Mt Fuji

Reaching its alluring conical summit 3776 meters above the Pacific, Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest mountain, and one of the country's most enduring symbols. The dormant volcano last erupted three centuries ago, but still demands respect in a country where Shinto gods, or kami, are believed to inhabit the natural features of the landscape. Legend relates that Fuji-san, as the mountain is called in Japanese, is home to the goddess Konohana Sakuya Hime, and there are shrines in her honor at both the base and the peak.

Rendered most famously in Hokusai's wood-block prints, Mount Fuji tends to be coy, and although the mountain can be seen from Tokyo on very clear winter days, it is best viewed from closer - traditionally from the easily accessed Hakone area, where the region's continuing volcanic activity can be witnessed amidst the smoking sulphur fields of the Great Boiling valley.

Although Mount Fuji was traditionally climbed by Shinto pilgrims, ascents of the mountain became popular when mountaineering was introduced to Japan one hundred years ago. Now hundreds of thousands of visitors climb the volcanic cone, most making the ascent in the short climbing season between July and September. Climbing the snow-covered peak the rest of the year is strictly the realm of experienced mountaineers.