Whenever people talk about visiting Mount Fuji, there are a few standard approaches to go about it. If you are physically fit or the adventurous type, you would probably relish the experience of making the tough ascent during the summer months and experience its spiritual strength and visual beauty from the summit.
For those who prefer to view the sacred mountain in its entirety from afar, popular places like Hakone or Kawaguchiko are hot spots to take in the breathtaking sights which change according to the time of day and the season. However, there is more to Mount Fuji than its visual beauty so why not drop by the Fujisan World Heritage Center to experience the mountain’s charm in a different way?
Before we begin, please take note that there are actually a number of Mount Fuji-related facilities aimed at serving largely similar purposes. The Fujisan World Heritage Center, featured in this article, actually refers to two buildings located at Funatsu, Fuji Kawaguchiko-machi in Yamanashi Prefecture.
As a result of Mount Fuji being registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2013, the Yamanashi Prefecture Fuji Visitor Center was renewed and is now being referred to as the North Building, while the newly-constructed World Heritage Center opened on 22 June 2016 is referred to as the South Building.
One key difference between these two facilities is that the North Building features the natural side of Mount Fuji while the South Building concentrates on the cultural aspects. In addition, the North Building offers free admission while the South Building has an admission charge of 420 yen for adults and 210 yen for university students. Children, students of senior high school age and below, and those with disabilities are entitled to free entry.
As you may also be aware, Mount Fuji straddles across two prefectures (Yamanashi and Shizuoka). Since there is a World Heritage Center in Yamanashi, it is natural that Shizuoka will have its own version as well. This is called Shizuoka Prefecture World Heritage Center, but this will only be open from 23 December 2017. As such, please make sure that you are heading to the right facility as there will most likely be differences in the exhibit line-up and content featured at each place.
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Before you enter the World Heritage Center South Building, take a moment to admire the architecture, which is said to be modeled after the Aogikahara Forest on the northwestern side of Mount Fuji with its Japanese-style wooden structures.
In case you aren’t aware, both the North and South Buildings were built with the intention of blending into the natural surroundings and Mount Fuji’s landscape with as little impact on the environment as possible. From the major vantage points anywhere within the grounds, visitors are said to be able to get an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji at any time of the year, although this may be subjected to weather conditions.
The admission ticket for the South Building serves as a stamp collection sheet so do remember to visit the three designated stops including the North Building if you wish to complete the collection.
One of the biggest highlights in the South Building would have to be Fugoku 360, which is a model of Mount Fuji, and is one-thousandth of the actual size. It is made of Japanese washi paper. While walking around this model, you will be able to admire Mount Fuji’s beauty from different angles as it is lit up in various ways to show the progression of time and seasons amid fantastic sound effects to mirror the actual natural sound effects. This exhibit was even given the Cool Japan Award 2017 for its aesthetic beauty which blends traditional and contemporary elements into one.
Since the South Building’s focus is more on the cultural aspects of Mount Fuji, there are various exhibits showcasing the 10,000-year history, the interaction between humans and Mount Fuji amid the latter’s volcanic activity and climate changes as well as the religious element of the mountain’s sacred status.
It is highly recommended that you download the designated guide application ‘Fuji Meguri’ to your phone, or make use of the in-house guides before touring the 31 exhibition areas here. This is because there is valuable information provided through the commentary which is voiced by former professional tennis player Matsuoka Shuzo who is a regular face on Japanese TV!
Over at the North Building, you will be treated to a panoramic view of Mount Fuji at its observation deck on the second floor. Once you are done with touring all the exhibits and admiring the surrounding scenery, how about heading to the cafe on the same floor? The full-length windows allow a full view of the scenery outside with natural lighting from the sunshine which will be very comforting to have during the colder seasons.
Before you go, do pay a visit to the souvenir shop on the first floor which sells memorabilia related to Mount Fuji and local signature items from Yamanashi Prefecture.
For those who are planning to visit, do take note that the opening hours are from 8.30am to 5pm from 1 October to 30 June of the following year. During summer i.e. 1 July to 30 September, the closing time will be extended by 1 hour.
In addition, the North Building is open every day of the year but the South Building will be closed on the 4th Tuesday of every month. If you can read Japanese, it would be good to check out the center’s official Facebook page for the latest updates on its upcoming activities.
After reading so much about this place, how about trying a way different from the norm to appreciate the beauty and significance of Mount Fuji?