Tuesday | April 21, 2015
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Symbol of Japan earns World Heritage site status

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Mount Fuji has been designated as a World Heritage site. Now the question will be how to ensure the values embodied by this symbol of Japan can be passed to future generations without damaging the mountain.

According to the Environment Ministry, about 320,000 people climbed Mount Fuji during the summer season in 2012 — an indication that Japan’s highest mountain was already being overused.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a UNESCO advisory body that recommended Mt. Fuji’s designation, also requested Japan report by 2016 on measures to deal with the expected increase in climbers and maintain the safety of the mountain’s climbing routes and surrounding areas.

The current state of Mount Fuji is hard to overlook: There is no restriction on the number of climbers to the “sacred mountain,” and slips often occur on slopes around the climb routes that become jam-packed with climbers every weekend.

Both Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, which intend to collect entrance fees from Mount Fuji climbers from next year, plan to ask for a $10 donation from each climber this summer.

Still, it might be difficult to keep the number of climbers low just by charging people who want to scale Mount Fuji.

One estimate, made by Kyoto University Prof. Koichi Kuriyama, even suggests a fee of about 7,000 yen per climber would be needed just to keep the mountain in its current state.

“We’ll cooperate with Shizuoka Prefecture, and together we’ll have to take even more safety precautions than we have before,” Yamanashi Gov. Shomei Yokouchi said.

The prefectures will face the first test of their resolve when the mountain’s summer season starts July 1.