Who owns Mt Fuji? The answer will probably surprise (and confuse) you

By Preston Phro

Japan is known across the world mostly for its varied and fascinating culture – from literature to music to amusing illustrations, there’s plenty to love about the country. But when it comes to physical symbols, there’s one thing that towers, literally, above all else: Mt Fuji.

Though the mountain was only recently added to the World Heritage List, it has been a symbol of Japan for centuries, a social and cultural landmark. So if you were asked who owned the mountain, you’d probably assume it was a national park or some other piece of government land.

But you’d be wrong.

So, let’s get this out of the way: Mt Fuji – or at least its peak – is privately owned land.

That’s the simple answer – unfortunately, the simple answer is nowhere near the full answer, so let’s take a closer look at the issue.

To begin with, the proud owner of Mt Fuji’s peak isn’t a person – it is actually part of Sengen Grand Shrine, which is mostly located in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture. The area belonging to the shrine is everything from the eighth stage of the mountain (3,250 meters) to the top (3,776 meters), with everything from the eighth stage down technically public land. However, this wasn’t always the case.

If we went a few centuries back in time, we’d find that the entire mountain was owned by Ieyasu Tokugawa, whose name you probably know from the Tokugawa Shogunate, the unifying government that essentially ended the Warring States Period. In 1606, he donated the peak to the shrine, which held ownership until the Meiji Period, when the emperor was reestablished as the supreme ruler of Japan.

During this period, the Meiji government took control of the shrine on Mt Fuji and most other shrines, making it all public land. This lasted until 1949 when the new Japanese constitution was established and created a separation between church and state and all the land that had been taken by the Meiji government was returned to the shrines. Except Mt Fuji.

This prompted Sengen Grand Shrine to bring a lawsuit, insisting that land was an important spiritual place for the shrine. Even though they won the lawsuit in 1974, the peak wasn’t properly returned until 2004. Well, if you owned Mt Fuji, would you want to give it up?

But this isn’t quite the end of the complications.

While Sengen Grand Shrine now technically owns the peak of Mt Fuji, there’s one little snag: It hasn’t been registered! How could that be? Did the priests have too much wine celebrating their victory and forget to head down to the city office to get everything officiated?

Not quite. As you probably know, Mt Fuji sits on the boundary between Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture. Unfortunately, that boundary all but disappears as far as the mountain is concerned – there’s no official line demarcating what is in Yamanashi and what is in Shizuoka. This means that it’s impossible for the shrine to register the land as its own.

Well, regardless of the technicalities, now you know: The next time you climb to the summit of Mt Fuji, you’re not just standing on one of Japan’s greatest symbols – you’re also standing on private property.

Sources: Naver Matome, Toretaten, Ashyura, Skyscraper and Moon, Fuji Akoako, Oricon Style

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Lost dog seen roaming the summit of Mt Fuji -- “Mt. Fuji Should Erupt by 2015”: Ryuku University Professor Emeritus -- Fresh Mount Fuji spring water without all the climbing

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The true greatness of Mt Fuji lies in the fact that it has survived the tens of thousands of cheap reproductions on calendars, postcards and souvenirs. It is easy to understand the Japanese proverb, "The Joy of Fuji-san is not to come and see, but to stay and observe." Sengen Grand Shrine is well known. A feud erupts over Mt Fuji?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Fuji san - beautiful mountain to look at, but REALLY boring to climb. After the 5th station the scenery doesn't really change from volcanic rock as far as the eye can see - that and the ankles of whomever is climbing in front of you. That being said, I'm still thinking about climbing it again this summer.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I've climbed it 27 times so I'm registering my ass as being owned by Mt Fuji

11 ( +11 / -1 )

I've heard so many people say that it's nothing special when you're on the mountain, but I found it beautiful when I climbed it. It's like being on the surface of the moon or something.

9 ( +8 / -0 )

"I've climbed it 27 times"

That's 26 times too many, Clippety!

"It's like being on the surface of the moon or something"

Except that the moon is warmer. It's freezing up there!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"I've climbed it 27 times..."

27 times? What's the old Japanese saying..."anybody would be a fool not to climb Mount Fuji once—but a fool to do so twice"

8 ( +8 / -0 )

If Mt. Fuji belongs to a Shinto shrine,logic follows that is owned in turn by the Jinja Honcho, the Vatican of Shinto.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

No, no, no. It's owned, or at least possessed, by Mother Nature. And of these days parts of it will be distributed far and wide in a violent eruption.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One day, I would love to see Mt Fuji in person xD

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Who cares who owns it? BTW, you don't "climb" Fuji, you walk up it. And a pleasant walk it was both times I did it -- a bit nasty on the legs coming down, however.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Another Useless Fact!

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

more like a steep walk hard to get to . Also enjoyed the view from Fuji city.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ClippetyClopFEB ... I've climbed it 27 times so I'm registering my ass as being owned by Mt Fuji

Wow. Many kudo's to you; I had thought my 7 times was an accomplishment but not any more.

Climbing at night you can't see anything on the way up; but the sunrise is FANTASTIC if you are not shrouded in clouds and being rained and snowed on.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There is one spot off the beaten road on the Mount that is very special to me for I and my love, now deceased, will always and forever be in my heart.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yep, this did confuse me. I'm not going to attempt to bend my head around it. But I wouldn't mind climbing Fuji just once. Maybe. That said, I'm not all that good with heights. As long as it's an easier climb than Mount Snowden in Wales, that's fine by me I guess.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What will be interesting is what kind of eruption it has next. Now if the shine owns it and it erupts can it be sued for damages. I would thin the shrines lawyers might want to check on it . Of course if they have not been able to regretter it, perhaps that will let them off the hook. Meanwhile what about the insurance companies and bank invested in the area? Will it bankrupt them? Might want to check you stock and bond portfolio. Considering the money tied up in the nuclear situation, will there their be any money for rebuilding in the area after an eruption?

Just some thoughts that come to mind if it was important to me in anyway. Since eruption will happen, one should be as prepared as possible.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have always loved the look of Mount fuji, this is good news, for it means if the owner ever wants to sell, I've got a chance to buy, I would of course keep it always open to the public, but, No litter,

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Interesting history, thanks. I still haven't climbed it, and if I haven't yet I probably won't. There's lots of beautiful hiking and mountains in my area, and while I do not at all contest the beauty and grandeur of Mt. Fuji, that's good enough for me for now.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

that's mine

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Has China claimed it yet? I'm sure they have an ancient manuscript to prove it's theirs.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Elsewhere on this site I read recently about the destructuion that will be caused when Mt Fuji errupts - which might be very soon.

If it is privately-owned, surely the owners will be legally liable and can be sued? Even if they can't be blamed for the erruption itself, they could be accused of not taking the necessary precautions to prevent the ensuing damage.

Now there's an interesting prospect for the lawyers to get their teeth into ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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