One of Japan’s most impressive regions is Mt Fuji (富士山 / Fujisan) and its surroundings. With its almost 12,388 ft height above sea, it is an stratovolcano that many can see from different prefectures all over Japan. Actually officially recognized as “Japan’s symbol”. Would you believe Mt Fuji was used as Shogun’s refrigerator for almost 200 years? Keep reeding to know more!
1.- Interesting facts about Mt Fuji
There are several rumours and fantastic stories about Mt Fuji. However, some legends about it are actually ascertainable. By instance, in its outskirts lays a forest that is well known as the “suicide forest”. We are talking about 青木ヶ原 (あおきがはら / Aoikigahara), a 13.51 square mile long woods where a lot Japanese people opt to end their lives. In fact, this is the place where most Japanese suicides are committed in Japan, and also the second place with this title worldwide only after the San Francisco Golden Gate, here in the states.
Although Mt Fuji is famous for this “suicide forest”, that is not why many people visit it year after year. It is actually an inactive volcano considered to be a Deity along Meji Era (19th century). Back in the date, women were restricted to climb to the top for this very reason.
It has been long believed Mt fuji is set in a somewhat strategical location, since it is close to the center of the japanese archipelago. For this reason, samurai, militia and foreign occupants have set their training HQs in the area. By instance, America holds a Marine military base called “Camp Fuji”, which nowadays acts as a center of intelligence since its foundation back in 1953.
2.- Scientific development in Edo Period
But perhaps you are wondering: Why is Mt Fuji considered a military strategic location from ancient times? As you already read, one of the main reasons is it has been stated as sacred. However, there is a way stronger reason that directly relates wit the famous Edo Period.
Between 1603 AD and 1868 AD, Japan experienced a period of isolation that brought prosperity in different aspects inside Japanese society. One of this, indeed, was the development of local techniques to preserve food to keep them from rotting or decomposing.
One of the most well known methods of food preservation is the low temperature one (as in a refrigerator). But… there were no fridges back in the day, rigth?
3.- Mt Fuji’s ice caves
Meet the Ice Cave of Narusawa. They are a subterraneous volcanic cave complex that extends beyond 200 meters long. These caves are found in the surroundings of Mt Fuji, very close to the “Suicide Forest” we spoke about earlier. They are extremely cold all across the year, considering they can be as low as 37ºF in the summer, when Japan reaches peak temperatures beyond 95ºF. These underground caves were formed around year 864 AC due to magma movements in the region.
As impressive as it is, the Ice Caves are not by themselves when it comes to freezing places. Nearby (just a 20 min walk away), there is also another complex of caves known as the “Ice Caves” or “Fugaku caves”. They are very similar, but the ice caves (as the name suggest) are slightly colder, while wind caves have strong wind currents that keep the temperature fairly low even on summer. The reason these caves are so cold is a sum of their flat walls, depth and terrain height. In fact, these caves’ walls are so even that it is said that no echo can be heard as you would on a regular cave. In winter, these caves naturally reach 5ºF. How impressive is that!
4.- Mt Fuji as Shogun’s personal fridge
So how has Japan taken advantage of this iced caves? It is well documented that in Edo Period, the Shōgun (the military ruler in turn) had the responsability to ensure food for his citizens. That is why several Shōgun used Mt Fuji’s ice caves as fridges to keep food in good condition. There is evidence that seeds and silk cocoons where kept here as they would be nowadays to prevent them to get to bad condition.
A little later in time (around 1900 AC) these caves where used to create ice blocks that were offered as costly presents to noble Japanese people. As ice was scare, it was considered a nice present to give specially when summer arrived. What do you think about this? Leave a comment or write us back in our Facebook Official fanpage!
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