Nearly 80% of climbers support Mount Fuji entrance charge, survey finds

JIJI

Some 78.7 percent of Mount Fuji climbers surveyed by the Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectural governments support the introduction of an entrance charge for the nation’s highest peak, preliminary results show.

“The results are very encouraging, and we must prepare a system for the full introduction of the fees next summer,” an official of the Shizuoka Prefectural Government said Friday.

The two prefectures introduced voluntary entry fees on a trial basis this summer. Between July 25 and Aug. 3, climbers embarking on an ascent during the daytime were asked to chip in ¥1,000 each to help preserve Fuji’s environment. A total of ¥34.132 million was collected.

Hiking to the 3,776-meter summit has always been popular, but interest has jumped dramatically since Fuji was given World Heritage status in June.

Of the 3,261 climbers surveyed, 67.8 percent said they paid the charge voluntarily, according to the preliminary results. Among the rest, 34.2 percent said they did not pay because the fee was not obligatory.

Asked what amount would be preferable if the fee-based system is implemented fully, the largest number of respondents, at 44.6 percent, said between ¥1,000 and ¥2,000, followed by 14.3 percent who opted for ¥3,000 to ¥5,000. Another 3.2 percent nominated ¥10,000 or more.

On ways to use the funds generated, 46.9 percent said they want the money applied to improve cleanup operations around the mountain.

The two prefectural governments now plan to begin detailed discussions on a full introduction of the fee-based system.

“A fairly large number of people supported the fee system, although no clear explanations were offered on how the money should be used,” said Iwate University associate professor Kiyotatsu Yamamoto, who took part in drafting the survey questions. “The results probably reflect people’s wish to protect Mount Fuji.”

At the same time, Yamamoto said, some climbers appear to have avoided the charge by setting off to climb the mountain at night. It was an error for the two prefectures to ask for the voluntary fee in the daytime only, he said.

Meanwhile, Yamanashi Gov. Shomei Yokouchi said Friday his prefecture must also consider extending the climbing season. The current period runs from July 1 through early September.

Because many people hike up the mountain after the official season ends and some lodges continue to do business until late September, municipalities in the area believe the season length needs adjusting, Yokouchi told reporters after a meeting with local mayors in Fujikawaguchiko.

On the voluntary fee trial, Yokouchi said the Yamanashi Prefectural Government has to enact an ordinance to manage the money as public funds.