Mount Fuji viewed from Hakone. Photo credit Stack Jones.
UNESCO recently recommended Mount Fuji as a World Heritage site. I’d like to see “Fujisan” receive that honor, but I find it odd that it could even be considered for such a recommendation when the mountain is in reality nothing more than a giant heap of garbage, and it appears to have been treated in that manner for many generations.
The Japanese government officially asked UNESCO in January of 2012 to register Mount Fuji as a World Heritage site for 2013. “Once Mount Fuji is registered as a World Heritage site, we hope it will be known to more people,” said an official of Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture, at the foot of the mountain. Yamanashi Gov. Shomei Yokouchi also welcomed the recommendation for registration. “We would like to cooperate with the central government and Shizuoka Prefecture to make utmost efforts to enable Mount Fuji to be registered as a World Heritage site.”
There is nothing about the way Mount Fuji has, and is maintained for it to receive such a high level of recognition. It’s disturbing that the location has been neglected so terribly, and for so long. It’s even more disturbing that the site is the location of thousands of suicides that take place there every year. Even worse than mass suicides is the fact that historically, Mount Fuji was a dumping ground for elderly people who became financial burdens to their own children, and who were taken to the base of Mount Fuji, and left to fend for themselves, which inevitably meant they died slow deaths from starvation, hypothermia, or from lack of medical care they so desperately needed. The truth is Mount Fuji is an environmental embarrassment, and a colossal monument to the nation’s inability to find a way to deal with those that are emotionally, socially or psychologically disturbed.
Compare Mount Fuji to Yosemite National Park, which is a pristine environment, which is also operated in a commercial manner. The vast site entertains millions of visitors annually, and is much more highly impacted that Mount Fuji, but the national treasure is maintained extremely well. Yosemite’s natural beauty, and the manner in which it’s preserved has earned itself a position as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mount Fuji and the people responsible for its upkeep have not. The only thing I’d give them is an F for their failed lack of effort!
Some communities respect the environment, and the natural heritage they’ve inherited, thereby assuring its long-term preservation while at the same time enjoying the benefits that come with them. Japan however is a nation of people that live in an unbalanced, and unnatural state. Children receive zero education related to the preservation, nature, aesthetics, and/or animal environs, and the need to retain them for future generations.
Those in authoritative positions have brainwashed parents to enroll their children into useless cram schools that place emphasis on math, and science, “skills” that are easy to grade, easier to forget, and are really there to ensure that young people don’t question anything, especially “authority“, and eventually become good workers that follow the rules of the corporate manual they must adhere to. What do they lose in the process… Autonomy, awareness and self!
One of the requirements for a site to receive World Heritage status is that the country maintains it as a historical treasure, and in a state of pristine preservation. Mount Fuji fails in every category of that test.
Although Japan has a collective reputation as being orderly those that live here, especially those that hike the mountains, and surf the oceans know that the truth is far different. In reality, Japan has some of the filthiest, and toxic ladened beaches anywhere on the planet, and the mountains, and hiking trails are littered with massive amounts of trash. Especially debris related to cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and fireworks. The beaches are by far the most polluted I’ve seen anywhere in my travels around the globe. Simply, the Japanese people treat the rivers, and oceans that surround the island chain as dumping grounds capable of taking anything they can thrown at them and in them. The oceans and rivers around Mount Fuji are no exception.
One of the problems related to garbage was the enactment of the Home Appliances Recycling Law, which led to high fees for disposing of unwanted electronics such as microwaves, refrigerators, and the like. Instead of the recycling law working as it was intended, people began dumping their garbage in parks, rivers and the beaches. Today, Japan’s garbage that is strewn in rivers, lakes, and oceans has increased some 400% from when the law was initially enacted. The massive amount of refuse located on Mount Fuji is testament to the failure of ridiculous regulation, and over the top attempts at recycling waste.
What makes matters worse is that the government has no sanitation programs, educational programs, or initiatives for neighborhood litter removal. Cleaning up polluted rivers, streams, mountains and beaches only occur annually, (once a year) and are usually done by a handful of elderly people that don’t have the physical energy or ability to do a proper job.
Most farmers dump all of their toxic debris, and refuse into local waterways, never giving any thought to the communities downstream from where they’re located. The results? Toxic rivers and streams filled with methyl mercury, CO2, PCBs, dioxin, fertilizer runoff and other volatile contaminants.
One of the cleaner beaches of Japan. Photo credit Stack Jones.
When I arrived in Japan, the first thing I did was grab my surfboard, and head to the beach. That was in Shizuoka, which is where Mount Fuji is located. To my great surprise, the beaches were covered in garbage. I asked a local surfer, who was smoking a cigarette at the time, who was responsible for the mess? He blamed, China and North Korea! However, we were on the Pacific side of Japan, and China and North Korea are on the Japan Sea. The plastic, glass bottles, and metal cans had all originated from corporations such as Kirin, Asahi, Calpis, Kagome, Meiji, Morinaga, Pokka, UCC, etc. I didn’t see any that had Chinese, or Korean labels on them.
I was even more shocked to see surfers leaping over huge piles of plastic bottles that mingled with large amounts of rusted aerosol spray cans, broken glass bottles, broken Styrofoam containers, and other debris that covered the entire beach as well as the river that flowed into the sea.
As far as I could see in every direction, from the riverbeds, to the sandy shoreline, there was nothing but containers of all kinds, massive cigarette related debris, old electronics, bicycles, and anything else one could dispose of. It was all mixed together in a disturbing, and swirling toxic soup. To my horror, I watched a fisherman carry two large bags of garbage to the edge of the ocean and throw them in. These were my very first impressions of the Japanese people, and those impressions have remained very strong in my memory.
It wasn’t long before the June rainy season set in, and during the first rainstorm I watched in disbelief as thousands, and thousands, hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles floated down a river in Shizuoka, not far from Mount Fuji, and into the ocean. There was more plastic covering the surface of the ocean than water itself. I was angered, disgusted and outraged. This was the real Japan that I was witnessing. A broken culture. A secretive reality that’s hidden from the rest of the world.
Japan is a nation of denial, and false history that consistently blames others for the problems that in reality the people have heaped upon themselves. This mindset carries over to the justification of overfishing the oceans to the point of collapse, falsifying corporate accounting for the benefit of insiders, and to the nation’s unfounded hatred for China, and Korea. I won’t mention TEPCO here. Oh, wait! I already did.
In the 1980s, during the nation’s economic “miracle”, Japan wasted billions on turning the entire coastline into massive concrete eyesores that left many of the coastal communities in ruin, both aesthetically, as well as economically.
Mount Fuji, up close and not so personal.
Instead of rewarding a nation that has no respect for nature, the environment, its neighbors, and Mount Fuji, registration as a World Heritage site should be rejected by UNESCO. Japanese officials should clean up the ecological disaster that Mount Fuji is, as well as the oceans, and rivers that surround it. Japan’s Ministry of Education should engage in realistic educating efforts, and engage in those measures for long duration of time. The nation should engage in environmental awareness programs that are committed to maintaining a high level of integrity, not only in the region that surrounds Mount Fuji, but the entire country. Only then should Mount Fuji be considered a world treasure.