By Koichi Saijo / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterFUJINOMIYA, Shizuoka — On a clear winter morning, a snowcapped Mt. Fuji could be seen from the right-side windows of the Tokaido Shinkansen I had boarded in Tokyo Station when the bullet train entered Shizuoka Prefecture. The massive sight elicited gasps from some passengers who scrambled to take photos. Mt. Fuji: Many Japanese no doubt consider the nation’s highest mountain their spiritual home.
From Mishima Station, I took local lines to JR Fujinomiya Station, where I rented a car for a tour of the city’s sights around the base of Mt. Fuji.
My first stop was Shiraito no Taki (waterfall of white threads), which is 20 meters tall, 150 meters wide and backed by a slightly curved, sheer cliff. Natural springs from Mt. Fuji seep out from the cliff here and there to create a stunning curtain of water.
“Inside the lava that accumulated from eruptions of Mt. Fuji long ago is bedrock that water can’t penetrate,” said Akio Inoue, 71, chairman of a local association of volunteer guides. “On top of that is other bedrock that water can penetrate. Spring water flows between them.”
It is also probably good to soak up some of the negative ions close to the waterfall’s basin. Even in the middle of winter, the spray feels nice. On the nearby Shibakawa river is Otodome no Taki (waterfall of silence), which is 25 meters tall and boasts a thundering roar.
The guide association currently has 64 members. In fiscal 2013, the year Mt. Fuji was granted World Heritage status, the members guided about 10,000 people.
“Since then, we’ve been guiding from 7,000 to 8,000 people every fiscal year,” Inoue said. “Mt. Fuji is popular with foreigners. People never get tired of it.”
After retiring at age 60, Inoue hoped to give something back to the local community, taking a guiding course to start, studying the basics of the local history and nature.
“On tours, people ask all kinds of questions about Mt. Fuji, the waterfalls, shrines and other topics,” he said. “It makes me happy when I can give a satisfying answer. I always think I need to study more.”
The association is funded through payments from bus tour groups that make reservations in advance. Free tours are provided to small groups by two or so guides posted at the city’s popular tourist sites, such as the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha shrine, on weekends and holidays. In winter, however, no guides are at Shiraito no Taki.
One thing any visitor to the area around Mt. Fuji wants to see is no doubt an “upside-down Fuji,” or the mountain reflected in a body of water.
The mountain’s Yamanashi Prefecture side has several well-known spots for taking photographs of this spectacle, such as Lake Yamanaka. However, I was told that the west side of Lake Tanuki in Fujinomiya also makes for good photos, so I stopped by early the next morning on my drive to the Asagiri Kogen highlands. There is usually little wind in the morning, which makes for better pictures.
Standing on a viewing deck near the Kyukamura Fuji accommodation facility, there was a little wind but not enough to make waves. For my first upside-down Fuji, it was more than enough to move me.
A phenomenon known as “Diamond Fuji” can be seen here when the sun rises right behind Mt. Fuji in the mornings around April 20 and Aug. 20 every year. If you catch the mountain reflected in the water, you can glimpse the rare “Double Diamond Fuji.”
The sacred mountain must generate all kinds of spiritual scenery.
From fried noodles to alcohol
Fujinomiya is known for its yakisoba stir-fried noodles, which are said to have first been made soon after the end of World War II. Now locals have set up an “academic society” to promote the dish.
While noodles used in regular kinds of yakisoba are boiled, those for the Fujinomiya version are steamed, giving the dish a distinctive texture.
Fujinomiya yakisoba also does not use traditional cuts of meat as an ingredient, but instead features meat by-products that are left after lard is processed from the back fat of pigs. After being stir-fried, the noodles are flavored with Worcestershire sauce, sprinkled with powdered sardine or mackerel broth, then topped with red pickled ginger.
About 200 restaurants in Fujinomiya alone have the dish on their menus. The yakisoba association also offers its own at the group’s eatery on the Omiya Yokocho street near the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha shrine.
Mt. Fuji’s subterranean water, meanwhile, gives its blessing to alcohol makers in Fujinomiya.
Fuji Takasago Sake Brewery, one of the city’s four manufacturers, uses local soft water for its products, giving them a gentle, slightly sweet flavor.
The Bayern Meister Bier brewery, which opened in 2004, also uses the subterranean water. A brewmaster from the German state of Bavaria came to Japan to help make beer, a favorite of locals, out of imported hops and barley.Speech