Fees introduced and climbing numbers limited in attempt to address Mount Fuji overtourism

In bid to curb overtourism, Japanese authorities limit access to 4,000 climbers per day from July 1

Mount Fuji was named a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site in 2013. AFP
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Climbers seeking to tackle Mount Fuji in Japan will soon be required to book a slot and pay a fee following the introduction of new rules aimed at curbing overtourism.

From July 1, the Yoshida Trail on the Yamanashi side of the 3,776-metre mountain will be restricted to 4,000 climbers per day.

A symbol of Japan, Mount Fiji was designated a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site in 2013 and used to be a place of pilgrimage. Today, it is a magnet for climbers intent on reaching the top to see the sunrise. But concerns have been growing about the safety of those who rush to the summit as well as the rubbish that is left behind.

According to the Japan's environment ministry, Mount Fiji attracted 221,322 climbers in 2023. That is close to the pre-pandemic level and officials are expecting more visitors this year. Just a few weeks ago, a town in the Shizuoka area erected a giant black screen to block a view of Mount Fuji after complaints from locals about the overcrowding.

The new rules mean those who seek to climb the famous mountain will have to pay a fee of 2,000 yen ($18). Of the 4,000 daily slots, 3,000 will be made available to book online, with the remaining 1,000 limited to climbers in person on the day of their climb. There will also be an option to donate an additional 1,000 yen ($9) for conservation.

Visitors will be able to book slots via the Mount Fuji climbing website, which is jointly run by the environment ministry and the mountain's two home prefectures, Yamanashi and Shizuoka.

Mount Fuji is divided into 10 stations and there are four halfway up the mountain, from where the Yoshida, Fujinomiya, Subashiri and Gotemba trails start the route to the top.

Under the new system, climbers must choose between a day hike or an overnight stay at several available huts along the trail. On the day of a climb, a QR code will be given to be scanned at one of the four higher stations.

Those who have not booked an overnight hut will be sent back down and not allowed to climb between 4pm and 3am. This is mainly to curb “bullet climbing” or rushing to the summit without adequate rest, which authorities say puts lives at risk.

Shizuoka prefecture, south-west of Mount Fuji, where trekkers can also access the mountain, has asked for a voluntary 1,000 yen ($6.40) fee per climber since 2014 and is considering additional ways to balance tourism and environmental protection.

Overtourism has become a growing issue at other destinations in Japan such as Kyoto and Kamakura as visitors flock to the country in ever-increasing numbers.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation, the country had more than 25 million visitors in 2023. That number is this year expected to surpass 32 million, the record that was set in 2019.

– With additional reporting from agencies

Updated: May 21, 2024, 11:09 AM