"You must climb Mount Fuji once in your life," an old Japanese maxim admonishes, and lately, as if a grim determination had seized the population to get the job done, the volcano has become a prime target for summer tourists. Here, plodding along a switchback trail near Fuji-san's cindery summit, are some of the 30,000 hikers who labored up the 12,400-foot slope on a recent weekend.

PHOTOHARRY REDL