The most famous image and the symbol of Japan is represented by the beautiful natural attraction, the Mount Fuji. If you’re brave enough and the health conditions allows you, climbing Mount Fuji could be an amazing souvenir to take back home.
I done this ascension one year ago to celebrate my 30th anniversary and to have a memorable memory to remember afterwards. The entire experience wasn’t an easy one, but it totally worth it.
Fuji-san is the highest mountain in Japan and it has a height of 3776 meters. It is the most beautiful volcano in the world and the most famous. It is still an active volcano and last time he erupted was in 1707 for three full weeks.
In terms of ownership, it was a big debate for whom should be the legal owner of it, but the Sengen-Jinja Shrine of Mount Fuji won against the Japanese authorities. Another interesting fact is that women couldn’t climb the mountain until 1868, as it was forbidden. Nowadays, this is a very loved place among the locals, tourists and is climbed by over 250,000 people per year.
Planning the trip
Before actually deciding to climb Fuji-san you need to know some essential things in advance. This will help you be well prepared in advance and successfully reach the summit if this is your target.
When to visit
Mount Fuji can be visited during two months of the year, around July and August when the weather is allowing the ascension in secure conditions. This is the time when the stations – the stops along the route – are open, when are people around and the place is safe.
Before deciding the day to go, check the weather. There is a website where you can check how safe is it to climb based on the meteorological conditions. Bare in mind, even if is summer, when you’ll reach the top the temperature can go down to 0 degrees. Up there, the conditions are changing continue without any further notice.
For example, I climbed mid-July and it was still the rainy season – something unusual as normally should end at the end of June. It rained the entire ascension, it was windy and cold. On top of this, while walking around the crater we had snow, or better said small sharp pieces of ice coming into our faces. I had the feeling I will have small holes in my face after this expedition, so it’s not a joke. Weather is a big thing if you really want to create good memories and have a nice view from the top.
Climbing Mount Fuji without a good equipment is really not a good idea. In order to survive the trail you really need to get properly prepared. You should have waterproof shoes with good grip, good breathable clothes with protection against rain & cold and a pair of gloves to keep your hands warm.
Also, for good weather, add on top a pair of sunglasses as the light is very powerful up, a hat above your head because of the wind and the ultraviolet radiations, plus some sun cream!
Look at the images above to see how unprepared I was for this ascension. A few times during the expedition I couldn’t felt my hands, it was horrible. My poor white sneakers were full of ash and inside I had small pieces of lava.
There are 4 different routes for climbing Mount Fuji starting from different points of the mountain: Subashiri Trail, Yoshida Trail, Fujinomiya Trail and Gotemba Trail. You need to chose the trail based on your starting point (coming from Tokyo, Fuji, etc.). The routes have also different lengths so maybe you want to check for the shortest one too.
You don’t actually need to have a car in order to reach the ascension point. Depends from where you’re coming but for example, there is a direct train from Tokyo which brings you to Gotemba Station. From there, there is a bus which can bring you to the 5th station, the most common start point for the route. Check all the options for how to reach Mount Fuji in the picture above.
If you want to take it easy and do the ascension over the weekend or in two days, you can do so. There are some accommodations on the way at the majority of the stations. We personally entered there only to warm ourselves with a hot tea and I may say, the conditions were not looking great at all. You will sleep in a sleeping bag and in very poor conditions. More than this the prices are very high and are totally not worth in the services. But, at least there is an option you can keep in mind if needed.
You have several options to climb Mount Fuji, during the day starting in the early morning or during the night, to see the beautiful sunrise from the summit. If you’ll climb during the night you’ll need a flashlight and new batteries.
There are no garbage facilities on Mount Fuji, so you will need to take all your trash back with you, until the 5th Station.
You cannot just hide near a tree and go for a pee as there are no trees as higher you climb. Anyway, there are toilets at every station but you’ll need to pay for it. Costly, but there is no other alternative!
There are 10 stations from bottom to the top, but if you start with the 5th station as the majority of the people, you will need to climb only 5. The ascension takes between 5-7 hours without breaks, depending on the trail you chose. On your way, you will see locals and tourist, but if you’re really lucky maybe you can see Shinto pilgrims which are making the ascension to glorify Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, the mother of Japan.
Once you’ll reach the summit, you will end up in kind of a smal town. There are some shops around where you can stop and eat, drink a warm beverage or purchase some souvenirs. I did bought a small wooden piece engraved in Japanese with the date of my ascension. It is also a charm to protect you against accidents.
If you have some extra energy, you can walk around the crater. It has 3 km lengths and takes approximately one more hour to walk around. Stop by and pray at the temple or buy some lucky charms for souvenirs. I did bought four charms for health, for my family and friends!
When you’ll start your descending, you don’t actually go the same way you ascend. There are 3 descending trails the Subashiri/Yoshida trail, the Gotemba trail and the Fujinomiya trail. Follow the colors to not get lost.
If you succeed reaching the summit and you are back down safe but tired, you really deserve a special treatment. This valley is very well known for its onsen, the traditional thermal baths. Open 23h/7 you should definitely make a stop to recharge your batteries and gather some strengths.
There is an old Japanese saying regarding climbing the mountain:
“A wise man climbs Fuji once. Only a fool climbs it twice.”
Well, maybe I am a fool, as I did felt in love with this sacred symbol of Japan and I am planning to make a second visit this summer. Fingers crossed!
I do hope you have a better idea about what climbing Mount Fuji means. Before your visit, I do recommend you checking the latest information at a tourist center.
Meanwhile, explore more about this amazing country here.