National Geographic : 1921 Jul
THE GEOGRAPHY OF JAPAN smoking, with the assurance that I should thereby acquire those attributes of the chamois most desirable in a climber nimbleness, strength, and mountaineering skill.* They subsequently begged me, as I had been fortunate enough to make the first ascent of the mountain, to build on the summit a shrine in honor of the Moun tain God, and myself to become its first guardian priest. It always appealed to me as the strangest offer of preferment and the most singular proposal for church-building that I ever received. A frequent cause of delay or ill-success in exploring unfamiliar peaks in these regions has been the inability to obtain the help of the hunters, who alone know the best approaches. A careful inquiry usually led to the discovery either that the men were afraid to bring an alien on the sacred mountain, lest the mountain spirits should in angry retaliation destroy their crops, or that they were absent, en gaged in the rite of Amnagoi, a service of supplication in time of drought. This service usually consisted of light ing bonfires and discharging guns to draw the attention of the god to the fire in order that he might extinguish it by send ing the needed downpour of rain. But it is on Fuji-san itself that some of the strangest of such experiences have fallen to my lot. CLIMBING SNOW-CLAD FUJI Many years ago, with two Cambridge friends, then visiting Japan. I climbed the sacred mountain, snow-clad in early spring. We had been warned by the vil lage priests and policemen that the anger of the Goddess at such an untimely in trusion (for she was not "at home" to visitors except in the depth of summer time) would surely make itself felt. As an actual fact, we had advanced only a short distance when the weather changed, a typhoon burst upon us, and we were imprisoned for three days in our bivouac half-way up the mountain. However, after the storm came sun shine and with it a successful climb, which did not bring us back to our vil * For an account of a similar superstition among primitive Koreans, see "Exploring Un known Corners of the Hermit Kingdom," in THE GEOGRAPHIC for July, i914. lage friends again. Their kindly solici tude, however, soon rendered us the ob jects of public concern, and the "foreign" newspapers forthwith honored us with the following obituary notice, translated from a well-known Japanese journal (the Hochi Shimbun) : "The foreigners who started to ascend Fuji with two coolies have not since been heard of. The mountain is still covered with snow, and as the summit was hidden in clouds, the visitors were urged to post pone the attempt. But these foreigners were determined to go. A few hours afterwards the storm burst, dislodging huge boulders and house roofs. "As nothing has since been heard of them, it is feared they have succumbed to the fury of the gale. Even had they taken shelter, cold and starvation must long since have rendered them helpless. Their nationality is unknown, but we surmise that they are British, for the rea son that the people of that nation like to do that which is distasteful to them and glory in their vigor!" TENTH CENTURY MEETS TWENTIETH ON FUJI'S SUMMIT There is one outstanding feature of this beautiful and sacred mountain that differentiates it from any other known; for there the unromantic realism and materialism of the twentieth century stretches out its hand across a thousand years and draws the tenth century to its side with all its old-world dreams and communings. Almost at the very door of the most sacred shrine on this holy peak the post office banner flutters in the breeze to beckon the tired but triumphant pilgrim to dispatch to the four corners of Japan the picture postcard that shall announce his successful toil. And as at early dawn you turn from a surprised contemplation of the most up to-date installation of modern meteorol ogy on the crater's edge, your astonished eyes are arrested and held with reverent interest by the sight of the shivering limbs and the adoring gaze of some aged pilgrim, whose white-clothed form en shrines the flowing devotion of a prime val worship paid in all sincerity to the splendors of the "Rising Sun."