I have a bit of an issue with mountain climbing, in that I never quite seem to be prepared. It’s not for lack of trying. I mean, I didn’t TRY and lose my shoes before climbing Mount Kinabalu, so that I had to do the two-day trek in Crocs. I didn’t expect to extend my hike in Arizona without food and water, before getting caught in a dust storm. And again, that can-do attitude caught up to me in Japan, when my husband and I decided to scale beautiful Mount Fuji.
One of the most famous peaks in the world after Everest and Kilimanjaro, Fuji is the crown jewel of Japan.
At 3,776 metres high, it features nearly perfect symmetry and a white capped top—which looks stunning when accented with those pink cherry blossoms. The mountain is actually an active volcano—but don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted since 1708! One thing visitors may be disappointed by is that it’s sometimes hard to get a clear view of the peak, as it can be quite cloudy.
The hike up
The climb is divided into 10 ‘stations’ and visitors usually start their treks from the 5th Station, which is 2,300 metres up. Buses drop groups off here, and there are also places to grab food or pick up souvenirs. This is also the perfect spot to pick up rain gear which is a must on those wet days, especially because it gets colder and windier the higher you go (more on that later). From there, you’re off to the races!
The beginning of the hike is very easy, with large, paved trails winding up the side of the mountain. Your biggest obstacle will be getting around all the other climbers! It’s really a lovely walk, as you look down at the valley below, grassy hills and guest houses dotting the mountain. Oh yeah…speaking of those guesthouses, what better way to enjoy the mountain than to stay on it? There are a number of mountain huts perched into the hill all the way up, which go for about 5500 yen per person, per night. The huts are made up of a communal sleeping area and provide meals for an extra charge. Keep in mind there are no bathroom facilities. The huts are popular with those hoping to watch the sunrise and book up fast, so be sure to reserve a spot well in advance.
From 5th Station it takes about five-plus hours to reach the summit, and it gets steeper the higher you climb. When we went, we only planned to do a bit of a hike to see what all the fuss was about, versus trekking all the way up. However, we were going at such a good pace that soon we were all the way up to the 8th station, high above the clouds! At that point, people started to think we were crazy, as we were not wearing appropriate climbing gear and temperatures were starting to drop. What they didn’t realize is that we’re from Canada, and anything above 10 degrees is considered summer, so we were happy as clams!
Despite the fact that we could have kept on going, we decided to turn back so that we didn’t miss our bus ride back to Tokyo–and catch hypothermia.
All in all, a trip to Mount Fuji is a wonderful experience for those lucky enough to visit Japan. Not only will it help you work off some of that sushi, but you’ll arrive home with fantastic photos.
When to go: The official climbing season is July and August, when weather is mild and the mountain is free of snow. Some of the mountain huts stay open until mid-September, but temperatures can drop below zero and conditions are considered perilous between October and mid-June.
How to get there: If you happen to have a car you can drive there, otherwise take a bus from Tokyo. Trips leave from Shinjuku, Fujisan, Gotemba, Shin-Matsuda, Mishima, Shin-Fuji and Fujinomiya stations, and cost anywhere between 1080 and 3000 yen.
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