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Japan ready to impose crowd control on Mount Fuji

Tokyo (AFP) – Japanese authorities are gearing up to impose crowd control measures for the first time on Mount Fuji this weekend for an expected holiday rush by thousands of sometimes ill-prepared trekkers, officials said on Thursday.

Japan’s famous snow-capped volcano outside Tokyo is open to climbers from July to September, drawing hundreds of thousands who often trek through the night to see the sunrise.

Combined with the return of foreign tourists after pandemic restrictions were lifted, this holiday weekend is expected to see a surge, with buses, trains and hotels booked up weeks in advance.

Crowds climbing the 3,776-metre active volcano could be also larger than usual due to the 10th anniversary of the peak’s designation as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

Authorities said the planned measures – a first for Mount Fuji – wouldn’t amount to an outright entry ban, but are meant to “guide” hikers on the trails, including temporarily halting their progress.

Under the policy, local police will be alerted and urged to weigh in if trails get busy enough to “heighten the risk of rocks falling and hikers tripping,” local authorities from the Yamanashi region said in a statement.

Last month, around 65,000 hikers climbed the mountain, an increase of roughly 17 per cent from the 2019 pre-pandemic level, official data shows.

Mount Fuji straddles Japan’s central Yamanashi and Shizuoka regions and the starting-off point for climbers is about two hours from central Tokyo by train.

But it can be seen for miles around, and has been immortalised in countless Japanese artworks, including Hokusai’s famous Great Wave painting.

People gather after watching the sunrise from the summit of Mount Fuji, some 70 kilometres west of the capital Tokyo, Japan. PHOTO: AFP