The Japanese archipelago, as stated in an earlier chapter, is abundantly supplied with volcanoes, a number of them being active. Of these the best known to travelers is Asamayama, a mountain 8,500 feet high, of which there are several recorded eruptions. The first of these was in 1650; after which the volcano remained feebly active till 1783, when it broke out in a very severe eruption. In 1870 there was another of some severity, accompanied by violent shocks of earthquake felt at Yokohama. The crater is very deep, with irregular rocky walls of a sulphurous character.
Far the most famous of all the Japanese mountains, however, is that named Fuji-san, but commonly termed in English Fujiyama or Fusiyama. It is in the vicinity of the capital, and is the most prominent object in the landscape for many miles around. The apex is shaped somewhat like an eight-petaled lotus flower, and offers to view from different directions from three to five peaks.
Though now apparently extinct, it was formerly an active volcano, and is credited in history with several very disastrous eruptions. The last of these was in 1707, at which time the whole summit burst into flames. Rocks were split and shattered by the heat, and stones fell to the depth of several inches in Yeddo (now Tokyo), sixty miles away. At present there are in its crater, which has a depth of 700 or 800 feet, neither sulphurous exhalations nor steam. According to Japanese tradition this great peak was upheaved in a single night from the bottom of the sea, more than twenty-one hundred years ago.
Nothing can be more majestic than this volcano, extinct though it be, rising in an immense cone from the plain to the height of over twelve thousand feet, truncated at the top, and with its peak almost always snow-covered. Its ascent is not difficult to an expert climber, and has frequently been made. From its summit is unfolded a panorama beyond the power of words to describe, and probably the most remarkable on the globe. Mountains, valleys, lakes, forests and the villages of thirteen counties may be seen. As we gaze upon its beautifully shaped and lofty mass, visible even from Yokohama and a hundred miles at sea, one does not wonder that it should be regarded as a holy mountain, and that it should form a conspicuous object in every Japanese work of art. It is to the natives of Japan as Mont Blanc is to Europeans, the “monarch of mountains.”
In summer pilgrimages are made around the base of the summit elevation, and there are on the upward path a number of Buddhist temples and shrines, made of blocks of stone, for devotion, shelter and the storage of food for pilgrims. Hakone Lake is three thousand feet above the sea, and probably lies in the crater of an extinct volcano. Its waters are very deep; it is several miles long and wide, and is surrounded by high hills which abound in fine scenery, solfataras and mineral springs.