While most people have heard of Mt. Fuji, many Western visitors have never heard the name of Fujisan’s “rival,” Tsukubasan, or the legend that created the historical rivalry between the peaks.
Mt. Tsukuba, also known as the “purple mountain,” for its spectacular evening colors, rises from the northern end of the Kantō plain about 2.5 hours northeast of central Tokyo. On a clear day (or even a slightly hazy one), the summit of Mt. Tsukuba offers spectacular views of the Kantō, including glimpses of Mt. Fuji far to the south.
According to Japanese legend, thousands of years ago the creator kami (Japanese deities) Izanagi and Izanami descended from heaven and looked for a place to spend the night. Mount Fuji declined the deities’ request, but Mt. Tsukuba offered her twin summits (871-meter Nantai, the “male peak,” and 877-meter Nyotai, the “female peak”), as well as food and sheltering trees.
Izanagi and Izanami blessed Mt. Tsukuba for her generosity, ensuring that she would remain forested and teeming with wildlife in perpetuity, while Fujisan was cursed to remain a barren, volcanic cone forever.
Today, Mt. Tsukuba remains a popular destination for Japanese tourists, hikers, and visitors from around the world. The mountain features several hiking trails, which ascend through spectacular, sun-dappled forests, as well as both a cable car and a ropeway (gondola) for visitors who want to see the summit views without the climb.