Mt. Fuji is a mountain that is visible from the whole world – as a symbol of the Japanese state or the great Orient, its images are featured in virtually every Japan-related brochure and merchandize well beyond the geographical constraints of the Archipelago.
The present paper asks several provocative questions: to what extent are the Western perceptions of Mt. Fuji embedded into the constructed „universal heritage value“ in its UNESCO World Heritage nomination process; how does the defined universal value relate to the local identity value of Mt Fuji cultural landscape; and how does the contemporary perception of both universal and local value of the place relate to the evidence of its long-term history of land use? To what extent can we claim that its nomination as a „sacred place and source of artistic inspiration“ casts the mountain in terms of European values and perception of the place, and how well does it accommodate different identities and uses on local level? And on the other hand, to what extent are the present local identities related to historical land use before the rapid modernization?
To answer these and related questions, we will use a variety of sources from interviews with people involved in world heritage nomination process, nomination materials, media sources, but also historical evidence of past landscape use, such as maps, historical documents and archaeological data. While the people involved in the construction of „universal value“ lament the excessive pressure by the Western experts, the local inhabitants express bewilderment about the nomination as a site of worship and art. How and by whom was the mountain used is a key question in addressing these claims. An additional theoretical issue involved in the discussion is how much should the present local identities and evaluations be included in the construction of heritage value in case of a massive landscape change that completely changes millenia-long practices?
Innsbruck, Austria, 2016.