No one is climbing Mt. Fuji this year, but everyone can recreate the symbol of Japan in their home.

So in case you haven’t heard, Mt. Fuji is closed for the year. You may be wondering how Japan’s greatest example of the great outdoors can be “closed,” but the specifics are that access to all four hiking trails that lead to the top of the mountain will be closed through the summer climbing season, as will huts and other facilities along the way.

The reason for the closure is that climbing Fuji actually involves spending a lot of time in close proximity to other people, which isn’t such a great idea with the coronavirus outbreak going on. So if we can’t visit Japan’s highest mountain, we’re going to bring the mountain to us.

The Yamatsumi line of papercraft kit gets its name from the Japanese words yama (“mountain”) and tsumi (“stacking”). It’s essentially a color, 3-D version of a topography map that you build yourself, layer by layer, to recreate the contours of Japan’s most picturesque alpine terrain.

The kits are divided into five levels of difficulty (for construction, not climbing), and we went with a 73-piece Level 1 Mt. Fuji set, which cost us 2,600 yen (US$24) on Amazon. Aside from the layers you’ll use to build the mountain, you get a wooden base and a pair of guide pegs.

The layers are perforated and self-adhesive, so you don’t need any special cutters or glue to assemble Mt. Fuji, though you might want to glue the absolute bottom layer to the base for better stability. Also, if you have a rolling pin or some other sort of weighty object handy, it can help prevent crimping as you add new layers.

The construction process is simple. In addition to a number, each sheet has holes for where the guidance pegs go. Simply slide the sheet on top of the others, adjust the pegs if necessary, and then add the next.

The process is just the right balance of precise and relaxing. Taking care to place the pieces properly is rewarding enough that it commands your attention and concentration, but easy enough that there’s no real stress or pressure. It’s a great way to focus on one thing and one thing only, blocking out everything else and giving yourself a mental break from whatever may have been weighing you down before you started.

As you make your way higher up the slopes of Mt. Fuji, the pieces obviously get smaller, and a pair of tweezers can come in handy for gripping ones that are too small to easily pinch between your fingertips.

One thing to watch out for: You’ll regularly need to reposition the guide pegs, and there’s a chance some of the adhesive may accumulate on them during the process. Because of that, you’ll want to be gentle when pulling them out, since being too forceful, like we were, could make one snap.

▼ …whoops…

In the later stages, you’ll only need to use one peg, and at the end there’s no need (or space) for the peg at all.

▼ The peak piece, Number 73, is incredibly tiny.

And now, to finish our Fuji…

Wow! We’ve gotta say, that turned out even better than we’d expected.

With Mt. Fuji being Japan’s tallest mountain, it’s sometimes easy to forget how broad it is at the base. The Yamatsumi kit, though, captures the inviting expanse of its foothills too.

The color is beautiful too, gradually transitioning from a verdant base to a snow-white peak.

▼ Also, when you eat as many matcha green tea sweets as we do, it looks kind of delicious.

Perhaps best of all, as a 3-D model, placing your Mt. Fuji near a window or other natural light source lets you appreciate the play of shadows as the sun moves across the sky, just like you’re watching time pass while gazing upon the actual mountain.

From start to finish, our Mt. Fuji took about 45 minutes to make. If after putting it together, you’re still hungry for more, Yamatsumi has dozens of other kits, some far larger and more complex than this, or, if you’d rather build a different symbol of Japan, there’s always that super-detailed original PlayStation model, as well as the papercraft recreation of Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood.

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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s fond of both Mt Fuji and Mt. Baldy.

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