"Should I climb Mount Fuji?"
To answer that question, here are a few answers to help you out.
● If you like hiking/being in nature: Yes!
● If you want to cross it off your bucket list, or want bragging rights: Yes!
● If you’re not in the strongest physical condition: Yes! I’m healthy, but not fit. I don’t work out and the only exercise I do is the occasional hiking while traveling, and walking on weekends. As long as your health is okay I say go for it.
● If you want to go at your own pace: Yes! Fuji is open 24/7 during July through September (the main hiking season), and there are multiple places to sleep if you need it, or take a rest.
● If you want beautiful scenery: No! Mt. Fuji is beautiful to look at, but from afar. There’s only rock and ash once you get on the mountain, along with the occasional plant. If you’re looking for greenery this is not the mountain to climb.
● If you get altitude sickness: No! Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters, after all.
What Mt. Fuji Looks Like Up Close.
Things To Think About Before Going:
● The Weather: Fuji is unpredictable. We booked at hotel in Fuji (which apparently is no where near the actual mountain. Don’t make the same mistake we did, find a hotel in Gotemba). Both days were supposed to be nice. We were going to do Fuji on the first day, and Fuji-Q Highlands (a famous theme park with 5 record breaking roller coasters) on the second. When we got there there was a giant storm on top of Mt. Fuji’s peak. We put it off until the next day since we had a flexible schedule.
● Arrangements: Will you want to hike in the morning, sleep at the top, and wake up to catch the sunrise? If so, book a place to sleep in advanced. Fuji is only open a couple of months a year, and hundreds of thousands of people hike it. The lodges book up quickly.
● Pick a trail before going: There are 4 main trails on Mt. Fuji.
1. Yoshida Trail: (July 1 to September 10, 2016) Estimated time: 10 hrs. This is a zigzag path, on relatively flat ground. After the 7th station it gets a bit rocky. There are many mountain huts for ascent, but none for descent. This is the most crowded trail. The one with the most first-aid centers (5th, 7th, and 8th station). You can catch the bus here from Kawaguchiko and Fujisan stations.
2. Subashiri: (July 10 to September 10, 2016) Estimated Time: 9 hrs. Gently sloped and tree covered up until the 7th station. There are no huts below the 8th station while descending, but the huts from the ascending trail are accessible. No first aid centers. You can catch the mountain bus from Gotemba or Shinmatsuda Station.
3. Gotemba: (July 10 to September 10, 2016) Estimated time: 10 hrs. Gentle slope of volcanic gravel up to the 8th station. Only a few huts, but none between 5th and 7th. No first aid centers. You can catch the bus from Gotemba Station.
4. Fujinomiya: (July 10 to September 10, 2016) Estimated time: 8hrs. The most rocky and steepest. There are huts at every rest station. One first aid center at 8th station. You can catch the bus from Mishima, Fuji, Shin-Fuji, and Fujinomiya Stations.
I hiked the Subashiri, then came down that on the other side where it eventually merged with the Yoshida Trail. I really liked this trail because you hiked through the woods for a lot of it. It’s probably the most scenic route.
Hint: Don’t pay attention to the estimated time. Ours was 9hrs, it took us about 13.
● Food: We stocked up on rice balls, nuts, protein bars, and pre-packaged peanut butter sandwiches. Each hut sells a small selection of food, but you’ll want the protein and energy that nuts and bars can give you.
● Water: Three of us hiked Fuji together. We brought about 12 liters of water with us. We ended up drinking all of them, but it was heavy! Remember, you have to hike it up with you. Each station sells water. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the extra price might be worth it over killing your back, neck, and shoulders carrying ti all the way. Also, if you purchase from the huts, you can give them your trash. If it’s purchased elsewhere you have to lug all of the trash back down with you. We went to throw it away, and were told to take it with us.
● Rain gear/Layers: As I said earlier, Fuji’s weather can be unpredictable. We all brought a poncho with us just in case. Though it only rained for thirty minutes during our climb, it was nice to have. It kept our backpacks and supplies dry. Also the higher you get, the colder it gets. We all hiked up in shorts with exercise leggings on underneath. It was August so it was hot. I wore a tank top. I’m used to cold weather, so I didn’t need my long sleeve shirt and jacket until station 9, but my friends bundled up before that. Make sure you have at least: 1 poncho, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 jacket/sweatshirt
● Sunblock: Wear sunblock or you will get burnt! You’re getting closer and closer to the sun. You will need it. I also recommend sunglasses if you have some.
● Sneakers: Hiking boots would probably be best, but we all wore sneakers. If you wear sneakers make sure it’s a pair you will NEVER want to wear again! I bought a cheap pair of $30 sneakers, and my friends wore expensive ones. The hike down is all ash. Our sneakers were black by the end. We each washed our pairs multiple times in the shower and the laundry machine but the ash never came out, and they reeked. At least I only had to throw away a $30 pair.
● Walking Stick: A lot of people we saw had sticks from sports stores. I recommend buying a wooden stick at the 5th station before you start the ascent. At each station you can pay about $2 and have a stamp branded into your stick to commemorate your journey. This is a great souvenir! Also, even if you sleep at the top you will get tired. You will probably need something to lean on at some point. We did Fuji in one day, up and down. By the time we were halfway down, I know I was thankful for the stick. I don’t think I would have made it without it. I also don’t recommend one-shooting Mt. Fuji. You should definitely sleep or nap at one of the rest areas.
● Oxygen: If you think that you’ll get altitude sickness or aren’t sure, stock up on some oxygen bottles. They sell some at each station but they’re greatly hiked up in price. We all climbed mountains before (albeit small ones) and figured we didn’t need it. Even though we were right and didn’t use it, if you’re not sure, it might be better to have one with you just in case. If you don’t need it someone in your party might.
● Flashlights: We bought three cheap ones from Daiso (the 100 yen shop). I recommend either shelling out for bigger lights, or buying a head lamp. If you’re hiking up to see the sunrise you will need it. If you misjudge your time like we did and spend too long at the rest stops, you might be hiking down in the dark. The flashlights worked but with the stick in one hand and the light in the other, it was pretty difficult. Headlamps would be the best bet, but bring a flashlight just in case.
Highlights from My Experience:
● Meeting lots of wonderful people: We talked to many people at each station, Japanese and foreigners. My most favorite experience was probably a boy and his mom. The boy was 9 years old, and having talked to his mom who hiked Fuji three times, told her that he wanted to do it. He was hungry so we gave him a peanut butter sandwich. His mom thanked us, and wished us luck. We ran into them again at every station. Then when we were halfway between the 9th and 10th (final) station we saw the boy sitting on a rock. He looked tired, and defeated. His mom said that he didn’t want to do it anymore. We told him that we were tired too, but that he was so strong and brave for trying it. We asked him to finish with us, so that we could all celebrate together. We kept his morale up by pointing to a spot. We would say, “See that rock? When we get there we will take a five minute break.” It worked, and he made it to the top. His mom thanked us gratefully, and the boy asked to take pictures with us to remember us by.
● Picturesque Vision Above the Clouds: How many people can say they been above the clouds (outside of a plane)? Standing ¾’s of the way up the mountain, and looking down at the rolling sea of clouds in front of you is breathtaking, and a once in a lifetime opportunity! Also, we must have came during a festival because we heard loud sounds, and the clouds were lighting up below us. We thought that something was exploding in the town, and then realized we were above fireworks! That is something I never thought I would see, and probably never will again.
● Testing Your Limits: Like I said, I hiked the mountain in one shot. On my way down it was pitch black, the ash was slippery, and rocks were hidden under it. We all slipped and fell a few times. The last time I fell I didn’t want to get up. I wanted to lie there, take a nap, and give up. My friend helped me up, and we did it. There’s something about being on the edge of defeat and overcoming it that gives you a sense of accomplishment you’ve never felt before. It’s empowering and makes you believe that you can do anything.
● Helps You Realize Your True Friends: I had only known these people for 5 months (or a bit less) before this hike. At the end we were all tired and grouchy. We snapped at each other, and weren’t so nice towards the end, but we all knew we didn’t mean it. There are people I met who I know I wouldn’t have been able to survive with on Mt. Fuji. Make sure you go with people who you won’t get fed up with, who will help encourage you when you feel like giving up, and who will make the experience even more wonderful!
● Once In A Lifetime Opportunity: The Japanese say: Ichi-go Ichi-e which means once in a lifetime. For most people this is true. I know I will probably never try to hike Mt. Fuji again, as I don’t really want to, but I’m glad I did it, and you will be too!
Getting There From Tokyo
● By Bus: The cheapest bus is from Shinjuku Station to the 5th station.
● By Local train: Take the JR Tokaido line, through Odawara to Kozu and change for the JR Gotemba line (1 to 2 trains every hour).
● By Bullet Train: Take the Shinkansen to Atami or Mishima stations and from there a local service via Numazu to Gotemba station. OR Take the Shinkansen to Odawara then the Tokaido Line to Kozu, and finally the Gotemba Line.