Climbers ascending Mt. Fuji from the most commonly used trail in Yamanashi Prefecture will be charged 2,000 yen ($13) from this summer to ease congestion at the landmark mountain and to fund safety measures, the prefectural government said Thursday.
The move comes amid growing concerns over unsafe climbing practices such as "bullet climbing," or trying to reach the summit of Japan's tallest peak for sunrise in one go without sleeping overnight on the mountain.
"Keeping the number of climbers in check is an urgent task as we observe overcrowding," Yamanashi Gov. Kotaro Nagasaki said at a press conference, vowing that the local government will ensure the safety of climbers.
The charges will be separate from the 1,000 yen climbers are currently asked to pay voluntarily in the name of supporting the upkeep of the mountain.
The prefectural government will submit a draft ordinance on the fees to the local assembly this month.
The fees will be collected at the Yoshida Trail on the Yamanashi Prefecture side of the mountain, which can be accessed by bus and taxi, and they will be accumulated as a fund, according to the prefectural government.
The 3,776-meter mountain, straddling Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, is broken into 10 stages, with the summit marking the 10th station.
With climbers having to pay up to 3,000 yen each including the 1,000 yen voluntary payment for conservation, some people in Yamanashi and those working at the mountain huts said it is "too expensive."
Shizuoka Prefecture, which holds three trails, said it is not planning to collect fees other than the current one levied for the purpose of conservation.
The mountain, designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2013, has been a popular tourist destination.
The number of people who passed the 8th station of Mt. Fuji from any of its four different routes reached 221,322 during the climbing season last summer, around the same level as 2019 before the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Environment Ministry.
Mt. Fuji is usually open to climbers from July to early September.
In August, the Yamanashi prefectural government said it would restrict the number of hikers who can use the Yoshida Trail to climb to the summit if overcrowding poses a danger. So far no restrictions have been imposed.
The prefecture said Thursday it will set up a gate at the 5th station to close the trail between 4 p.m. and 3 a.m., the only exception being those who have prior reservations to stay at huts, to prevent bullet climbers.
It also said that a shelter will be built to protect climbers from flying rocks and other dangerous phenomena in case the mountain erupts, and that the number of climbers would be capped at 4,000 per day.