Red Fuji and Rouged Fuji


Mount Fuji in Deep Summer (July 31, 2012: Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi Pref.)

Red (Summer) Fuji

Mount Fuji looks reddish typically in two different ways. In summer, there is a period that the snow settled on Mount Fuji disappears, except for some snow streaks, to expose the surface ground of its upper slope. With the sunlight, Mount Fuji then looks reddish because of reflection, I believe, of rust-red scoria falls that remain deposited on its surface since last eruption occurred in 1707. The forest on the base of Mount Fuji has been recovered naturally in about three hundred years after the eruption but its upper slope still or ever remains bare.

Quite a few of you may know Hokusai Katsushika, a Japanese artist and ukiyo-e painter who lived from 1760 to 1849, and one of his masterpieces entitled “South Wind, Clear Sky” also known as “Red Fuji” (Aka Fuji). If you see Mount Fuji up close in deep summer when it has no snow, you will realize that the redness of his “Aka Fuji” is not an over-exaggeration altogether. Hokusai drew “Red Fuji” in his sixties, and it was about one hundred years after last eruption of Mount Fuji. I believe that it should be the main reason why the forest-line drawn in the “South Wind, Clear Sky” appears somewhat lower than the tree-line of today, putting the presence or absence of the impact from global warming aside.


“South Wind, Clear Sky” by Hokusai Katsushika

Rouged (Winter) Fuji

Rouged Mount Fuji just before sunrise in the winter
(January 22, 2019: Lake Yamanaka, Yamanashi Pref.)

Mount Fuji looks reddish in winter too, and it is called “Rouged Fuji” (Beni Fuji). “Red Fuji” is well introduced to foreigners but often not specifically enough to avoid confusion with “Rouged Fuji”. I say it because there are many people, including Japanese, who do not know the difference between them. At least, I can say that “Rouged Fuji” is less recognized than “Red Fuji”. One reason for this may be that much less number of people travel to see Mount Fuji up close in winter than in summer.

“Rouged Fuji” refers to the state that the snow of Mount Fuji looks pinkish with the reflection of the sunlight. Typically, it can be seen just before sunrise or right after sunset in the winter.

In description of either “Aka Fuji” or “Beni Fuji”, I do not like to use the word “crimson” for “red” or “rouged” being afraid of chances of more confusion. Anyway, I would be very pleased if you remember the meaning of “Red Fuji” and “Rouged Fuji” as “rust-red summer Fuji” and “rouged winter Fuji” respectively.

Although climbing Mount Fuji is normally not possible in the winter, I am sure that you will be impressed by standing lakeside and seeing a 5-minute “Rouged Fuji” show before sunrise in the winter.

My Views of Mt. Fuji

First snow settled on Mt. Fuji (November 9, 2017)
The first snow settled on Mt. Fuji
(November 9, 2017: Gotemba City, Shizuoka Pref.)

Mt. Fuji Closed before First Snow

The time of first snowfall of Mount Fuji varies a lot from one year to another. It can be early September or earlier, or it can be late October or even later sometimes.

Most of the climbers start trailing up this highest mountain in Japan (3,776 meters from the sea level) from its trail-head called “Fuji-san gogo-me” (Mount Fuji’s 5th Station). In 2018, the fifth stations and trails on Yamanashi Prefecture side (north side) were opened on July 1st and those on Shizuoka Prefecture side (south side) on July 10th, and the all trails on both sides were closed on September 10th. The trail opening and closing dates are set to secure safety of the climbers who otherwise may encounter a snow hazard.

Mt. Fuji Trails (Typical)

No Front or Back Side of Mt. Fuji

Mount Fuji is known for its symmetricity in conical shape. But it is a general description, hence may not be specific enough. If you look at it a little closely, you will soon notice a difference in its shape especially when the views from north side (Yamanashi Prefecture side) and south side (Shizuoka Prefecture side) are compared one another. To describe this difference, or to discriminate the other, the people in Japan have used unique expressions in its history.

Of Japan, Pacific Ocean side used to be called “Omote Nihon” (Front-side Japan) and Japan Sea side was called “Ura Nihon” (Back-side Japan). Along with establishment of equality movements, these discriminative expressions lost their value thus no longer in use. For the same reason, comparative expressions of “Omote Fuji” (Front-side Fuji) and “Ura Fuji” (Back-side Fuji) are gone. Yamanashi Prefecture is an inland region with no coastline around. Yet, the people there would not be happy to hear somebody speaking to sound as if they were living on “back side”.

Suruga Fuji and Kai Fuji

Suruga Fuji over Japanese pampas grass field
(November 12, 2016: Susono City, Shizuoka Pref.)

During Shogunate era (Edo period), today’s Shizuoka Prefecture constituted a large part of “Suruga” county and Yamanashi Prefecture composed “Kai” county predominantly. By making use of these classic and still respected local identifications, Mt. Fuji viewed from Shizuoka and Yamanashi sides are called “Suruga Fuji” and “Kai Fuji” respectively to make everyone happy. We never say “Shizuoka Fuji” or “Yamanashi Fuji” as the people are apt to prefer shorter wording.

Male Fuji and Female Fuji

“Suruga Fuji” and “Kai Fuji” are also called “Onna Fuji” (Female Fuji or Womanly Fuji) and “Otoko Fuji” (Male Fuji or Manly Fuji) respectively sometimes. It may be a little confusing to the people who believe that all mountains should be “female” in gender. Even in the countries where a mountain must be “she”, however, many mountains are named manlike.

It is true that Suruga Fuji look more gentle or womanly than Kai Fuji. But the use of these comparative expressions is not freely recommended as the social issue of sexual harassment is more sensitive than ever.

Kai Fuji over the morning fog of Lake Yamanaka
(November 15, 2018: Lake Yamanaka, Yamanashi Pref.)

All the people seen in the photo above were tourists from China. On many fine days, particularly in the fall and in the winter, Lake Yamanaka begins to be foggy soon after the sunrise, thickening and lasting for a couple of hours, as do the places like the Great Lakes.