Mount Fuji, Japan is the latest destination facing the effects of overtourism, according to Euronews and statements from local authorities.
The sacred mountain overlooking the Pacific has UNESCO-recognised cultural and religious importance and is also a focus for hikers. Visitor numbers have increased dramatically since the mountain was designated as world heritage ten years ago, more than doubling between 2012 and 2019 to hit 5.1 million arrivals in Yamanashi prefecture, where most hikers “start their journey”, according to Euronews.
“There are definitely too many people on the mountain at the moment; the numbers are much higher than before,” Sakurai laments to CNN Travel.#overtourism #tourism #Hospitality #Pakistan #GilgitBaltistan #Traveller #Tourisminsights #Japan #Fuji #UNESCO #SustainableFuture pic.twitter.com/lbfY1o6hLB— Tourisminsights.pk (@Tourisminsight2) September 12, 2023
Over 65,000 hikers have reached the 3,776-metre summit (12,388 feet) since the walking season opened in July 2023, says CNN, an increase of 17% from pre-Covid times in 2019. It is feared the boom is set to continue, fed by post-Covid enthusiasm for travel and the return of Chinese tourists.
CNN has described “human traffic jams, foothills littered with garbage and inappropriately attired hikers – some attempting the ascent in sandals.”
Electric vehicles and visitor caps
Actions already taken to limit pollution and protect the site include capping visitor numbers at 4,000-a-day and only allowing private vehicles to approach the mountain if they are fully electric. However the visitor quota is hard to implement due to there not being any ‘gates’ or entryways where officials can monitor arrivals.
Meanwhile, the vehicle ban has had the effect of pushing visitors onto tour buses, which now bring thousands of visitors to the mountain every day, leading a regional governor to say the mountain is “screaming.”
As well as problems with pollution and litter, the huge number of visitors is raising safety concerns.
“Overtourism also entails numerous risks, including the safety of hikers,” said Masatake Izumi, a Yamanashi prefecture official and expert on the mountain, which is Japan’s highest peak, told reporters.
Climbing a nearly-4,000 metre is no mean feat and many tourists are under-prepared for the challenge. Rescue requests have increased. Tourist Rasyidah Hanan witnessed the problem, telling Euronews: “I think people should be filtered a little bit because some people were not ready to climb Mount Fuji.” She described other visitors “in light clothes until the 8th station and some of them looked sick.”
Mount Fuji has a tundra climate, averaging temperatures between 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and 26 degrees Celsius (79°F) during the months of May, June and October. That sounds pleasant enough. However, conditions are “alpine”, meaning there can often be sudden rain, hail, strong winds, and storms. At the summit, even in mid-summer, temperatures do not get much above five to eight degrees Celsius.
In addition to underpreparedness for the hiking conditions, Izumi drew attention to the risks of the sheer numbers of people crowded onto paths and mountainsides. “For example, if large numbers of people end up in a human traffic jam below the summit, there could be jostling and falls or falling rocks, which could lead to serious accidents. This is a very worrying possibility for us.”