Fujiyama

For millennia, Mount Fuji has been seen by Japanese natives as a highly spiritual and sacred location, and is one of the country’s three Holy Mountains. It is often referred to as Fujiyama – the Never-Dying Fuji – and believed to be home to several important gods, some principally associated with the volcano itself. In spiritual terms, the mount is divided into three segments: the base represents the living world, the forest line represents the transient area between the domain of humans and domain of the gods, and the “burned” peak represents Heaven and the afterlife. Local traditions encourage the climbing of Mount Fuji each July, as to pass into the realm of the dead and back again allows pilgrims to cleanse their sins.

A number of old myths surround Fujiyama. In one tale, the volcano is described as rising from a flat, barren plain in a single night, witnessed by a woodsman called Visu who thought he was experiencing an earthquake. The details and origins of this creation legend have been dated back thousands of years, and coincide with an historical eruption which may have shaped Mount Fuji as we know it today. Another story tells how a woodsman discovered a baby on the slopes one day, and took her home. She grew to be the most beautiful girl in Japan, and was married off to the Emperor. However, after seven years, she revealed she was not a mortal, and had to return to Heaven at the summit of Fujiyama. Following her there but unable to find her, the devastated Emperor’s love burst from his chest in fiery passion, explaining why smoke has always been seen drifting from atop Mount Fuji.

Penglai

The Island of Penglai is an important location in Chinese folklore (called Horai in Japanese), believed to be at the eastern end of the Bohai Sea. It is considered the paradise of the East, and is one of five islands on which the Eight Immortals live (the others being Fangzhang, Yingzhou, Daiyu and Yuanjiao). Neither pain nor winter exist here, and food and drink cannot run out, yet it has never been found by humans despite several expeditions. The Immortals feast at Penglai, whose palaces are made of pure gold and platinum, and the entirety of the mountain-island’s flora and fauna appear white. Jewelry grows on the trees, and their fruits can heal diseases, grant eternal youth, or even raise the dead. A later Japanese legend removed the utopia elements of Horia, adding that the air was not oxygen but countless souls, and inhaling them gave an individual access to ancient knowledge and wisdom.