SHIZUOKA – More confused climbers are mistakenly picking the wrong trail when descending Mount Fuji as traffic grows following its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site last year.
In response, the prefectural governments in Shizuoka and Yamanashi have shifted the junction of two major climbing routes where climbers get confused so they don’t accidentally miss their buses or need expensive taxi rides to get to their intended destinations.
“We hope visitors will recognize that Mount Fuji is not a sightseeing spot but a mountain,” a Shizuoka official said, urging caution.
At the eighth station on the 3,776-meter mountain, descending climbers often get confused when they reach the junction of the Yoshida Trail — which leads to the Yamanashi side — and the Subashiri Trail, which leads to the Shizuoka side. The peak straddles both prefectures.
Many who take the Yoshida Trail go down the wider Subashiri Trail by mistake because the Yoshida Trail is concealed behind a lodge.
By bus, it takes three to four hours to return from the starting point of the Subashiri Trail to the starting point of the Yoshida Trail and costs ¥4,000.
By taxi, it only takes an hour but costs about ¥20,000.
Hikers have complained that the problem has caused them to miss their tour buses.
The two prefectures tried placing signposts at the junction in four languages and launching an audio guide service, but the problems continued.
In fiscal 2013, 1,070 climbers sought help from staff at the bottom of the Subashiri Trail after taking it by mistake, up from 787 in 2011 and 910 in 2012. Many were foreigners, officials said.
Shizuoka and Yamanashi have since shifted the junction by 50 meters so both trails can be seen clearly, and closed the former junction off.
Many people climb Mount Fuji without knowing it has four major trails, officials said. They may not know where they began climbing or how to get back down, the officials said.
Related changes to the prefectures’ websites and climbing leaflets are planned ahead of this summer’s climbing season.