Travel of Japanese people has a deep connection with Mt. Fuji. The first travel agents in Japan therefore are related to Mt. Fuji, too. There are many ways of travels – visiting friends and relatives, sightseeings, hiking, etc. Pilgrimage is also a kind of travels. In old days in Japan when the public transport was not yet improved, it was of course very difficult for Japanese people. They did not travel very often and travels were very special activities.
They traveled only on special occasions. Such special trip often involved religion. Mt. Fuji was one of those religious destinations for Japanese people. By 12th Century, Mt. Fuji already became the subject to worship. But travels at that time were not easy. It took many days to reach to the destinations and it cost a lot. Not everybody could afford to travel. Therefore, people made a group called Fuji-ko, collected membership fees and chose their representative who would go climb Mt. Fuji on behalf of their Fuji-ko Group. When the representative traveled, Oshi the travel agent made arrangements.
At the foot of Mt. Fuji, there were many houses of Oshi who offerred their places to those who came to worship Mt. Fuji.
The houses of Oshi were inns for travellers and Oshi arranged tours to Mt. Fuji and also engaged in missionary work. There were Oshi not only in Mt. Fuji area but also other places such as Ise Jingu Shrine, Kumano Shrine, Izumo Shrine and such mountains as Oyama and Hakusah which were subjects to worship. So Oshi is considered as a first form of travel agents in Japan and travels to Mt. Fuji or other religious places were the first styles of travels in Japan.
I knew about Oshi but I did not know that they are in today’s world. At the time of the Fire Festival, I walked along the street in front of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine, and I was surprised to see there still remained many Oshi‘s residences.
A pile of woods is a torch for the Fire Festival. Oshi families play a significant role during the festival and they dedicate torches.
Nakaganmaru’s residence has a large traditional gate.
They offerred udon noodle of this region to visitors like they used to do centuries ago.
There were antique furnitures inside the house.
The culture of the religious trips is inherited today in many ways. Travel agent is one thing. And souvenir is another thing. In Japan, you may notice that wherever you visit, there are some foods (in many cases, sweets) original to that region. The origin of such souvenir is a proof to visit the place. Since only a representative of Fuji-ko Group could go on a trip to Mt. Fuji guided by Oshi, on his way back, he bought local sweets that proved his visit and delivered them to other members of his Fuji-ko Group. So souvenirs are the evidence of the travels. That’s why every region has their own special foods.
Here is a popular souvenir of Mt. Fuji area. It is called Shingen-mochi, a kind of a rice cake.