Perhaps Japan’s most famous pagoda – that even itsn’t a
I admit it candidly: I always thought that the numerous photos of Mt. Fuji, a sea of cherry blossoms below, a blue sky above and a shiny orange-red pagoda in front of it were the result of a rather impudent Photoshop forgery, transporting Mt. Fuji into the old imperial city of Kyōto. But they are not! This picture, which is among the most famous images of Japan, is real! And not just because Instragram bears witness to the fact that an innocent landscape is being photographed to death.
That should be reason enough, to give this place a wide berth on this website… Or maybe not. The exception proves the rule! Or, with other words: Why not paying tribute to a location that everybody knows (or: of which everyone believes to know it).
So, let’s have a look at the Chūreitō (忠霊塔 / ちゅうれいとう) – the pagoda that isn’t really a pagoda. But everyone calls it “pagoda”. But the official name of the building is “The Fujiyoshida Cenotaph Monument” (富士吉田市忠霊塔 / ふじよしだしちゅうれいとう). The cenotaph, shaped like a pagoda is a ferro concrete construction built from 1959 to 1962, was erected to enshrine about 960 citizens from Fujiyoshida who died in the wars which occurred after 1868 (the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, World War I and the Pacific War of World War II). It is an immitation of the Shitennō-ji’s five-story pagoda.
However, the measurements are a touch more modest: it has a basic foundation of 7.3 sqm and a total height of 19.5 metres – the “pagoda” itself is 13 metres tall and is topped by af sōrin (相輪 / そうりん) (vertical shaft) of 6.3 metres height.
The funds for the construction of the cenotaph (roughly 10 million Yen) were raised by selling the former Shimoyoshida Veteran Grove and donations by the citizens.
About 400 stairs of the “Blossom Princess Stairway” (咲くや姫階段 / さくやひめかいだん) lead up the “pagoda” (for those who don’t like climbing stairs, a more or less gently ascending driveway is also available). All in all it’s about 500 stairs on which everybody can test the capacity of their legs and lungs.
Fujiyoshida (富士吉田市 / ふじよしだし) is a small city that was founded in 1951 when three smaller communities were merged. It is located at an altitude of 650 to 850 metres on the northeastern slope of Mt. Fuji and counts about 48,000 inhabitants. Previously famous for its textile industry it is twinned with the cities of Colorado Springs (USA) (since 1962) and Chamonix (France) (since 1978).
How to get there:
You can reach the view point in a picturesque cherry tree grove from Shimoyoshida staiton (下吉田駅 / しもよしだえき) in about 20 minutes on foot. On the way up, you can also pass the enchanted Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine (新倉富士浅間神社 / あらくらふじせんげんじんじゃ).
3360-1 Arakura, Fujiyoshida, Yamansashi, Mt. Arakura Sengen City Park