Mount Fuji is the icon of Japan and is very well known. However it is not just at the current moment in which Mount Fuji is seen as a monument of beauty. In the Shinto religion, the native religion of Japan, Mount Fuji was worshipped as a god. In this way people did not climb Mount Fuji in order to get near to God, as this was a place for God, but rather worshipped from its base. Therefore Shinto shrines were built around the base of Mount Fuji, and were well attended for hundreds of years. One of the most famous shrines for Mount Fuji is the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine. It is also known as Kitaguchihongu Fuji Sengenjinja.
The word “sengen” relates to the ancient practice of the Shinto animistic worship of volcanoes. Therefore sengen shrines were built as the base of volcanoes and sacred mountains. This specific sengen shrine is the main shrine on the north side of Mount Fuji. This is a truly beautiful shrine set in ancient cedar forests. The main hall building here has stood since 1615, so you can really get a feeling of being back in ancient Japan while walking up the long approach.
The approach is lined by towering cedar trees and large stone lanterns, left from before the Meiji restoration.
Enshrined here in the main hall is Konohanasakuya-hime-no-mikoto. Also enshrined are her husband and father. Here they protect marital harmony and happiness in families. Outside the shrine are two sacred trees, one which you can see in the picture above. The second is a married tree, where two trunks have grown up together, like a married couple. These trees are over 1000 years old!
You truly get a feeling of history here, as even the basin to cleanse yourself before entering is covered in many years worth of sacred notes.
Within the main shrine building are the two carvings you see above. These depict the legendary creature tengu, who are considered yokai or kami. Tengu take on the forms of birds of prey with large beaks. However they are often characterised with human faces and giant noses, painted in red. They often lived in dense forests, like the one surrounded the shrine itself.
When Buddhism became popular in Japan the perception of Mount Fuji changed. Buddhism saw Mount Fuji as a line between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Monks started making pilgrimages to the peak of Mount Fuji. From this point Fujiyoshida Sengen shrine became a starting point for the ascent to Mount Fuji, and was quite a popular one.
Fujiyoshida Sengen shrine is easily accessible by bus from Kawaguchiko or Fujisan station. You could even walk there from Fujiyoshida station, it will only take around 30 minutes.