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Mount Fuji stands as a powerful eco-symbol in Japan, invoked frequently to describe elements of Japanese nature and culture. According to Japanese writers and others, Mount Fuji’s towering summit-cone and elegantly balanced slopes convey the remote majesty of nature, the essence of purity, a trove of immutable values, a model of aesthetic perfection, and a store of Japanese reserve, to name but a few.

Yet in illustrating how contemporary Japanese society actually works, the sacred peak faces competition from two other mountainlike entities. Lurking out of the public eye are two problematic stockpiles — of plutonium and whale meat — whose mountainous bulk not only looms over Japanese environmental policy and international relations but speaks to the problems that led to the 3/11 disasters.

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