Climbing Mt. Fuji: What to Expect

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On July 5, 2016
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Did you know in 2013 Mt. Fuji became designated as a World’s Heritage site? This iconic representation of Japan is now even more well known around the world, and lucky for its fans, its officially climbing season.*

Mt. Fuji stands 3,776 meters, or 12,388, feet tall. It is an active volcano that last erupted in 1707 A.D.; and it is considered to be overdue for another eruption. So how should you handle this terrifying disaster waiting to happen? Climb it!

Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect when climbing Mt. Fuji.

Climbing Mount Fuji (Flickr)Photo by Marufish

It’s a Mountain

Right, you knew this already. But somehow each one of us seem to forget what this really means until we are climbing up the side of it, gasping for air and hoping that the next rest station is the last (it never is).

The set-up for Fuji-san is unique, and consists of 10 rest stations along the hike up the mountain, with the 5th station being the most popular point for tourists to start their ascent.

Keep in mind Mt. Fuji is no joke.

Whether you are only going to the 6th station or want to take on the whole thing, there will be sweating…lots of sweating.

The “steps” created in the mountainside are there to help, but can also be a struggle to gain footing because of their height. The ascent can take anywhere from 5-10 hours depending on your starting point, and the descent about 2/3 of that. Keep it slow and steady, though, and even the novice hikers (like me) can make the trek.

Mount Fuji summer climb (Flickr)Photo by mcgarrett88

Mt. Fuji is no exception to the unspoken rule in Japan that crowds of people must abide everywhere. Seeing as over 300,000 people climb at least part of it each year, you can expect there to be plenty of others on the trail. I don’t remember this becoming an obstacle to enjoying the beauty of the mountain but be warned that your climb will not be a solo expedition.

The peak season is usually during school holidays, which start around July 20 and run to the end of August. Avoid climbing Fuji around Obon week (especially 11th – 16th August) if you can, unless you want to be queuing up some parts of the mountain.

Be Prepared

I climbed Mt. Fuji to the 8th rest station and it was a cool refreshing day, full of sunshine, a few clouds, and a constant wind. The conditions were ideal, but wearing extra layers that were removable was a great idea.

However, when my sister continued her climb to the 10th and final station, she encountered a much different situation. She was nearly blown off her feet by the fierce winds, and could not have worn enough layers, or brought enough hand-warmers as the temperature plummeted.

Mount-Fuji-Climbing-Season-1024x683Check the weather forecast meticulously, as the weather can change unexpectedly. Bring multiple layers of clothing and always wear comfortable shoes. Especially if you’re climbing overnight to see the sunrise, you’ll more than likely end up with a bit of a wait at the summit crater where temperatures can be as low as freezing before dawn.

At the same time, you should also slather on the sunscreen liberally as you can easily get burnt by the summer sun in the daytime. Other recommendations include masks (for the dust), a pen (for sending a postcard from the world’s highest post office) and a headlight (if you’re climbing at night.)

Bring plenty of snacks and water, and use the bathroom before you leave for your hike. There will be bathrooms along the way, but they will require some yen. Also the price of water gets pretty extortionate as you leave konbini land behind (around ¥500 for a small bottle). In general, extra cash will come in handy as you come across these fees while ascending the mountain. Now, you’ll also need to pay ¥1000 at a collection station to be able to climb the mountain.

Photo (counter clockwise from left to right): Marufish and Reginald Pentinio.

Options for Climbing

To see the sunrise from the summit of Fuji, known as goraiko, you have to start climbing the day before. Most people climb to around the 8th station, stopping for dinner and a short sleep in one of the mountain huts, before getting up at 1 a.m. and continuing to the summit to catch the sunrise around 4:30 a.m.

Powering through is also a possibility. Start the climb late evening and trek overnight to reach the summit. It depends how confident you are in your stamina, but note that staying in a mountain hut won’t necessarily equal a rejuvenating power nap either – you’ll be sleeping on a hard floor in a room full of other people in the basic huts, and will only have a few hours to try to get some shut-eye.

But you don’t have to climb to the top. It’s arranged so that climbers of all types can choose their distance. If you’re able to book, a travel agency should be able to give you precise directions based on how long you’ll be allowed before the end of the day.

You can explore the trek and check times with Google StreetView but be warned that this contains a lot of spoilers.

Mountain Huts

The Yoshida Trail is lined by more than a dozen mountain huts between the 7th and 8th stations. Other trails have fewer mountain huts. An overnight stay typically costs around 5000 yen per person without meals and around 7000 yen per person with two meals. Expect the huts to be extremely crowded during the peak season.

Some mountain huts also allow non-staying climbers to take a rest inside at a cost of typically 1000-2000 yen per hour. Most also offer paid toilets (typically 100-200 yen) and sell food, water and other climbing provisions such as canned oxygen. In addition, most of the huts have special branding irons they use to brand the wooden hiking sticks (for a small fee) that many hikers purchase when climbing the mountain.

Fun Sightseeing Spots

The most popular station for tourists is the Subaru Line 5th Station. It has lots of old cottage style buildings that house gift shops, restaurants, and leads to a great beginner trail that offers a breathtaking view. You’ll be glad you chose this station at the end of the day when the amazingly genki old lady ahead of you starts to look like a delicious bowl of ramen.

Access

Private vehicle parking at the Subaru 5th station is usually closed during climbing season so a bus or bus tour is recommended.

From Shinjuku station to Fuji Subaru 5th station by bus, it’s around 140 minutes for ¥2,700. From Tokyo station to Fujisan station by train it takes 149 minutes for 2510¥. From here you’ll need to take a bus from Fujisan to the Subaru 5th station, which adds on another 65 minutes, for 1540¥. (All routes are one-way).

*The Yoshida Trail opened July 1. The Fujinomiya, Gotemba and Subashiri trails will open July 10, 2016.

Updated: 07/05/2016

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Navy wife, esl teacher, travel enthusiast.
  • Czarinah Vergara says:

    Its still the usual 1000 JPY at the Entrance.

  • Veronika Paštyková says:

    Hi, may I ask what is the best way to get to 5th station when will I come from Osaka? I want to climb Yoshida Trail. Is it better to climb it in one day or stay over the night? If I want to stay in some hut there, do I have to book it and how much is it about? Thank you for answer or links, I didnt find many informations about this…

  • Linda McCarthy says:

    don’t forget the sunscreen. you’ll get burnt very badly if you don’t… and keep applying it because you’re perspiration sweat it off. also wear good shoes. The mountain shale destroys your shoes. remember if you bring soda drinks or buy them on the mountain they will explode everywhere at higher altitudes and you lose half of your drink. you will need plenty of fluids and drinks are expensive on the mountain and heavy to carry.

  • ThaDanus says:

    I climbed it at the end of August 2010, and I cannot stress enough how important lots of clothing is. Even though I went up expecting it to be chilly, it was freezing. We climbed at night, not a cloud in sight, and got to see a beautiful sunrise, but man was it cold; while it was about 35 degrees (Celsius) in Tokyo, on top of mt. Fuji it was zero, so essentially freezing, and I very much regretted not bringing any skiing gloves (only had a pair of thin climbing gloves).
    Also, when you descend, and it’s been dry for a while, a mask comes in -very- handy, as all the people descending cause a lot of dust to be in the air, and I really missed having one.

  • zoomingjapan says:

    I climbed Mt. Fuji in August 2010. Unfortunately the mountain hut called me and told me nobody could go up as there was a typhoon, so we had to reschedule everything the night before we actually had planned the trip. It was really horrible.

    We went on the last day possible and had to acces from Shizuoka although we originally planned to access from Yamanashi. We were pretty much the only people in the bus up to the 5th station. It was raining cats and dogs. You could barely see anything.
    All the people coming down were soakd, dirty and told us it would be impossible to hike up to the top. We tried nevertheless. It was tough. At least the rain stopped after some time.
    We still couldn’t see anything. It was extremely foggy.

    Somehow we made it to the top. We sent postcards from the highest post office in Japan.

    Once we were halfway down again, we finally got to see the sun and the surroundings.

    No sunrise for us. A was a bit disappointed, but at least we made it to the top.
    You need to be very lucky with the weather.
    Also, make sure you have enough time, so you don’t have to rush. Your body will certainly need breaks no matter how fit you are!

    • kelsey says:

      This is so true! You really do need to catch the weather on the perfect day, which seems to be rare. But if you do, its incredible. And yes, it can be brutal on the body, especially if the weather isn’t in your favor. Its pretty cool to say that you climbed Japan’s tallest mountain, though! What a memory.

  • Jamming James says:

    This is a really well thought out and detailed article for those wanting to climb Mr. Fuji.

    I would also like to add that if you really want to get the most out of hiking Mt. Fuji, and you don’t mind getting a little extra equipment together, then get yourself a headlight and climb it at night, arriving just in time to watch the sunrise. The morning view of the sun slowing peaking over the clouds is just amazing. There were people all around me chanting and bowing to the sun as it ascended the horizon. It was really amazing to witness so many people bowing together.

    For those of you who are interested in climbing it, there’s also a small post office on the top of the mountain, so if you want to send your family or friends a letter from the top of Japan you can most certainly do that there. It is a nice idea for what is quite a touristy mountain and undoubtedly has a lot of tourists hiking it every year, and I am sure a lot of people would appreciate that postcard back home. There’s also a small restaurant where you can get a bite to get too.

    That being said, I never want to climb that mountain again. The overall experience of climbing Mt. Fuji pales in comparison to many of the other smaller mountains that I have climbed in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I climbed it, and I am even gladder I climbed it before it became a world Heritage. I mean, I can’t imagine how much busier it is now. But even the long queues, high price to use a toilet and the trash everywhere definitely put a damper on my experience. I think Mt. Fuji is a mountain best admired from afar.

    When I climbed it, I was lucky enough to arrive at the top of the mountain much earlier than other people (Too early if I am honest), and I was able to get a great spot to watch the sunrise. But looking back down the mountain at the other people climbing, all I could see was a line of people all queuing to get to the top. I climbed the mountain with a few friends, but we climbed in about 3 groups. One group stayed in one of the mountain huts to get a little sleep before climbing the rest of the way, but even though they set off early they had to give up reaching the top in time for the sunrise because there were just way too many people trying to climb at the same time, and they were all sandwiched together. The other group gave up on the reaching the top when they were at the start of the the 8th section. I also saw 3 different toilets on 3 different platforms overflowing down the side of the mountain, which was really disgusting. And there were plenty of people who were not shy about relieving themselves on the side of the bathroom buildings, which just added to the river of waste that was making its way down. There was also a lot of trash on the mountain too. Actually, I believe one of the reasons it has taken so long for Mt. Fuji to be given the heritage stamp is because of the amount of trash that was on the mountain, but seeing as it is now a heritage spot, I would assume it has been cleaned up somewhat.

    Still, I think if you can do it then you should climb it once, but just know what to expect when you do.

    I hiked it about 5 years ago though, so maybe things have changed a lot since I hiked it last. I would love to hear from anyone who has climbed it more recently and can tell me if much has changed in the last 5 years.

    • kelsey says:

      Thanks for the additional advice! What an adventure. I’m glad you got to see the sunrise, I think that’s every climbers dream. When my sister made it to the top she didn’t mention seeing trash or waste, but the winds were so bad that day she was literally blown a few feet away. She doesn’t regret doing it, but said she never would again. But hey, the legend is something like “you must climb Mt. Fuji once, but if you climb it twice, you’re a fool,” right? 😉

    • Anthony Joh says:

      Great comment!

      I believe the reason why Mt. Fuji was given the cultural heritage instead of the natural heritage is because of all the trash that is dumped around the mountain.

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