Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest and much-climbed mountain, has lately been acknowledged as a priceless part of the world’s cultural heritage. But a climb to appreciate this heritage may now come with the hefty fee tag of 7,000 yen per person.
With the sacred mountain on the verge of attaining UNESCO World Heritage status, the number of climbers could skyrocket, placing additional strain on an environment which some say is already pushed to the limit. The results of a preliminary study on the issue conducted by Kyoto University’s Professor Koichi Kuriyama (Environmental Economics) were released on June 4. Professor Kuriyama came to the conclusion that to keep the number of climbers at current levels, “a 7,000 yen fee per person is necessary”.
To estimate how the number of visitors would decrease if a fee to climb the mountain was to be introduced, the study used statistical analysis to quantify the relationship between the number of climbers and the time and cost of travel.
Calculations showed that a 500 yen entry fee should decrease the number of climbers by 2%, a 1,000 yen fee by 5%, a 7,000 yen fee should result in the same number of climbers as last year, and slapping on a 10,000 yen fee should lower numbers to a mere 90% of last year’s approximately 318,000 climbers. We can only speculate as to how much the fee would need to be increased to make people run away from the mountain rather than climb it. Why stop there? Why not double or triple it?
Professor Kuriyama also notes that it’s not realistic that the entry fee alone will check the number of climbers, but a small entry fee could go towards preserving the environment and accident prevention.
Japanese netizens responded with a wide range of opinions:
-- “It’d be better to charge 3,776 yen…” (1 yen per meter of mountain height. This could have the additional benefit of forcing people to recognise that Mt Fuji is really a very high, serious mountain, and come prepared)
-- “No matter how much you charge, if climbers don’t behave with decency and good manners, this won’t change a thing.”
-- “It doesn’t seem right that the number of climbers has to be kept down because it’s being listed as cultural heritage.”
-- “That’s so expensive! It’ll probably reduce the number of visitors, but it’s too expensive.”
-- “I think that’s about right. Given that there are already too many climbers.”
-- “What if we make everyone pay 7,000 yen, and we end up with a lot of climbzillas, who start saying things like ‘It’s ridiculous to carry trash back home’ and ‘I already paid the cleaning fee!’”
The 7,000 yen fee does seem expensive, so climbing Mt Fuji may not be undertaken lightly in the future. If this is how it has to be, if this symbol of Japan is removed from the reach of people who are unable or unwilling to pay so much, would it have been better if it never became World Heritage listed at all?
There’s a Japanese proverb on the subject — “You’re a fool if you never climb it, and a fool if you climb it twice.” At this rate, if you climb Fuji twice, you must be an idiot. But before we complain too much, Mount Kilimanjaro charges a similar amount per day of climbing, while if you raise your sights to Mount Everest, you’re looking at a cool $35,000-$100,000. Mount Blanc will set you back a few thousand dollars.
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