It is still fresh in our memory that in June 2013, Mt. Fuji, the symbolic mountain of Japan, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site under the name of "Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration." And then, four and a half years later, in December 2017, "Mt. Fuji World Heritage Centre, Shizuoka" opened at the very foot of Mt. Fuji in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture. This is a museum created for the purpose of conveying to the present and future generations all things related to Mt. Fuji, and it also functions as a center devoted to preserving the sacred mountain. It was built just beside the first Torii gate of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha shrine. In the museum you can learn a lot about various aspects of Mt. Fuji: its history, religion, art, and nature, for example.
I had been looking forward to visiting the museum long before its completion because some fascinating facts and rumors about it had already reached my ears: I had heard that the total construction cost would amount to be 4.1 billion yen (roughly 39 million dollars as of March 2018), the main building would be in the shape of an inverted Mt. Fuji (although I didn't know the reason why), and we would be able to "simulate" Mt. Fuji climbing there (I couldn't imagine how they would do it, either). These things intrigued me much. So I was really glad when I finally got to visit there in mid-January 2018.
At first I would like to talk about the facade of the building. There is a very big water basin (in architectural lingo, a "water feature") in front of the inverted-Mt. Fuji-shaped main building. The water in the large basin is actually Mt. Fuji's spring water. First they draw the water from the nearby stream, and after being used in the building for the air conditioners, it finally comes to the basin. It is said that it represents the concept of the museum, "the circulation and reflection of Mt. Fuji's water."
And when I poised my camera trying to capture the building and casually gazed down at the surface of the water, I realized the true intention of the creator of this facility: I found there was a reflection of the building on the water, which was not an inverted Mt. Fuji anymore but an right-side-up cone-shaped accurate discription of the mountain!
I paid the admission fee of 300 yen and entered into the main building. This facility was designed by Shigeru Ban, a renowned architect who recieved the honorable Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2014. The exterior of the main building is covered by wooden latticework. The wood is locally produced in Fujinomiya City and Fuji City, and is known as the brand name "Fuji Hinoki Made."
I began ascending the gentle slope that extends spirally 193 meters to the top 5th floor. As I did so, I realized I was now simulating the experience of ascending Mt. Fuji because I noticed the scenery from the mountain was projected on the side wall beside me. And these scenes were not static ones but very lively time-lapse images, and they were changing as I went along: at first it seemed I was walking through the green forest with birds singing above my head, but after a moment as I went up, the plants were gradually diminishing and I was in a desolate landscape, surrounded by volcanic rocks (this would probably put me at the 2500 meter point on the actual mountain). The shadow of "another" climber suddenly appeared just like a living figure. And when I "looked down," I could see some clouds, local towns, and the sea. When I saw the view of the sea, which is the Pacific Ocean, I was reminded of the fact that I was now climbing the mountain from the southern side (Shizuoka Prefecture side), not from the northern Yamanashi Prefecture side. The museum is in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Then at the end of the slope (at the top floor), there was the Observation Hall where the actual Mt. Fuji could be seen majestically before me. It was just outstanding and I thought I was lucky to visit this facility when the weather was good.
And on the wall of the Observation Hall, there was a collection of photographs which was equally interesting to me. They were photos of many local "Fujis" existing all around Japan. For a long time, it seems Japanese people have had a tendancy to put the word "Fuji" on the name of their local mountains with majestic presence. Looking at all those "Fujis" in Japan aroused in me a strange feeling: it was as though "Fuji" suddenly assumed different meaning and turned into something completely unknown, which even transcended the "real" Fuji in front of me, although I was not sure what it turned into...
There were several rooms and corners along the spiral slope, each of which introduces Mt. Fuji from different angles. These exhibitions were all very attractive and informative, using latest IT technology. And many of the explanations could be accessed in four different languages: Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean.
All the staff members were kind and well-trained. They gave me advices about, among other things, where I should go next. And one of them kindly took me to the movie theater in time for the start of the short film. The theater has a large 265 inches screen that can show the high-resolution 4K images. The footage about the nature and culture of Mt. Fuji was wonderful.
To sum it up, I felt this is a well-conceived facility, which can be enjoyed with either a short or long visit. Even if you have only 40 minutes, it could be exciting. And if you stay for a few hours, you can take your time and learn quite a lot about Mt. Fuji through many of the instructive exhibitions. And by the time you pass through the exit gate, you might already have become an expert on Mt. Fuji!
Also, what I think is special about this facility is that it is a place you can meet with Mt. Fuji even if the actual weather is bad. Even if the mountain is not visible through the rain, you can enjoy its magnificent view here (and even can experience the virtual climbing!).
I am looking forward to taking international travellers to this facility some day. But of course, that will be after going to some of the famous tourist landmarks in Fujinomiya City.
Check out the tour in which Mt. Fuji World Heritage Centre, Shizuoka is possible to be included in the itinerary: Private Tour from Shimizu Port #2
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