Fuji that he loved, and a rabbit passed his way. As he followed the animal, he saw a crevice in the mountain-side. He looked in and saw two women playing at a game of go (Japanese chess). He went in and watched the game, but the women took no notice of him. But one woman made a wrong move, whereupon he shouted, "That's wrong." Then as the women looked at him, they turned into foxes and ran away. He tried to follow, but his legs were stiff and he could barely move. Then he found that his whiskers had grown to his knees."

With difficulty the woodsman descended the mountain, but when he got to his home there was no hut there where he had lived. He asked an old woman where the hut had gone and she said that it hadn't been there for at least 300 years.

"The woodsman lived several years more. It is said that his spirit haunts the mountain when the full moon shines."

['Never die' as best I can tell would use 負 as the first character.]

(Ibid., p 201.)


In the collaborative series of prints on the 'Fifty-three Pairings for the Tōkaidō Road' there is a fan shaped cartouche at the top of each one. Within this cartouche is a description of the scene as described in Tōkaidō Texts and Tales: Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui by Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige, and Kunisada. On page 68, for number 14b, 'Hara' (原) it says:

"I will show here the origins of the name of Mount Fuji.

The daughter of an old bamboo cutter was a great beauty with snow-white skin, and the emperor issued repeated summons for her to join his court as imperial consort. She elected not to comply, however, and returned to heaven leaving him a letter and medicine for immortality (fushi. In his grief, the emperor had the letter and the medicine thrown away at the top of a lofty mountain in Suruga province. Since that time this mountain has been called Mount Fuji."

The accompanying text explains further on page 69:

"The story "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter," dated to the late ninth or early tenth century, is by an unknown author.

Kaguya-hime is found in a stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter. He and his wife raise the child and urge her to select a husband among her many celebrated suitors. Kaguya-hime, however, has no desire to marry, and only reluctantly agrees to give her hand to one of the five suitors who can succeed in the challenge she poses. In the end, the suitors are no match for their assigned tasks. The emperor himself desires to bring her to his palace, but she refuses him as well. Kaguya-hime's lunar family descends to take her back to their home on the moon, at which point all of her human memories and emotions will be lost."