Fuji-san: World Heritage Site

Japan Promotional photo
Japan Promotional photo featuring Mt. Fuji

During the 37th U.N.E.S.C.O. (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Committee Session, Mount Fuji was added to the World Heritage List. Really? For some reason, I had already assumed that Mount Fuji had been on this list. Another reason never to assume anything…

Japan Promotional photo featuring Mt. Fuji
Japan Promotional photo featuring Mt. Fuji

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about let me give you a hand. What do they do?

Directly from their site:

“UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values. It is through this dialogue that the world can achieve global visions of sustainable development encompassing observance of human rights, mutual respect and the alleviation of poverty, all of which are at the heart of UNESCO’S mission and activities.

The broad goals and concrete objectives of the international community – as set out in the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – underpin all UNESCO’s strategies and activities. Thus UNESCO’s unique competencies in education, the sciences, culture and communication and information contribute towards the realization of those goals.

UNESCO’s mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.”

Or, they are the part of the United Nations that reminds us that we have a lot in common as THE human race and should work together in learning and appreciating our global diversity.

I think they are trying to prove we all can get along and grow together.

Crazy clouds over Fuji-san
Crazy clouds over Fuji-san

Again, one of my assumptions about Japan was that since Mount Fuji was a major tourist attraction and icon for Japan it would be a no brainer to believe it was a World Heritage Site. However, famous mountains/tourist attractions and World Heritage are not the same thing.

What is World Heritage?

Again, from the site:

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage.”

Further more:

“What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage , adopted by UNESCO in 1972.”

So I’d like to imagine that if peaceful aliens from outer space came down for a global vacation and wanted to see places and relics that we as humans feel define us historically and culturally (globally and nationally), they would consult this Heritage list.

Japan Promotional photo featuring Mt. Fuji
Japan Promotional photo featuring Mt. Fuji

Also from the site, about Mount Fuji:

“The beauty of the solitary, often snow-capped, stratovolcano, known around the world as Mount Fuji, rising above villages and tree-fringed sea and lakes has long inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimages. Its representation in Japanese art goes back to the 11th century but 19th century wood block prints have made Fujisan become an internationally recognized icon of Japan and have had a deep impact on the development of Western art. The inscribed property consists of 25 sites which reflect the essence of Fujisan’s sacred landscape. In the 12th century, Fujisan became the centre of training for ascetic Buddhism, which included Shinto elements. On the upper 1,500-metre tier of the 3,776m mountain, pilgrim routes and crater shrines have been inscribed alongside sites around the base of the mountain including Sengen-jinja shrines, Oshi lodging houses, and natural volcanic features such as lava tree moulds, lakes, springs and waterfalls, which are revered as sacred.”

One of the more popular mythologies of Japan, involving Mount Fuji, is Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. The end of the tale essentially establishes why and how Fuji-san became volcanic. From what I’ve read so far, it’s a great fairytale.

“The Great Wave off Kanagawa” A famous woodblock print by artist Katsushika Hokusai
Notice Fuji-san in the background.

Personally I never knew of this list or UNESCO until my first trip to Japan back in 2008. We went to Kyoto and it’s been on the list since 1994. I remember seeing signs around town stating it’s World Heritage significance and you can feel the pride the natives have for this status. It’s an amazing place if you ever get to visit.

The USA have a few sites as well.


I’ve no burning desire to make the climb to the top of Mount Fuji but I wouldn’t flat out turn down an opportunity either. The surrounding country side is beautiful in the  summer and winter (I have yet to go over in the spring or fall). If you go in the winter heed the road warning signs. Buy me a drink sometime and I’ll tell you how we almost died going to an onsen on our way past Fuji-san… 

Mt. Fuji
The only GOOD photo I’ve taken myself of Mount Fuji.
My last attempts were thwarted by lingering clouds.

Hoped you learned something, or I at least sparked your curiosity.


Author: hikikomori78

American Hikikomori is an upcoming short film that explores the emotional struggles of a Japanese teenager named Isamu Fujihara, when he moves to America.

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