Mount Fuji is the most climbed mountain in the world and it is on many people’s bucket lists. If you are heading to Japan in the summer, and you like a challenge, why not give this super-star-level famous mountain a try!?
There is a famous proverb in Japanese about Mount Fuji: 富士山に登らぬ馬鹿、二度登る馬鹿。Most people translate this as “a wise man climbs Mount Fuji once, only a fool would climb it twice.” I have climbed it twice, so officially this makes me baka (the Japanese for an idiot!) I am tempted to climb it again with my husband, so maybe that will cancel out my baka-ness and allow me to be wise once more!? Anyway, I thought it might be good for me to share my knowledge for other Fuji explorers!
Mount Fuji is It is Japan’s tallest mountain; It is 3776m high (or 12,389 ft).
It is a dormant volcano. Well, officially it is classified as an active volcano(!) but it last erupted in 1708, so it’s been a while!
Sometimes you can see Mount Fuji from Tokyo, but it is 100km away, so it is only visible on super clear days.
Climbing season is July 1st to August 31st. It is busiest during the weekends in mid-August.
Don’t be daft:
Mount Fuji is not a particularly difficult mountain to climb, because the facilities are so good BUT that doesn’t mean you should attempt it without any preparation!
- Make sure you wear comfy walking boots and bring plenty of warm clothes, including gloves and a hat! It is truly freezing once you find yourself at the summit waiting for the sunrise!
- Summer in Japan is very hot, so you will be melting at the bottom of the mountain. Bring sunscreen.
- Bring a torch (flashlight) so that you can walk in the dark.
- You need to bring plenty of water and snacks. You can buy food and water. but they become more expensive the higher you get.
- There are shops on the mountain, so bring plenty of money too! You will also need coins to pay for the toilets on your way up.
- If you are not used to gaining so much elevation, take it easy and go slowly. I saw a couple of people collapse on the way up. Make sure you look after yourself.
- If you’re a light sleeper, bring ear plugs!
- As with any mountain hike, take all your rubbish home with you!
The best way:
Whichever route you decide to take up, the most pleasant way to climb Mount Fuji is to climb most of the way up, then have dinner and rest in one of the many mountain huts. If you do this you’ll be woken up, given a bento breakfast and then you can climb to the top of Fuji-san in time for the sunrise. This is a great way to acclimatise your body to the altitude, and to give you more energy to reach the summit.
I have quite a few friends that walked up through the night to see the sunrise, but most of them remember their adventure as an ordeal, rather than an amazing day. I personally prefer to enjoy the whole experience rather than just pushing through it to claim bragging rights.
How to reach Mount Fuji:
One of the easiest ways to get to Mount Fuji is to get a bus from Tokyo. This way you will arrive at the 5th station and be ready to go. You can find an English timetable here.
You can take a train instead, so aim for Fujisan station or Kawaguchiko station. Or the other side of the mountain, look out for Gotemba station.
There are several different routes to take you up the mountain. I have ascended up the Yoshida trail twice, as it is very easy to reach with public transport. The four main options are: Yoshida trail (which starts at Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station) Subashiri trail, Gotemba trail, and Fujinomiya trail. Each trail has it’s own starting point and it’s own 5th station. The Subashiri trail joins the Yoshida trail at the 8th station, so this does get very busy near the top! You can go to the Mount Fuji website to find out more information about each trail.
Mount Fuji is divided into sections. Most people start at one of the 5th stations, which are about half way up the mountain. Once you’ve made it up to the 6th station, you’re 60% of the way up. On the Yoshida trail there are actually a couple of huts at each station, so you’ll reach the 7th station twice, and then the eight station twice etc. This can be a little disheartening if you think you’ve reached another milestone, only to find it’s the same as the previous milestone!
Anyway once you have chosen a route, there are easy to follow paths, so it is unlikely that you could get lost. You can switch off your brain and just keep walking to the top. As Mount Fuji is such a perfect cone shape, you can actually see the top the whole way.
The Yoshidaguchi 5th station (where we started) has plenty of facilities, and even a few clothes shops if you realise you somehow made it this far without enough warm layers. This isn’t your last chance to buy supplies. As you can see from the photo below there are smaller snack shops all the way up the mountain. They have essentials like an-pan (red bean-stuffed bread) and snickers bars as well as drinks and fruit.
On my last trip, it seemed the most busy near the start of the trail. As we went at a good pace, we slowly overtook people the whole way up the mountain. Once we’d made it above the clouds, there were far fewer people around in the daytime. We stopped and had breaks at several of the mountain huts. This is mostly because if you go too fast, you might get altitude sickness. It never seemed crazily busy during daylight hours.
The path is really strange, with very few plants and no trees at all. It is not as pretty as some of the other mountains I have climbed in Japan, but it is really cool to see the lunar-esque landscape.
The higher you get on your first day, the less far you’ll have to climb in the dark. I had called the day before and reserved “beds” for us at the highest hut at the 8th station. There was one hut even higher up, but I quite liked where we ended up. They fed us with hot curry rice. It doesn’t look that good in the photo below, but we all loved it. I guess hunger and tired legs make anything taste perfect!
If your Japanese is not quite up to calling ahead to book a spot, you can also book online and cheat by using google translate. It’s not perfect, but it gives you enough information to make a booking.
We had plenty of time to relax, play cards and watch the sun set from above the clouds.
The beds aren’t really beds. You are given a space along a massive long bunkbed. It’s not particularly glamorous, but it *was* warm and comfy enough for a few hours kip. With this many people sleeping close together, there are always going to be a couple of loud snorers. Bring earplugs!
We were woken up at 2am. A few people groaned and no longer seemed to want to see the sunrise! We all got up and headed straight up the zig-zagging path to the summit. This part of the climb is slow. Even if you want to zoom, there are so many people, that you just have to go at the pace of the crowd. There were a couple of people pushing past and overtaking everyone, but I could hear bitching in both English and Japanese about those people. Don’t be rude, just take it easy and go with the pack.
We actually had loads of time to make it to the summit before the sunrise. We had to wait a while at he top; All the time we were willing the sun to appear because it was so cold! It’s really funny to look back at the path. Even when it’s pitch black, you can see a zig-zag of torches slowly meandering their way up Mount Fuji. It’s like a long glittery glow-worm crawling up the mountain.
Eventually the sun creeped up. This is what we had been waiting for!
Once you’ve made it to the top, you can eat some udon, have a beer and relax. I am always amazed by all the facilities on top of Mount Fuji. I mean, it’s not cheap, but it’s not super expensive either. Water was ¥500 and ramen was only slightly more than ¥1000 – you’d pay more than that in an airport! And more than double that in London!
This is the view after we’d stopped for noodles. Not bad Mount Fuji, not bad.
But this isn’t really the top of the mountain. If you’d like to make it to the highest point, you need to keep hiking around the crater for about an hour. You haven’t really climbed Mount Fuji until you get to the highest point, so keep going!
About halfway around the crater you’ll reach a post office. I sent postcards to my mum and Marc. I think this is easily the coolest location to post something!
On the walk around you get a really good view of the crater. It still had quite a lot of ice, even in August. I also love the bright red colour of the rocks in some areas. Just save a teeny bit of energy as the very last slope up to the highest point is really steep!
Top tip: Once you make it to the top, if you go around the back, you’ll be able to see Mount Fuji’s shadow cast over the Japanese countryside. Last time we went hardly anyone bothered to take these few extra steps, but I have a feeling now people love instagram photos it might be busier there!
You can look down on the surrounding mountains, but they look tiny in comparison to Mount Fuji!
We decided to try a different route for our decent. We chose to turn off and follow the Gotemba trail. It is a lot quieter than the route we had taken up. It also had more of the really bright red rocks and soil.
The Gotemba route has far fewer mountain huts, but there were still a few. They were airing all their futons by the time we reached them.
You are not meant to run down Mount Fuji, but if you decide to go quickly, it is really really fun! The path is covered in small rocks and sand, which gives way a little as you step, so you an slide most of the way down the mountain. I remember laughing a lot and falling over quite a lot as well. The soundtrack to our descent was something like “wheeeeeee, woah *crash* bwahahaha” on repeat.
My camera ran out of battery before we made it to the bottom. So my last couple of photos look back up at Mount Fuji, and down to the volcanic soil.
My final tip is to find an onsen (a hot spring) as soon as you can! One of the best things about Japan is the onsen; They are the perfect way to help your jelly legs recover from the walk! As Mount Fuji is a volcano, it is pretty easy to find one and relax in some hot water.
Do you like the idea? Would you be up for visiting Japan and hiking up its most famous mountain? Give me a shout if I missed something or you need more information!