Jun 25, 2013

Mt Fuji is now a World Heritage Site

Two days ago, a list of newly added World Heritage Sites was announced. And Mount Fuji, the icon of Japan, was one of them. Mt Fuji has finally joined the ranks of other World Heritage Sites! :D

Mt Fuji has always held a special meaning amongst the Japanese. There's a saying which I got to know while I was staying in Shizuoka Prefecture, that climbing Mt Fuji is one of the things we have to do, in our lifetime. Even if it is just once. July and August are the only two months that are open to the public for climbing. Every year, JETs will also organise amongst themselves an annual climbing trip.

Keen on climbing Mt Fuji, watch this video on what you should prepare for the adventure:

For more tips on Mount Fuji climbing, do check out the official website.

Unfortunately for me, I have only been to the first station of Mt Fuji, as part of the tour package on my first trip to Japan. Nevertheless, in future, I hope to make a trip to Mt Fuji.

During the opening ceremony of the Shizuoka Prefecture Representative Office, I heard that there has been discussions to levy a fee on climbers in future. This fee will be used to aid in the conservation of Mt Fuji, as every year there are hundreds of thousands of climbers, and there is a need to help keep the area clean and also to continue efforts to conserve the nature and beauty of Mt Fuji while mountain climbing continues. Exact amount has not been announced yet though.

Latest news *updated as of 30th Jun 2013*:
According to the "Yomiuri Shimbun" in today's news, climbers will be asked to pay for a voluntary fee of 1000yen per person on a trial basis when they wish to climb Mt Fuji, starting from this year. This is in support of the preservation of the mountain. The fee will be collected near the safety instruction center at the 6th station on the Yamanashi side route, and near the 5th station at each of the three climb routes on the Shizuoka side. Officials from both prefectural governments will collect the fee from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Those who pay will be given a receipt and a metal badge as a souvenir.

How to get to Mt Fuji?
Fly to Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport. It is located in Shizuoka Prefecture, right smack in the middle of Japan.
Follow this transport guide on how to get to Mt. Fuji 5th Station, and then climbing starts from there :)

Alternatively, you can consider taking a coach bus from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji.

If you intend to cover the Hakone area after/ before the Mount Fuji hike, you can consider the Fuji Hakone Pass for foreign tourists. The best catch is probably that it includes round trip transport from Shinjuku (Tokyo) too, besides unlimited use of specified transport in Fuji and Hakone areas! It costs 7200yen for 3 days' usage.

Mt Fuji Shizuoka Airport is a rather new airport, only 4-years-old! It has international routes to Seoul, Taipei, Wuhan and Shanghai. Internal routes include Okinawa, Kagoshima, Fukuoka and Sapporo. Too bad, it doesn't have any route from Singapore yet. Nevertheless, the other nearest airport from Shizuoka Prefecture is Chubu Centrair International Airport in Nagoya. It is very near Hamamatsu City. I often travel via Nagoya to visit my friends in Hamamatsu.

Don't forget to do some sightseeing first before leaving for another prefecture after your climb.
Check out the Shizuoka guide. Izu is a famous tourist destination near Mt Fuji. Famous for her onsens, remember to take a dip to soak away all the aches and muscle cramps.

I've been to Izu, briefly, specifically to Toi, to visit a fellow Singaporean JET. Check out what to eat, where to sight-see and what to shop in Toi.

Where to shop?
I totally recommend Gotemba Premium Outlets, if you are a true blue shopper. Even I, who rarely buy branded goods, was bitten by the shopping bug there, and bought my first branded bag. Discounts are huge, especially during their sale period. (Go for their one week bargain sale in summer, August.)

For overseas shoppers, they have a discount voucher, which you can print and show with your passport at the Information Counter to get discount coupons. These discount coupons are in addition to the existing store discounts.

What to eat?
1. Seafood at Numazu 沼津. Do you know my favourite sushi place in Singapore, 漁師寿司活けいけ丸 Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru gets her stocks from Numazu Fishing Port?

2. Unagi near Lake Hamana 浜名湖 (Hamanako). The region around Lake Hamana is the birthplace of unagi aquaculturing. It tastes so much better than the ones we have locally. Must try!

3. Mikkabi mikan or Mandarin Oranges from Mikkabi at Hamamatsu City. These oranges are harvested in winter. Characterized by its sweetness, the locals like to buy them in boxes and give as gifts to friends. You can try a sample of it by tasting the Kori Mikan, the frozen, peeled Mikkabi Mikan, which is now being exported to Singapore.

What to buy as souvenir?
For omiyage, you can consider green tea (Shizuoka is the top producer of tea in Japan), wasabi (Shizuoka is also the top producer in Japan) or melons.

I have a soft spot for Japan melons. So sweet and juicy! No other melons from other countries can parallel that yet. Do you know that you can handcarry a Shizuoka melon to Singapore! Yeah, no kidding, I've been there and done that. Just remember to buy a box from the supermarket/ store too. They will prepare a "tyre" and cushioning for the melon. You can check with the melon seller when is the best period to eat the melon.

This small melon cost 980yen in Hamamatsu. If I bought it in Singapore Mediya supermarket, it will cost thrice more!

Shizuoka, mata ne! I will always remember Hamamatsu as my Japan home :)

P.S: Thanks to Shizuoka Prefecture Representative Office for inviting me to the the opening ceremony! おめでとうございます!:D

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