There comes a time in every Japan-loving gaijin's life when he or she must take the plunge and climb Mt. Fuji. An active volcano 12,388 ft (3,776 meters) high that rises gracefully from the prefectures of Shizuoka and Yamanashi, Mt. Fuji is an incredibly beautiful image of the country. In Japanese its name is Fuji-san, with san being the correct pronunciation for the character for mountain, although this character is read yama in other situations, and foreigners are famous for using the wrong name (Fuji-yama). Climbing season is from July 1 to August 31, during high summer, since it's really hot down at sea level yet freezing cold at the apex. Climbers usually start from the 5th level, the highest point that vehicles can reach, and take one of three walking routes up to the top (the 10th level). As you climb up, you pass the various milestones and get a special stamp on your walking stick to commemorate each achievement; eventually you'll reach the top, out of breath from the thin air but happy to be having such a great experience. Traditionally mountains are associated with Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, and Mt. Fuji has been considered a holy place for thousands of years.
Mt. Fuji, or Fujisan, is the most famous single symbol of Japan.