16 September 2010, 15:27

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Japan may start charging people to climb Mount Fuji as a surge in visitors strains facilities on the nation’s highest peak. Local governments of six towns around the cone-shaped mountain are considering introducing the fee, said Masatoshi Hada, spokesman for the Fujiyoshida city government. No decision has been made on the level or timing of any charge.

The number of climbers of the 3,776-meter (12,388 feet) peak has risen 46 percent during the last four years. It costs government and local companies about 35 million yen ($414,000) a year to maintain mountain huts, toilets and other facilities for climbers, Hada said.

“Costs are going up with the huge increase in visitors,” Hada said by telephone today. “We think most people won’t object about a small charge because it’s funding facilities.”

The Fujiyoshida government collected 1.7 tons of plastic bottles, cigarette butts and other garbage on the mountain last year. Fujiyoshida is located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Tokyo.

The Japan tourism organization says the ascent from the 2,305-meter fifth station of the most popular route takes about six hours, and recommends climbing in July or August.

About 292,000 people climbed to at least 3,100 meters in the year ended March 31, from 200,000 in 2005, according to the Ministry of Environment.