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Mt. Fuji rest house destroyed in suspected arson, reconstruction could take years

Inside the rest house on the Fujinomiya trail's fifth station that sustained damage due to a suspected arson is seen in this photo provided by the Fujinomiya Municipal Government.

FUJINOMIYA, Shizuoka -- A rest house for tourists and climbers on Mount Fuji in this central Japan city has been left unusable following a suspected arson attack, the Fujinomiya Municipal Government revealed on April 8.

    The facility on the fifth station of the Fujinomiya trail serves as an important base for Mount Fuji climbers and tourism promotion. As reconstruction may take several years, local governments that have been working towards reopening Japan's highest peak to climbers this summer after it remained closed last year due to the pandemic are scrambling to respond.

    Fujinomiya Police Station on March 25 arrested a Tokyo man in his 20s on suspicion of trespassing and arson to an uninhabited building. The man stands accused of breaking into the closed rest house on around March 16 and setting fire to it around March 22.

    An investigation by the Shizuoka prefectural and Fujinomiya municipal governments along with the rest house owner found the shop area on the second floor of the two-story reinforced concrete building completely burned out. While the first floor where a cafeteria is located was not burned, the building itself, including bathrooms, is reportedly unusable.

    Fujinomiya Mayor Hidetada Sudo was furious over the fire. "(The rest house) is an important base for disaster prevention as well," he said. "It was such a foolish act."

    The Fujinomiya government said that while the owner's intention has yet to be made clear, demolition and removal of the building appear to be unavoidable. As the city had been requesting that the prefectural government consider building a new facility, the municipal government plans to push the prefecture once again to mull new construction. But even if a decision to rebuild the rest house is finalized, there will be many restrictions, such as not being able to carry out construction work in the winter.

    The Mount Fuji Skyline road stretching to the fifth station will open to traffic in late April. A matter of concern for the time being is how to secure toilets for visitors to the fifth station. The prefectural and municipal governments are considering setting up a makeshift bathroom.

    (Japanese original by Eiji Nagasawa, Fuji Local Bureau)

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