It looks like Mt. Fuji is well on it’s way to becoming an official piece of World Heritage, which means the area can expect an upswing in tourism. Around 200 km away in Gunma Prefecture, workers at Fujiyamashita Station are also bracing for an increase in foreigners mistaking the tiny station for the closest stop to the majestic mountain.

For Hirokazu Nagumo, the operator of a single car train for Jomo Rail, this is bad news.  The disappointed faces of heartbroken visitors over his 18 year career is an image he has trouble shaking from his memory.

In an interview with Tokyo Shinbun, the 38 year-old train operator recalls an incident in which he transported a young Chinese couple from Akagi Station which connects to the Tobu railway from the Tokyo area.  He remembered that when they arrived at Fujiyamashita Station, the couple asked where Mt. Fuji was in charmingly broken Japanese. He also remembers how devastated they looked when he told them it was 200 km and two prefectures away.  The tourists promptly turned around and got on the next train back to Tokyo.

According to reports from workers, Jomo Rail estimates that tourists from Europe, America, and Asia mistake Fujiyamashita Station as the destination to see Mt. Fuji on a yearly basis. However, when they arrive, instead of the elegant symmetry of the World Heritage Site contender, they are presented with a somewhat less awe-inspiring vista including the Echigoya Liquor & Food of Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture.

These wayward sightseers were probably mislead by the name Fujiyamashita (lit. beneath Fuji Mountain) into thinking it was near the foot of Japan’s most famous mountain.  Anyone planning to visit Fuji from Tokyo would have more luck by heading the opposite direction to Fujisan Station in Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture.  Further complicating things, when written in kanji characters “fujiyama” (Fuji Mountain) and “fujisan” (Mt. Fuji) look identical.

This begs the question why a station nowhere near Fuji would have a name synonymous with “beneath Fuji.”

Just north of the station lies a 40 m tall mountain covered in dense vegetation called Fujiyama,  which holds an Asama shrine once frequented by worshipers of volcanoes, in particular Mt. Fuji.  During the Edo period residents would climb it as if it were Mt. Fuji as a part of the religious practices. Although volcano worship has plummeted considerably since then, the locals still regard the shrine and mountain as an important part of their culture and history.

As such it’s not likely they will change the name any time soon. In fact, word has it they’re considering applying for World Heritage status themselves.  As for confused sightseers, Jomo Rail said they are looking into ways to prevent future foreigners from landing on the platform of poor, misunderstood Fujiyamashita Station.

Source: Tokyo Web (Japanese)
Images: Google Maps

How to get to Fujisan Station from Fujiyama Station in case anyone gets confused.