There is a mental condition of which you may not have heard: The Paris Syndrome. The symptoms are thus: Japanese tourists save up for a couple of years and use all of their scant holidays to travel half way around the world to the French capital. En route they read and reread their guide books and look at pictures, excited – thrilled! – to finally be visiting the city of their dreams, where model-like waifs in designer clothes will skip over cobbles and between the easels of brilliant al-fresco artists.

And when they get there… Well it’s nothing like what they had imagined; they have been sold an impossible construction. All that time and money and now, sitting in a crowded cafe being served mediocre coffee by a fantastically rude waiter, their world starts to collapse. What happened to Paris? What happened to their dreams?

We British aren’t so susceptible to it: our expectations of Paris are much more grounded – and besides it’s only a train ride away. We expect perfume-wafting snobs, just as a Parisian visiting London expects to be wading through uncultured drunkards. And even when that’s not the case (and, truth be told, it rarely us), we can pretend that it was.

With the huge expense of travelling to Paris, and with such limited holidays a year, Japanese tourists can’t be so blasé. If enough things go wrong, the walls of reality can come crashing down, leaving some people in search of the nearest embassy.

Why mention all of this? Well, were Katy and I more mentally unstable, today we would have undergone our own version Paris Syndrome, or more specifically, Fuji-itis.

Before we came to Japan, Fuji was at the forefront of our minds. The perfect conical volcano, a totem that somehow symbolises the majesty of the whole country. Even without seeing Fuji, you know what it looks like: this is the mountain of your childhood, the ultimate peak. It comes to you through the art of the great Hokusai, it comes to you through your dreams.

Unfortunately, having travelled to the very base of the beast, we have been left unable to see anything. Today – of all days – we have had some rotten weather, with a biting wind and low cloud that has left even the nearest slopes of Fuji invisible to us. To the locals, it’s probably no surprise that the mountain has vanished again, but to we naïve tourists – well, it’s hard not to feel a little cheated.

The mountain has been dormant for 300 years, but is still officially classified as “active”. With such unpredictability and potential power, it’s no surprise that this is where various deities are said to have made their homes, or that people travel from afar to worship them. Back in the real world, it is a huge tourist draw, especially in summer when the snow subsides and thousands race to its 3,776m peak, no doubt finding oxygen in far scarcer supply when they arrive. They usually make the ascent at night so they can watch the sun rise from the roof of the world.

Yesterday, from afar, we could guess at its magnificence; today, it has gone on holiday and left a grey void in its wake. Let me be clear, though: the mountain has not disappointed us, it’s just not turned up. Hopefully tomorrow the gods will let us see their home up close.

Besides, here in Fujiyoshida, at least the waiters are polite.

After contracting Fuji-itis, Katy started to see the elusive mountain everywhere...


Our time in Yamanashi prefecture was made possible by:

The combined efforts of our fantastic guiding trio Ikumi Ushida, Yumiko Matsui and Tomoko Ayukawa for showing us around Kofu and arranging for an enormous cuddly toy to meet us at the train station. They taught us about the local wine and noodles, and gave Katy some much-needed female company (even if it did leave Jamie a little worried for his safety).


皆さんは“パリ・シンドローム”をご存じだろうか? これは日本人の旅行者によく見受けられる症状なのだが・・・・










牛田育美さん、松井由美子さん、鮎川智子さん、甲府ではお世話になりありがとうございました。甲府駅ではサプライズのお出迎えをしていただき、本当に嬉しかったです。特にケイティーは皆さんとの“ガールズ・タイム”を楽しませていただきました。 ありがとうございました!


  1. Kat
    October 20, 2011

    I hope you get to see Mt. Fuji before you go. It’s one of those things, I guess, that’s so associated with Japan that not seeing it is like not being there at all.

  2. Karin
    October 20, 2011

    those “Fuji” pics are simply great :-) )

  3. Si Wei
    October 20, 2011

    Wow very creative post!

  4. Beth
    October 20, 2011

    I live in Jerusalem and we have Jerusalem syndrome here. In fact, we have three types. Types one and two generally affect those already suffering from some kind of mental issue while type three affects previously normal tourists.

    “The same clinical picture always emerges. It begins with general anxiety and nervousness, and then the tourist feels an imperative need to visit the holy places. First, he undertakes a series of purification rituals, like shaving all his body hair, cutting his nails and washing himself over and over before he dons white clothes. Most often, he lifts the white sheets from his hotel room. Then he begins to cry or to sing Biblical or religious songs in a very loud voice. The next step is an actual visit to the holy places, most often from the life of Jesus. The afflicted tourist begins to deliver a sermon, demanding that humanity become calmer, purer, and less materialistic”

    Besides their bizarre behavior, everything else about the tourists is normal and this reaction passes completely in five to seven days, usually when the tourist moves on to Greece or Egypt. However, there are those that linger and roam the country for years.

  5. scout
    October 20, 2011

    If the readers enjoy Katy’s lead shot, you can make your own >

    iOS – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/peak.ar/id331448290?mt=8

    Android –


  6. aprilius20
    October 20, 2011

    I saw this German movie (Kirschblüten – Hanami) a few years ago, about this old chap who went to Japan. He bedded down for more than a week near Fuji-san- he did get to see it in the end. He kicked the bucket in the process, though.

    …uh. Gloomy example, but it’s the only one I have. Here’s to you guys seeing it without any fatalities:)

  7. James Mundy
    October 20, 2011

    I IT
    HA !!!

    • James Mundy
      October 20, 2011

      Oh….Shame that message didn’t come out. It was in the shape of Mt Fuji….sort of…Great post you guys.
      How many times did you hear the words, “Fuji san is a very shy mountain”…
      Beautiful when you do get to see Mt Fuji though – always takes my breath away, no matter how many times I have seen it in spring, summer, autumn or winter…..hope that’snot rubbing it in. Sorry.

      • Mariko
        October 21, 2011

        Well said, right on!
        “always takes my breath away, no matter how many times I have seen it in spring, summer, autumn or winter”

  8. cdb
    October 20, 2011

    I’ve been following this blog very faithfully, since I’m planning to go see Japan myself in the next few years. And I can tell you, it’s given me so many ideas!

    • cdb
      October 20, 2011

      Ow, also, can you please please please do more of authentic Japanese food related posts? I will most probably be touring around the country, tasting each and every one of them.

  9. Mariko
    October 21, 2011

    Oh I hope you will get a chance to get, at least, a glimpse of Fuji. And Yes, Fuji is kind of special for me (as Japanese). It impresses me every time when I see it.

    By the way, for the Japanese, travelling to paris is no longer a once-in-a-life-time event. Well maybe for some, but thanks to quite affordable air tickets which even allow Students to enjoy visiting there. But you have a point, when I visited Paris for the first time, I simply expected to see many “Stylish Parisienne” but the reality was…alas (I do love Paris, by the way.).

    lastly, more food-related posts please! :-)