Photo/IllutrationTourists gather around Shiraito no Taki waterfall in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture. (Eiichi Murano)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories featuring the aesthetic landscapes of Mount Fuji, Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture and Izu in Shizuoka Prefecture, which have been visited by an increasing number of tourists from overseas. Based on conversations with travelers, the series casts light on sceneries and cultural heritages that gave form to these areas.

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Spring water spouts out from a crevice in a cliff covered with fresh greenery, breaking into streaks of white while rushing down the surface.

On April 28, a number of tourists were seen walking down a rocky area of the Shiraito no Taki waterfall in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, to dip their hands and bathe their feet in the crystal-clear water.

“It’s cold--very cold,” said Claudien Barbier, 29, from France, adding that Shiraito, which means “white thread” in Japanese, sounded “beautiful and poetic.”

Eric Brown, 27, from the United States, was impressed by how melted water from Mount Fuji turns into the beautiful waterfall, saying that the plunge pool was “turquoise” in color.

The waterfall is about 20 meters high and about 150 meters wide. Owing to a low permeable stratum of Kofuji mudflow deposits that is exposed under a highly permeable lava bed, the waterfall looks like a panorama of white curtains. During the Edo Period (1603-1867), “Fujiko” religious followers performed ablutions with water from the waterfall before going on to climb Mount Fuji. Worshippers also purified themselves at the shore of Wakutama-ike pond, where underground water from Japan’s highest peak flows out.

The pond is on the grounds of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha shrine about 10 kilometers south of the waterfall. In recent years, many visitors take water home in plastic bottles available at a water pavilion near the pond.

This past March, Mt. Fuji Brewing opened at a spot a few minutes' walk from the pond. The brewery serves craft beer in a restaurant attached to it.

“One hundred percent of the raw material is water pouring from underground,” factory manager Ryusuke Emori, 41, said. “We want to make beer that tastes gentle and smooth.”

Located near the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Center and a guest house, the brewery has been receiving an increasing number of foreign customers.

A cycling tour has been offered in the area since 2017, taking participants to spring water spots across the city over about five and a half hours.

Ayaka Sano, 27, from the Yuno district in the western part of the city, is one of the tour guides. She starts the tour from Shiraito no Taki, leading tourists and other participants who sign up online along ditches in which water from the waterfall flows and through the water-rich countryside to get to Yuno. The participants are also taken to a sake brewery and farmhouses.

After studying in Canada, Sano returned home to show people from abroad rural communities near the base of Mount Fuji.

“People from overseas are impressed by the idyllic landscapes, taking pictures and taking an interest in the simple life,” she said. “A Singaporean woman even tried her hand at rice harvesting.”

Meanwhile, Sano has concerns about the communities.

“The rice paddy landscapes are kept by elders, but there are only a few successors. The landscapes might be desolate over the next few years. It’s difficult,” she added.

Sano is a member of a general incorporated association called Ecologic, which also organizes walking tours in urban areas near Wakutama-ike pond. Participants can choose to walk around the city areas wearing kimono or gain hands-on experience making Japanese confectionery. Ecologic also recruits participants for a walking tour into Mount Fuji’s Hoei crater during the summer.

The representative director of Ecologic, Masanori Shintani, 50, is an expert who has supported ecotourism development across the world in the projects initiated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“We want to introduce the values of Mount Fuji with the help of local lives and culture,” he said. “We can eat delicious Japanese sweets and ‘soba’ noodles and drink sake because we have clean water. Our culture won’t disappear if we add value to forests and mountain foothills for the tours. I believe Fujinomiya will be a model case of local-based tourism.”

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Eiichi Murano is chief of The Asahi Shimbun’s Odawara and Atami bureaus.