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Saturday, April 13, 2024

    Mount Fuji Japan

    Mount Fuji best reflects the Japanese view that mountains are to be regarded with veneration. This needs a little bit of explanation. A glance at a map of the Japanese archipelago shows that about 75% of the land area is mountains and forest. With so many mountain peaks and ranges in the country, it was inevitable that mountains would be seen as sacred.

    In ancient times there arose a belief that, after death, the spirits of those who had left their earthly form climbed up mountains and became gods (kami) at the summit. Then they were transformed into household gods (ujigami), ready to protect their families.

    Later, Buddhism entered the country, bringing a belief in reincarnation and the six realms that spirits encounter after death, as they wend their way over boulders and through forests to finally achieve hotoke buddhahood at a mountain summit. And so it was that mountains became the abode of gods and buddhas, the highest, most sacred place around.

    Look Up In Awe

    As this form of worship developed, Japanese sensitivities became embedded with a view that mountains should be reverenced from below, because gods live up at the summit, the “Other World.” At the top of Mount Fuji, there is a Shinto shrine called Sengen Jinja.

    It is the home of the kami deities of the mountain. Many other Sengen Jinja have been erected on the slopes of the mountain, under the impulse to venerate the mountain itself as a kami deity in its own right.

    This belief was recorded in the Man’yoshu, Japan’s oldest collection of waka poetry, which was compiled over a period of about a hundred years starting in the second half of the 7th century.

    One of the court poets, Yamabe no Akahito, praised Mount Fuji’s height and beauty, and its sacred nature, saying it was “kami-sabite iru,” which means “acting like a kami god.” Here we have a clear and early literary reference to the sacred nature of Mount Fuji.

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