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Mount Fuji prepares to host its final climb in 2011

by Sally Kikuchi

Staff Writer

The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is drawing to a close on Aug. 31, which means potential climbers should act fast. With 10 stations along the trails, most people begin their ascent to the summit of Japan’s most famous mountain from the fifth station. Mount Fuji’s crater is surrounded by eight peaks, and it usually takes around 90 minutes to circle the perimeter. Kengamine Peak is the highest point in Japan.

To mark the last day of climbing, the nearby town of Fujiyoshida hosts Yoshida no Himatsuri, a fire festival to symbolize the end of summer in Japan. In order to please the goddess of Mount Fuji and prevent the volcano from erupting another year, the entire community comes out to watch the burning of torches in a parade that has been celebrated for over 500 years. In addition to the fire festival, other attractions such as the hydrangea flower fields by Lake Kawaguchi or the fireworks and lantern festivals on the waterfront draw visitors every year to celebrate the summer.

Come next July, Mount Fuji is sure to welcome a new group of climbers. About 321,000 Japanese residents and international tourists alike are estimated to do the climb each year.