Fuji and Hakone

To anyone accustomed to think of a park as a largish sort of public garden crisscrossed with some drive roads, a number of winding promenades, picturesque paths along a serpentine pond, and some woods plus a zoo and a hothouse, the name Fuji-Hakone Park, when its natural features are fully understood, will appear to be something like a grave misnomer. It includes not only the whole of the world-famous Fujisan, with its broad basis set with five beautiful lakes, but the entire district of Hakone, which is better known to the rest of the world by that gem of a resort--Miyanoshita. A park more grand and majestic it would be impossible to conceive. The grandeur of its scale is almost un-Japanese; for the country, while universally conceded to be picturesque, is often associated with the beautiful but miniature. We amateurs will continue to wonder for a long time why Fuji and Hakone should not have been made two separate parks, each on its own great basis.

Mount Fuji is 12,400 feet high, its basis 63 miles in circumference, full of trackless parts, untrodden by the feet of men, and therefore still inhabited by many wild animals such as deer, foxes, and boars. It lies astride the three provinces of Kai, Suruga and Sagami; hence the old maxim about Fuji being "the greatest mountain in the three countries," the veiled allusion being to Japan, China and India. This was an old Japanese way of praising Fuji as the grandest mountain in the whole world.

The average Japanese may not realize it, but Mount Fuji is inalienably linked with the national character. A psychological analysis of the Japanese character will reveal that a good part of it is influenced, directly and indirectly, by Mount Fuji. We knew Mount Fuji long before we saw it. It is one of the first words that every Japanese baby hears from his mother's lips, and the first picture of anything he sees, and indeed the first picture he draws as soon as he is given pen and paper with which to draw anything. Fuji is synonymous with mountains, or what is high, noble and beautiful. No Japanese home, however poor and wretched, but has a picture of Mount Fuji in some form or other. Numerous traditions and numerous allusions in prose and poetry will rush to one's memory at the bare mention of the charmed word.

As the child grows older, he conceives the wish to see the mountain--a wish that is realized sooner or later. Then he finds the reality, so familiar and so true to the picture he has known all his life, yet so unlike the picture--much more adorable and majestic. And then the charm of the mountain grows. Each time he gazes on it he seems to know it better. The face of Fuji, so simple in the graceful sweep of its cone, yet has a wondrous variety of complexion. Though it looks serene and peaceful always, there are times when one seems to detect a stern, even menacing aspect of it, looming large and silhouetted against the scarlet sunset. At other times it is completely hidden behind haze or clouds, or deigns to show only a very little of its summit. It is a picture so easy to draw and yet so difficult to make a masterpiece of. Eternally unchangeable, as it appears, it has its surprises, terrible surprises, too, as its old climbers could attest.
However opinions may vary concerning the most beautiful spots of Japan, none has ever visited the Fuji Lakes without being thrilled by what is unquestionably one of the finest Lake Districts in the world, and there are many of the world's greatest travelers who vote it the finest of all.
It is in the variety of scenery and all that is associated with a lake district that the Fuji Five Lakes appeal so much to the senses and imagination. The five lakes are named Yamanaka, Kawaguchi, Saiko, Shūji and Motosu and their charms vary as much as do their names. The limpid lake water with its many colors varying as the depth increases as plainly seen by one standing on the shore, reminds one of Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies because of the grandeur of the surrounding scenery and mountains. Yet at the same time there is something so delicate about everything associated with the lakes, something that suggests both the grand and the miniature, the mighty and the fairylike at the same time that they capture the imagination as even the Canadian Lakes or the English Lake District or Killarney fail to do. Though they give so much pleasure to the eye -- these lakes abound in pleasure to those who would shoot, boat, swim, hike, study, meditate or write. It would be impossible to leave the Five Lakes without referring to Fujisan, whose peerless cone is reflected in their waters. Either the mountain or the lakes would in themselves be sufficient attraction to invite all the world. Together they mutually enhance the glory of each and make of the Japanese Lake District one that no lover of beauty can resist. It is just this combination that makes it no exaggeration to say that no other place in the world can compare with the Fuji Five Lakes in natural beauty.

Fuji is one of the easiest mountains to climb; thousands of men, women and children climb it every summer. But woe betide those who take it too easy, or commit any desecrating deed on the sacred mountain! Many reckless spirits who ignored the advice of experienced guides, or dared to stray into untrodden paths, have been known to be overtaken by storm, or to run into the thicknesses of the woods, never again to emerge. Thus the love of Fuji gradually deepens to reverence, and then to worship. All over Japan are scattered the so-called Fuji shrines, dedicated to the spirit of the mountain whose memorial day is June 1st. A small replica of the sacred mountain has been raised in the compound of such a shrine and is worshipped by the devotees of Fuji. In Tokyo alone there are five or six such shrines, and many districts and streets are named after Fuji. There are Fuji-mi-chō both in Azabu and Kōjimachi, Kami-Fuji-mae in Hongō, near the Komagome Fuji Shrine; and Suruga-chō of Nihonbashi and Surugadai of Kanda are named after the province in which Fuji stands.

Like virtue itself, Fuji is known to every child, but to know it well it takes a longer acquaintance and more intimate personal contact, so to speak. Then it will be realized that the worship of Fuji is not a mere superstition of soulless ignorance.

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