Where are we headed when the most climbed mountain on the planet has free WiFi at the summit? By M. Michael Brady
Mount Fuji, 60 miles southwest of Tokyo, is the world’s most-climbed mountain. It now is the world’s most wired by wireless one, with Wi-Fi coverage at eight hotspots, including the summit.
Fujisan (the transliteration of its name in Japanese) has a summit elevation of 12,388 feet, the highest in Japan. It’s a stratovolcano, which means that it’s built up of alternate layers of lava and ash. It erupted last in 1707-1708 and now is dormant and snow-capped for eight months or more a year. Fujisan is not on public land, but is privately owned by the Sengentaisha Shinto Shrine, which acquired the mountain in 1609 and owns its summit in perpetuity. Despite that title, the Shinto priests regard Fujisan as being a world treasure, not belonging to any one person or group.
The mountain and its beautiful surroundings are well-known symbols of Japan. The UNESCO World Heritage List recognizes 25 sites of cultural interest within the locality, including the mountain itself, shrines, lodging houses, lakes, hot springs, caves and wooded areas.
The first ascent of the summit was made in 663 by an anonymous monk. The first ascent by a foreigner was made in 1868 by Ratherford Alcock (1809-1897), the first British diplomat to live in Japan. Today, the annual two-month climbing season is in summer when the peak is snow-free. It attracts record numbers of hikers, some 285,000 in the summer of 2014, according to official statistics. In climbing terms, it’s a walk-up, on the four trails to the summit, named for their lowest elevation trailheads: Yoshida, Subshiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya. Along the trails there are huts that provide food services and overnight lodgings, which are popular with hikers who want to view sunrise from the summit.
The mountain is divided into ten stations, of which the first is at its foot and the tenth at its summit. There are paved roads to the four 5th stations, from which most people start their hikes to the summit. Compared to ascents of mountains elsewhere, those of Mount Fuji are well served by public transport. For instance, the Fujinomiya 5th station is closest to the summit and is easily accessible from the railway stations of the Tokaido Shinkansen high-speed rail line.
Mount Fuji was first made known in the USA by University of Chicago professor and populist educator Frederick Starr (1858-1903), who gave several lectures on his ascents of its summit at assemblies of the Chautauqua (adult educational movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries).
Today, NTTdomco, a telecommunications company, has teamed up with the Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures (districts) in which the mountain is located, to offer Wi-Fi service, as part of an incentive to attract more foreign visitors, that in turn is part of Japan’s expansion of its Wi-Fi coverage ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. During the summer climbing season, users may access the Wi-Fi by entering a user ID and password provided in fliers in English, Chinese, and Korean that are distributed at trailheads. The service is available for 72 hours from the time a user first logs in.
Wi-fi coverage by NTTdomco.
Fujisan on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Official Mount Fuji website.
Japan guide (tourism) on Mount Fuji.