Mt. Fuji, one of the most important and famous symbols of Japan, is open for climbing from July to September during summer season. So, if you are up for adventures and want to challenge yourself, you might want to do it.
Mt. Fuji is a 3,776-meter-high inactive volcano, and is the tallest peak of Japan. Fortunately, the hike to get to the top has a lot of infrastructure to make it more accessible to all kinds of people.
Fujinomiya Trail: one of the four trail options
The hike that my group chose was the Fujinomiya Trail, which starts at the fifth station of Fujinomiya City. You have four options of trails described in the official Mt. Fuji climbing website.
The fifth stop seems like a train station, with restaurants, a parking lot and souvenir shops. In these facilities, I recommend that you buy a wooden hiking stick, which may help you in climbing, and you are able to customize it with burnt wood stamps that you can buy on the way up. The hiking stick is ¥800 and the stamps are ¥200 – ¥300 each. You will have plenty of options of stamps, and they are also exclusive depending on the year.
The hike consists of five stops until the top. So, as said before, the trek starts at the fifth stop and ends at the ninth stop, which is located a few meters below of the top. These stops are pretty useful for resting, using the bathroom, having a snack, getting souvenirs and getting a stamp on your hiking stick! Also, if you want to spend the night during your climb, it is totally possible – at the seventh stop there is a hotel, but be aware that one night is about ¥15,000 per person.
How tough is the hike?
It’s pretty tough! Even though there are a lot of facilities, it takes five to seven hours (we took eight hours and 30 minutes) of steep hiking! According to the trail’s website, the trail we chose is the fastest to complete, but also the steepest one.
But the worst part of it is the altitude sickness. Yes, it is real. It affects minority of the people but it can be very debilitating – you might feel dizzy and nauseous due to the lack of oxygen. That’s the main reason why you can’t push yourself too much, so take your time and be aware of your own limitations. And don’t forget to put an oxygen tank in your backpack just in case.
We took four hours to complete the climb down. The path was very dusty and the sun was extremely bright and strong. It’s very important to protect your eyes, nose and mouth because of the dryness and the dust.
What to put in your backpack?
First of all, pack LIGHT! I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the weight of their backpacks, and they used only about 30% of what they actually brought, so think about it: less is more.
Bring at least three bottles of water, and isotonic drinks (it’s the best option in my opinion).You can buy water at the stops, but one bottle of 500 ml costs about ¥500, and it gets more expensive as you get higher.
Don’t forget a rain coat, thermal clothing, a windbreaker jacket, and a wool sweater – on the top of Mt. Fuji the temperature can reach -2°C at this time of the year and is very windy reaching the thermal sensation of about -10°C or less, so be prepared for big temperature differences. Also, be equipped with sunglasses, a scarf and a hat.
To eat, you can bring protein and carbohydrate jellies, crackers, protein/energy bars, and cup noodles – at the stops they provide you with hot water.
Planning your time
We were seven people and our objective was to watch the sunrise at the top. So, our climb started at 7:30 p.m. in order to arrive at the top at 4:40 a.m. Unfortunately, due to a lot of difficulties, we watched the sunrise at the ninth stop, just a few meters beneath the peak.
On the top of Japan
Even though we didn’t watch the sunrise at the peak, the view was totally breathtaking. It wasn’t easy but the experience was rewarding.
There is a particular point of the sunrise, when the sun appears above the clouds, and it looks like we are watching the sunrise at a beach, because the clouds seem to have turned into the ocean.
This is the most beautiful natural phenomenon that I’ve ever experienced.
Just a few more steps before reaching the highest peak of Japan, you will face a ladder with two guardian dogs at the front, also known as lion dogs in English, and in Japanese as komainu (狛犬). Just after climbing up the ladder you’ll reach a shrine – there you’ll be able to stamp your hiking stick for the last time and also get a souvenir of “mission complete”.
What surprised me the most is the infrastructure you face up there. There are three or four restaurants, a bathroom, a shrine, benches for resting and vending machines.
If you still have energy, you have the option to walk for another 2.5 hours around the crater. This is a good way to have a notion of how big and wide Mt. Fuji is. The experience was quite mind blowing, I must say.
Mt. Fuji Climbing Information
When to go
Early July through early September
While the hikes are free of charge, the climbers are asked to give a small amount of donation to help conserve the environment and enhance safety measures.
There are buses that take you to the fifth station of each trail from the nearby train stations. The departure points of the buses vary depending on which trail you plan to hike. For details see: http://www.fujisan-climb.jp/en/access/index.html