At 3776 meters Mt. Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain. When hiking Mt. Fuji in Japan the mountain gives a stunning view from afar but an almost magical view from its peak. In the early mornings climbers reach the peak of Mt. Fuji for the stunning sunrise. It’s an elevating experience. But, there are some things to consider before you see the great Mt. Fuji-San (San is a title similar to Mr. or Mrs. Mt Fuji has been referred to Mt. Fuji-San and Mt. Fuji-Sama, a similar title denoting a great deal more respect).
For example, when you climb, which path should you choose? Did you even know there were choices on paths? And surly you’re not going to hike all night, see the sunrise, and hike all the way back down without sleeping… right? We’re going to cover these questions and more so when you get to see Mt. Fuji-San for yourself you will have a worry free, enjoyable experience.
Preparing for Your Climb
The Climbing Season
If you’re like me, you know practically nothing about climbing. I’ve climbed up a waterfall in Jamaica (which was an amazing experience!), but that really pales in comparison to a mountain, especially Mt. Fuji. For example, did you know in climbing there are climbing seasons? Now I know not to trek my butt up a mountain mid-January, but I did think, “Well, maybe late spring”. Little did I know the climbing season is a lot shorter, at least on Mt. Fuji, than I thought. Again, I’m extremely inexperienced when it comes to any kind of climbing so it might differ for other mountains.
For Mt. Fuji the climbing season starts early July and runs to mid-September. These dates can vary depending on the trail you choose, weather conditions, and of course any natural issues have taken place on the trail. During the climbing season the mountain is usually free of snow and the weather is relatively mild. During this time you can access the mountain easily through public transportation and the mountain huts are in operation (more on those later).
For the most popular trail, the Yoshida Trail, season usually runs from July 1st to September 10th. For the other trails, which include Sabashiri, Gotemba, and the Fujinomia Trail the season runs from July 10th to September 10th.
Mt. Fuji is one of, if not, the FIRST thing you think of when someone mentions Japan. Not only is it Japan’s tallest mountain, but it holds a lot of cultural value as a lot of history and folklore is centered on the mountain. So of COURSE it’s a hot spot for both locals and tourists alike. Peek of the season for scaling Mt. Fuji is during school vacations which start around July 20th and lasts until the end of August. In this time frame the highest spike in climbers falls in Obon week, a Japanese holiday. During this time climbers literally stand in lines at some parts of the mountain trails to progress.
If you want to avoid that crowds I’ve read it’s recommended to make the trip on a weekday in the first half of July before the schools let out for vacation. Just be careful, the weather is less stable during that time of the year.
The Off Season
Some of the mountain huts open a few days before season starts and may remain open until mid-September. Public transportation is going to be almost at a zero outside of season so you mace face more challenges getting to the mountain.
Usually from the months of Late June to October there’s no snow on the mountain, but that doesn’t stop frigid temperatures from reaching below 0. Only those who are experienced in hiking should limb during the off season in late June and September.
From October to mid-June there’s extreme wind and either conditions with snow, ice, and even risks of avalanches. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be on the mountain during these times.
The Different Trails
Mt. Fuji has 10 different stations, the first station can be found at the foot of the mountain and the tenth at the top. There’s paved roads going up to the 5th station located halfway of the island and is the points to start your ascent. There are going to be 4 5th stations placed on different sides of the mountain.
The Fuji Subaru line 5th station is positioned in Yamanashi Prefecture and begins the Yoshida Trail. It’s altitude stands at about 2,300 meters and the ascent takes about 5 to 7 hours. For the decent back down Fuji expect it to take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. This is the most popular of the 5th stations as well as the most easily accessible from the Fuji Five Lake region in central Tokyo. This course is lined with mountain huts around the 7th and 8th stations. The sun rises on this side of Mt. Fuji so it will be easily seen.
The Subashiri 5th Station, located in Shizouka Prefecture begins the Subashiri Trail at about 2,000 meters. From this particular station you’re going to expect about a 5 to 8 hour ascent and a 3 to 5 hour decent. The Subashiri trail is going to meet with the Yoshida trail at around the 8th station where you will have access to the mountain huts at that location. A word of caution, if you are climbing Mt. Fuji during a busy time because this trail meets with the popular Yoshida Trail you will be mixed in with those crowds. Just something to keep in mind.
Starting the Gotemba Trail is the Gotemba 5th Station also located in Shizouka Prefecture. The station is located only at 1,400 meters and takes about 7 to 10 hours to ascend and 3 to 6 hours to descend. Due to its much lower altitude compared to the other stations the trip up and down are going to take longer. For this trail there are about 4 huts split amongst the 7th and 8th stations.
The last of the stations is going to be the Fujinomiya 5th
Station in Shizouka Prefecture which starts the Fujinomiya Trail. This station is located at 2,400 meters and comes with a 4 to 7 hour ascend and a 2-4 hours descent. This is the closest station to the summit and the base for starting your trip up the mountain from its southern side. To get to the station you’re going to want to use the stations along the Tokaido Shinkansen. This trail holds about half a dozen mountain huts for you to rest at.
Will it be Difficult?
Well, it is a mountain, and I’ve seen many pictures of the hiking trail and in those pictures I see an old enemy of mine… stairs. I never thought there would be stairs on a mountain, but there they were in the pictures… taunting me. Now I have not been to Japan myself, thus I haven’t been on Mt. Fuji (sadly), so I can only go by the various research I’ve done. Of course you’re going to have your normal hiking experiences with dirty paths, rocky roads, and steep slopes, just make sure to add stairs into the mix. I want to assume these stairs are going to be more toward the stations or areas with the highest traffic. There will be clearly marked signs to give you warning of strong wind gusts or the potential for falling rocks (I’m sure it’s rare but there’s always that chance), but the main challenge you’re going to face is the face that climbing the mountain will be strenuous and as you gain altitude the air will become more and more thin.
Mountains Are Scary, Should I Hire a Guide?
From all the information I’ve found the climb is not all that difficult aside from the physical aspect of it, it’s just a matter of training. However, if you want to leave the planning to someone else, or are really concerned about it, there are guides you can hire and tours you can take to help usher you through the trail to the top.
Timing is Key
The big thing when climbing Mt. Fuji is to see the sun rise. It’s a beautiful experience that will remain with you for the rest of your life. So, it would be an awful shame to miss it. To get the most out of your hike you want to time everything well so you won’t miss a thing.
Keep in mind Mt. Fuji’s clearest times in regard to weather are going to be the early morning. It’s recommended that you spend the day climbing to the 7th or 8th station and get some sleep before you head the rest of the way to the summit in the morning. At the summit sunrise can take place from 4:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. so you will want to plan the last leg of your ascent accordingly.
There is another way of climbing the mountain, but it is very much discouraged my officials. It is possible to climb to the summit in one straight shot referred to as bullet climbing. Climbers will get to the 5th
station in the evening and climb through the night to reach the summit by 4 a.m. This is far more tiring and brings with it increased risk of injury and altitude sickness (covered down below). Just plan your trip with the time you need and save a little extra cash to stay at the mountain hut. Yeah it’s going to be cramped, but its well worth it.
Some people also attempt to ascent and descend the mountain in one day. It’s strongly not advised for similar reasons as stated above. Plus, there’s little cover on Mt. Fuji so you’re going to be exposed to the sun. You want this to be a fun and memorable trip, you don’t want to return exhausted, falling over, with horrible sunburns all over your body.
While at the summit you can also walk around the crater. After all, it is an active volcano, so of course it has a crater. The walk will take about an hour, so be sure to a lot that time if you wish to walk around the crater.
Mountain Huts – They ARE Your Friends
The mountain huts as essential for safe and healthy trips up and down the mountain. I’ve seen other blogs scoff at the huts and recommend the bullet run, I couldn’t disagree more with their advice. Their chief complaint was the price of the hut verses what you get. The huts start at 5,000 yen for a night stay without meals and go to 7,000 yen for a night stay and two meals.
The sleeping arrangements aren’t what foreigners are used to. They will provide blankets of sleeping backs and pillows for you to sleep on and everyone staying is in one large room. These rooms get VERY crowded at peak season. This might not be what travelers are used to, but you are on a, and I can’t stress this enough, MOUNTAIN. You can’t have large buildings there. It’s well worth the money for some rest and warm food in an isolated and cold area. The people running the mountain huts work very hard to provide for you for your stay. Everything they provide has to be brought to the stations. All the sodas, water, food, and snacks are hauled up the mountain using bulldozers and trucks. It’s a lot of work, but they do it well.
Water is a precious commodity on the mountain. It’s not something that is readily available and has to be brought in so don’t be surprised if you’re not able to take an evening shower.
There are some mountain huts that allow guests to rest who aren’t staying overnight. The cost to rest at one of the huts is 1,000 to 2,000 yen per hour. Toilets are available at most mountain huts, but I have seen where they charge 100 to 200 yen for use. Again, water is difficult to come by.
Mountain huts will also sell water, sodas, and snacks as a little pick-me-up along your journey, The air is thin as you climb so they also sell cans of oxygen to help you if you are struggling (though if you are having to hard of a time it is best to descend). At the 5th station walking sticks are sold and for a small fee at the following stations and huts you can have your walking stick branded with a unique brand.
A VERY important tip, Japan is a cash based society, and that goes triple for the mountain huts. Most do not accept cards so be sure to bring cash with you otherwise you may not be able to buy extra provisions you need.
To stay safe you of course want to wear the right equipment. Here we’re going to have some recommended equipment and a few additions added for a little extra help.
Hiking Pack– We’re certainly not going to carry what we need up the mountain in our hands. Have a nice pack so store your equipment and water bottles.
Hiking Shoes– You certainly don’t want to climb Mt. Fuji in heels or sandals. You want proper hiking shoes that protect your ankles. Some of the hike you’ll face steep terrain, you’ll want to be able to handle it well.
Proper Clothing– The summit can get below 0 and the strong winds can make it feel even colder, so you want to bundle up. You also want to bring rain gear since the weather can be very unpredictable. Also invest in some gloves, both for climbing and warmth.
Flashlight– The last leg of your journey will before the sun rises so you want to be able to see where you’re going. Many people choose head lamps to leave their hands free.
Food– Make sure you pack plenty of food and water. There will be parts of the trail where there will be good distances between huts so you won’t have access to additional food and drink. You can pick up more food and drink at the mountain huts, just keep in mind the higher your altitude is the more expensive it will be. Also be prepared the take your trash with you as there are no garbage bins on the mountain trails (don’t letter Mt. Fuji!!)
Money– As I said before most huts don’t take credit cards so you want to have cash on hand. This will be important for provisions such as water or canned oxygen. It’s also good to have in case you need to seek emergency shelter at one of the mountain huts.
Hiking Sticks– So, TECHNICALLY this isn’t mandatory, HOWEVER, I say heck with that you gotta’ get it! You can get the hiking sticks at all of the 5th stations with the exception of Gotemba and run from 1,500 to 2,000 yen. As you climb your get your walking branded at each hut for a small additional fee. How cool of a souvenir is that? The walking stick you used to climb up Japan’s tallest mountain branded with the proof of your journey which you can wave in the faces of your friends and family back home while chanting “Look at this cool thing I did!”
Sleep Mask– I’m not sure if there will be lights on in the mountain hut, or if everyone even goes to bed at the same time, so a sleep mask may be a good investment for better quality of sleep.
Ear plugs or Headphones– Let’s face it, just because someone is asleep it doesn’t mean they’re quiet. Sometimes people snore when they sleep (or squeak like me) and they can’t help in. You are going to be in a room with a good number of people so ear plugs sure be something you pack. They’ll take up no room and weigh nothing. Now if you’re like me and can still hear your surroundings despite ear plugs take it a step farther and pre download some music onto your phone and listen to some soothing tunes as you fall asleep. I have read the mountain huts to have free Wi-Fi in case you forget. I’m not sure how they managed to get Wi-Fi up there, so I have to say I’m really impressed.
Battery Power Banks– You’re in for a long hike, and you want to capture every moment of it. With me all my media capturing is on one device, my phone. Smart phones eat battery so bringing some power banks for additional charges may be a good idea. I’m not sure whether the mountain huts will have places to charge electronics, but it’s better to pack backups just in case.
GoPro– Not something thats needed, but when I climbed the Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica the couple ahead of us had one and they got some amazing footage (I was super jealous), and what was even better was they didn’t have to pay 45 dollars for the DVD the park that hosted the climb charges! (tourism prices at their finest I suppose)
Mind Your Manners
You are in a foreign land and as such you are representing yourself and your home culture. Be respectful of Japan and their culture, we don’t want another Logan Paul incident.
When Mt. Fuji climbing don’t:
-Pick the plants
-Bring home any stones
-Camp on the Mountain
When you start a trail you will be asked to contribute 1,000 yen per. This fee goes towards costs and expenses of the large number of people who climb the mountain each year. It also goes toward environmental protection as well as implementation of safety measures for climbers.
You’re scaling a mountain and will be hiking up to elevations that you’re more than likely not used to. This is going to put you at risk for headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Whereas most people make it up the mountain feeling ok, some do start to experience these symptoms which is known as altitude sickness.
To avoid altitude sickness it is recommended you take the mountain at a slow pace (i.e. don’t bullet climb), stay hydrated, and take breaks often. Be sure to get plenty of rest at the mountain huts. If you are having some light symptoms try the canned oxygen sold at the huts, it can help in preventing altitude sickness or helping you to feel better. In the end, the only reliable treatment for altitude sickness is to descend the mountain.
I hope this little guide helped if you’re planning to tackle My. Fuji for yourself, or just satisfy some curiosity. I’m also providing a link to Mt. Fuji’s official site where you can make reservations for the mountain huts. I can’t stress the huts enough, I want you to be safe and healthy on your Journey.
Do you have a subject you would like to know more about or one that you would like us to dive deeper in to? Let us know in the comments down below.
Mt. Fuji official website- http://www.fujisan-climb.jp/en/index.html