TOKYO (Reuters) – The climbing season for Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak, is cancelled for this year, after local officials announced on Monday that the mountain trails leading up to the summit will stay closed throughout the summer due to the novel coronavirus.
Shizuoka Prefecture, which manages three of the four trails that lead to the peak, made the announcement on Monday, following a similar announcement made by a neighbouring prefecture that manages the fourth trail.
Shizuoka made the decision to keep the trails shut because “we cannot guarantee the safety of the climbers”, as mountain lodges and first-aid centers will be closed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, said Yoshinari Nushida, a section chief for the Mount Fuji public work office.
This is the first time since record-keeping started that Shizuoka did not open its trails for the climbing season, he added.
Located about 130 km (81 miles) west of Tokyo, Mount Fuji rises to 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) and attracts multitudes of hikers and tourists during its climbing season, which runs from July to September.
Some 236,000 people climbed the mountain last year, according to the Environment Ministry.
Japan has seen about 170,000 cases and 769 deaths from the novel coronavirus as of Monday. The daily number of new cases has dropped in recent days, with new cases in Tokyo down to the single digits.
The government lifted its state of emergency last Thursday for most of the country, save for eight prefectures including Tokyo, but is still urging people to remain vigilant against spreading the virus.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)