With its caps coated in winter snow, Mt. Fuji is an impressive sight. While at around this time of year it may be best to gaze at it from afar, possibly while soaking in an onsen in nearby Hakone, it is truly an unforgettable experience to take the climb up to the summit during climbing season, which generally runs from July to September. While those without much hiking experience can successfully tackle the mountain, here are some tips to keep in mind when planning a trip up to the summit:
Come prepared with the proper equipment:
The trails are very rocky, so make sure to wear hiking boots to avoid ankle rolls/sprains. If hiking at night to catch the sunrise, a head lamp is a must to make out the trail. Also, pack lots of warm clothes and a wind breaker because the temperature drops dramatically as you climb up. During the day, normal gym gear suffices.
Expect a lot of people during peak times:
With an uptick in climbers, expect for the hike to take a few more hours than anticipated. If you’re hiking during the day and don’t want to get caught in the dark, or climbing at night to catch the sunrise, this is especially important. The obon period and Mountain Day in August are especially popular climbing times.
Pick your trail wisely:
There are four trails up to the top: Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya. With each having a different starting location/altitude, as well as varying ascent/descent times, it is best to choose one that best fits your hiking wants. Yoshida tends to be the most popular as its 5th station is the most easily accessibly from central Tokyo as well as the Fuji Five Lake region. There are a lot of mountain huts on this trail as well (see Mountain Huts section below).
To stay or not to stay (Mountain Hut-edition):
For those who would like to rest during the climb, mountain huts provide a place to lie down for a few hours, with some also providing quick meals. Popular with those who climb overnight to see the sunrise, it is a good option for those who want a more traditional rest place instead of hovering inside a station. Warning: They book out weeks in ahead so reserve your spot early if you intend on using this option.
The first steps to the top may be by bus:
Most climbers choose to start climbing at the 5th station of each trail. These stations are easily accessible by bus, both from Tokyo or from nearby train stations.
Food Stops: There are eateries at a few stations and at the top of the mountain that sell beverages (ie. coffee and tea) and food (ie. cup udon, ramen, etc.) While they are all prepackaged, they may provide the warmth and energy you need to keep on moving forward.
Altitude Sickness: Since the altitude change from the bottom to the top of the mountain may be a bit extreme, make sure to pace yourself. Oxygen tanks or dissolvable oxygen tablets may be quick fixes, but the only way to truly get rid of the sickness is by descending the mountain.
Admission Fee: Mt. Fuji climbers are requested to deposit 1000 yen/pp during climbing section to collection stations located the head of each trail to help with upkeep of the trails.
Hiking Stick: You can purchase a hiking stick at any of the 5th stations, and have it branded with unique stamps at each station on your way up. Warning: The shops that brand the sticks may be closed if you are climbing late at night.
Postcards at the top: Don’t forget to send a postcard from the highest-up post office in Japan! They also sell commemorative postcards and certifications of completing the climb (a nice souvenir to bring home).
Tips to Save Money:
- Bring a thermos bottle with hot tea/soup to satisfy your craving for warm food at the summit without breaking your wallet with ¥800 cup noodle ramen. - Carry as much glucose and protein-filled food for short- and long-term energy respectively (CalorieMate and other meal substitutes work well) and fluids as you can, while keeping in mind that you will be carrying it with you the whole way. There are vending machines at the stations up to the top, and some stations sell an assortment of food, but expect ¥500 water and ¥500 granola bars.
- If booking buses from Tokyo to the 5th station and back, make sure to book them well in advance because this cheap option to get to Fuji sells out weeks in advance.