Mount Fuji: Changing Landscapes in Japanese History

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 16 January, 2020
6:00pm GMT

Weston Room, Norwich Cathedral Hostry, Norwich NR1 4EH


Dr Junzo Uchiyama (Sainsbury Institute)

Dr Mark J Hudson (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)

About the Talk

Fujisan, or Mt. Fuji, is a freestanding volcano, and at a height of 3,776m, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776m. Well known as Japan’s national icon, Mt. Fujii has been of cultural significance throughout Japanese history and was inscribed as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site in 2013. Even though no eruption has been reported in the past three centuries, Mt. Fuji is a comparatively young and active volcano, located on geological plate boundaries, the whole formation process of which has been witnessed by humans since its birth only approximately 17,000 years ago.

Recent archaeological research in the area has revealed that prehistoric ceremonial sites with stone alignments were placed in special locations in consideration of the connection to Mt. Fuji, suggesting that Mt. Fuji was already seen as a sacred mountain during the Jōmon hunting-gathering period (ca. 16,000-3,000 years ago). From the Heian period (8th to 12th Centuries) onwards, Mt. Fuji developed rapidly as a place for ascetic training by members of the Shugendō, which is a Japanese mountain asceticism incorporating Shintō and Buddhist concepts. As pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji became popularised in the Edo period(17th to 19th Centuries), landscapes revolving around Mt. Fuji became widely influential and affected Japanese art greatly, as seen in Hokusai’s woodblock print series of “Fugaku Sanjūrokkei (Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji)”. This lecture introduces the historical interactions between Mt. Fuji and people since prehistory, and considers how its cultural meanings have changed in the course of history up to this date. The lecture will also introduce issues following  the World Heritage inscription.

About the Speakers

Junzo Uchiyama is an environmental archaeologist, who obtained his MA from the University of Durham in 1996 and his PhD in 2002 from SOKENDAI, the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Japan.

Based on the methodology of zooarchaeology, Dr Uchiyama’s main academic interest has been human historical adaptation processes to their environments during “Neolithisation”, the transitional period from hunting-gathering to agriculture-based societies since the Last Glacial period, using the Japanese Archipelago during the Jomon period as a main research field.
Dr Uchiyama is Handa Japanese Archaeology Fellow at Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (2018-2020).

Mark Hudson is a researcher in the Eurasia3angle research group, based at the, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany. He was educated at SOAS, Cambridge and the ANU. Mark has taught archaeology in Japan for more than 20 years, and from 2016-2017, he was Professor at the Mt Fuji World Heritage Centre in Shizuoka. His publications include Ruins of Identity: Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands (Hawaii 1999) and (as co-editor,) Multicultural Japan: Palaeolithic to Postmodern (Cambridge 1996) and Volume 1 of the Cambridge World History of Violence (forthcoming 2020).

Mark is currently writing a book on Mount Fuji titled In the Shadow of Fuji: The Mountain at the Top of Deep Japan.

This event is part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2020

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.