Snow-capped, symmetrically cone-shaped and awe-inspiringly tall, Mount Fuji has for centuries provided Japanese with something of a spiritual backbone, attracting hundreds of thousands of climbers every year.

But often overshadowed by its beauty is the fact that the mountain straddling Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures is an active volcano with a history of frequent blasts — hence its nickname as the "department store" of eruptions.

Experts say the precise timing of the next big one is unpredictable, but one Japanese volcanologist paints an urgent picture of the situation.