Climbing Mt. Fuji
A Guide to Climbing Mt. Fuji
My experience climbing and summiting Mt. Fuji is something I will always remember. 3,776m in the sky and unimpeded by clouds, I watched as the sun peaked up over the horizon. It was unquestionably one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It was a special moment where all the worries and stresses of life ceased to exist. Those who say otherwise, well, they just didn't do it right...
There are many ways to reach the summit of Mt. Fuji and since I've done it, I'm here to share how you can do it too.
I've included photos throughout and a gallery at the end of the post. If you want to watch instead of read, please check out the documentary-style video I did....
Here's Your Guide!
First things first, you have to do your research. Don't think you can just show up and hike Mt. Fuji in your converse with a bottle of water. Asking others about their experience is a good start, but honestly just start by typing "Climbing Mt. Fuji" into google. That's what I did.
You can't hike Mt. Fuji year round. This can only be done when it's in season. The specific dates depend on which trail you choose, but typically it starts at the beginning of July and lasts until the middle of September. Outside of that time, it's too dangerous for the average hiker, so there are lots of restrictions on climbing in the off season.
I would recommend using the trail that is easiest to get to from where you are coming from. If you are coming from the Kansai region (aka places like Kyoto or Osaka), then the Fujinomiya Trail is probably the most accessible. However, if you are coming from Tokyo, you most likely will want to take the Yoshida Trail. No matter which trail you take you will be starting from the 5th station. All the trails are different so make sure you pick the one that is best for you.
Every 5th station has a slightly different elevation:
Yoshida Trail (the most popular trail) -- Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station (Yamanashi Prefecture)
Altitude: about 2300 meters
Ascent: 5-7 hours
Descent: 3-5 hours
Subashiri Trail -- Subashiri 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Altitude: about 2000 meters
Ascent: 5-8 hours
Descent: 3-5 hours
Gotemba Trail -- Gotemba 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Altitude: about 1400 meters
Ascent: 7-10 hours
Descent: 3-6 hours
Fujinomiya Trail -- Fujinomiya 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Altitude: about 2400 meters
Ascent: 4-7 hours
Descent: 2-4 hours
How to Get There
This is once again based on where you are coming from, but it will be a series of trains and/or buses to make it to the 5th station. In case you missed the memo, the 5th station is the starting point of the hike. I took the Shinkansen (新幹線), aka the bullet train, from Kyoto station (京都駅) to Shin-Fuji station (新富士駅) which took a little over two hours. Then from Shin-Fuji station, I took a bus to the Fujinomiya 5th station. The bus ride takes two hours and costs around 2400 yen (~$24) one way, while a round trip ticket costs 3100 yen (~$31). Once you get out of the city and the bus reaches the base of the mountain, it takes you up this beautiful winding road and the views are spectacular.
What to Bring
No matter what month you go it will be cold near the top. Check the weather, and plan accordingly. Here is what I recommend...
- I recommend a rain jacket or even better a huge poncho. So if the rain really picks up it covers you and your gear. I brought a poncho ^_^.
- Pants and jackets (check the weather and bring whatever you think will keep you warm)
- 25L or bigger pack to hold all your stuff
- **A summit beer and/or a flask of whiskey to celebrate!!
- Food -- I brought protein bars, fruit, and a sandwich. You can buy food/drinks from the huts when they are open (it varies, but typically they offer food from 8am to 5pm depending on the hut and the trail). Don't rely completely on a hut, though. Still bring something to eat with you!
- Water (at least 3L)
- Hiking shoes (I used my trail running shoes and they worked just fine)
- Oxygen -- This is definitely optional, but I would get it if I went again. They sell cans of oxygen at the 5th station and I recommend buying one!! I got altitude sickness and borrowed one from a random hiker and it made a world of difference when I was at the top!
- Camera or phone
- Portable phone charger (if you bring your phone)
- Cash!!!! (no place is going to accept credit/debit cards up there)
Now is the time when you need to decide if you want to make just a day hike out of it or if you want to see the sunrise. There are a couple different ways you can go about this...
Day Hike -- No Hut VS. Staying in a Hut
1- If you want to day hike then start early. I would say probably around 8am or earlier. However, this is going to be the most rushed option depending on how slow you and/or your party hike. Bring headlamps! Keep in mind the bus schedule. I don't really recommend this option, but hey people do what they want to do. So have at it.
2- If you want to hike during the day, not be rushed, and see the sunrise then just book a spot in a hut and start hiking in the early afternoon. I would say around noon to 1pm so you can take your time and enjoy being on Mt. Fuji. However, if you choose a hut that is close to the bottom of the trail just start much later. You MUST book a hut in advance! You can't show up and expect there to be space for you. Huts cost around 5000 yen (~$50) per person for only sleeping accommodations. They also offer sleeping and food/drink accommodations for about 7000 yen (~$70) per person. These prices vary depending on the hut and the trail. So double check before booking AND BRING CASH!! Most huts are not going to be super comfy. It's called a hut and not a hotel for a reason. Also, make sure to start your push for the summit early enough to watch the sunrise!!
Night Hike -- No Hut
This option is pretty straight forward, but make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes. I would recommend starting the hike around 7 or 8 pm. Watching the sunset is beautiful from the trail. Take it slow and rest/nap on the benches or the ground at some of the stations closer to the top. Be veryyyy cautious of the weather if you night hike! I can't stress this enough! If you check the weather and don't see days of sunshine in your future then don't do this option. It's super dangerous! I took a nap at the 8th or 9th station on a bench and then started my push for the summit around 1:30 am.
Sunrise from the Summit
Sidenote: Goraikō (御来光) means to watch the sunrise from the top of a high mountain. Getting to the summit of Mt. Fuji is highly sought after and being able to watch the sunrise on a clear day is rare.
Now, this is what you have been waiting for... this was, bar none, one of the most breathtaking views I've ever experienced!! 100% worth the planning, the time, the money, etc. That being said, I had a cloudless view of the sunrise and clear skies during the hike on the previous night. I was able to see the lights from the surrounding cities and the stars like I've never seen them before. The weather was perfect. The views were magical. Take the time to plan your trip and you won't be disappointed when you find yourself standing on the summit of Mt. Fuji watching the sunrise.
1- On most trails, you can buy a walking stick at the 5th station and get it branded at huts along the way. It's a unique souvenir to always remember the experience.
2- There is also a post office at the top of Mt. Fuji where you can send your family/friends a postcard from the summit. You can buy the postcards from the 5th station I believe.
3- On Mt. Fuji via the Fujinomiya trail there is also a secondary trail to Hoeizan, a different peak with a crater, offering gorgeous views of the Pacific ocean and Tokyo if there are clear skies.
4- Food/drinks/things you can buy will get more and more expensive as you get higher up the mountain. For example, you can buy water at a lot of the huts, but near the top water might be $10+ for a small bottle. So plan accordingly. Bring cash!
5- Bathrooms are at most of the huts, but you have to pay to use them. They can be anywhere from 100 yen ($1) to 400 yen ($4). Once again, bring cash!
Once again, if you want to hear more about my experience, please check out the documentary-style video I did....
And with that, I'm out....