Japan is one of the world's most mountainous countries, and mountain worship is an historic element of Japanese culture.
Mount Fuji, the country's highest, at 3776 metres, is a spiritual mountain at the centre of Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture. The dormant volcano, also known as Fuji-san, is almost perfectly cone-shaped with a summit of 610 metres in diameter and a 126 kilometre base.
There are five small lakes at its northern foot, The lowest, Lake Kawaguchi, is very popular with painters and photographers because of the inverted reflection of the gracious mountain on its still waters.
Fuji has erupted sixteen times since 781AD, the most recent eruption lasting from November 24, 1707 to January 22, 1708.
While giving the appearance of being a single structure, the volcano is a group of superimposed cones. It consists of three volcanoes Komitake, Older Fuji and Younger Fuji, lying one upon the other. It is studded with parasitic cones and flank openings.
Its upper half is perfectly white in winter and usually capped with a ring of cloud. Small patches of icy snow are left on the shady slopes and around the summit, even in mid-summer.
Fuji can be seen from Tokyo and Yokohama on clear days, but you need to be lucky to strike one of those. Low cloud and pollution usually cover the peak. Visibility tends to be better in colder weather, in the early morning and late evening.
Like Uluru, Mt Sinai and Stonehenge, Mount Fuji has a spiritual power that draws millions of pilgrims. Unlike many sacred sites, though, belief dictates that this one should be climbed and hundreds of thousands of people, religious adherents and tourists, do so every year during the eight-week season. The summit was forbidden to women until the Maiji era (1868-1912). A local proverb says 'He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a wise man. He who climbs it twice is a fool'.
Last year, 20 million people journeyed to Fuji, but this is not a new concept. For almost 2000 years, pilgrims from all over Japan have arrived at the Sengen Jinja shrine at the mountain's base.
Unfortunately, the volume of visitors has caused a pollution problem so severe that it has prevented Mount Fuji from receiving designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Citizens and others work voluntarily to clean up the mountain in an effort to be granted the status.
The renowned Kubota Kimono Museum pays homage to the astonishingly gifted master designer Itchiku Kubota. So fascinated was he by Mount Fuji, he set out to render the mountain itself in fine coloured cloth, a work he called his Symphony of Light. Each kimono would be like a tile that eventually made up a mosaic representing Mount Fuji's colour, spirit and place in the universe. Kubota-san died with only 34 kimonos of the 80 he wished to create being completed. His son continues his father's vision, creating some of the finest kimonos in Japan.