According to some Japanese history books, Mt. Fuji has been known to be the highest mountain since 7th century but as a sacred place, it was too early to be recognised by the common people then. In 17th century, during the Edo era, there had been many folklore about Mt. Fuji in eastern Japan. Some worshippers founded a religion called ‘Fuji-kou’. This cult grew as a movement and became a place of pilgrimage for many, and had increased in importance up till the beginning of Meiji era around 1900. Since then Fuji-kou continued to contract and only mountain priests make pilgrimages to Mt. Fuji. Although this mountain is mainly visited by tourists nowadays, the priests return to pray on special occasions.
© Hajime Kimura
Footnote :”Viewing and praying to the mountain had originally a religious meaning. Fuji-kou is one of popular groups of sacred Mt.Fuji-religion. Followers banked small hills for the praying to Mt.Fuji in their hometown. They visited hills many times to pray instead of climbing to Mt. Fuji. It was possible to view and pray to Mt. Fuji from those hills, they called “Youhai-jo”. There are many shrines with name of Fuji even now in Tokyo, that tied to the role of “Youhai”. Youhai means the viewing and praying from a distance.” Courtesy : ADVOCACY OF VISTA-HERITAGE—THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF VIEWING TO MOUNTAIN FORSETTING IN JAPAN by Akasaka Makoto / Japan Assoc. Professor of Chiba University (http://www.international.icomos.org/xian2005/papers/1-2.pdf)