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Archaeology
Friday, September 27, 2013
 翻譯
A mixed blessing
Mt. Fuji's new UNESCO Heritage status worries some in Japan

They trudge up the cinder paths by the thousands, headlamps glowing in the dark, and then settle in to await the sun's blazing ascent over the horizon. Climbing Mount Fuji, Japan's most iconic landmark, is a group activity: Seldom is it climbed in solitude. The recent recognition of the 3,776-meter peak as a UNESCO World Heritage site has many in Japan worried that it will draw still more people, adding to the wear and tear on the environment from the more than 300,000 people who already climb the mountain each year.

Safety is another concern. At least seven people died and 70 were hurt climbing Fuji in 2012, and traffic jams of climbers in the pre-dawn darkness can add to the risks, said Shomei Yokouchi, governor of Yamanashi, the area to the west. The official climbing season runs from July to August, and the trek — a nine-hour round trip in good weather — is especially treacherous at other times of the year.

Pilgrims have been climbing Mount Fuji for centuries. It towers over the Pacific coast, ringed by lakes, national parks, temples and shrines that are also part of the World Heritage site. The new status, granted in June, will likely help local businesses. Local authorities are puzzling, however, over how to preserve the mountain's natural beauty while improving traffic access and other facilities to accommodate the anticipated increase in visitors.

Some have suggested limiting access by raising tenfold the 1,000 yen (approximately NT$300) climbing fee. But that might lead climbers to risk hypothermia by roughing it outdoors instead of staying in the 16 huts along the top of the trail, which charge up to US$100 (approximately NT$3,000) a night for communal accommodations. "With more foreigners visiting, we will need to think of improving the facilities," Gov. Yokouchi said. Then there's the litter.

Each year 40,000 to 50,000 volunteers clean up garbage on the peak. Groups collected nearly 900 tons to prepare for June's World Heritage vote by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization. The designation is something to be proud of, said Hisataka Kurosawa, a 16-year-old high school student who recently joined a group of volunteers who climbed part of a trail and then scrounged a car park near a visitor center for trash. "It's getting polluted and so many people are running around. I'm a bit disappointed about that," he said

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