Taking on Japan’s highest peak: Our Mt. Fuji climb

Climbing Mt. Fuji has always been on my to-do list since I came to Japan. So we immediately made plans to hike Japan’s tallest and most famous mountain during my first summer there. Because of snow, the official climbing season in Mt. Fuji is only from July to August.ย We decided to climb late July, to avoid the busiest time (middle of August). (For more information on climbing Mt. Fuji, please check out this site.)

Getting There

Our plan was to climb using the Yoshida Trail, which is the most popular and most accessible route by commute from Tokyo. We also planned on hiking during the night so we can be on the summit in time for the sunrise.

The Yoshida Trail

We met with our climbing team in Shinjuku Station to take the train before 5 pm.

Our train route from Shinjuku to Fuji (www.hyperdia.com)

After a few train changes, we arrived at Kawaguchiko Station at around 8 pm.

In Kawaguchiko, we joined several people lining up to buy bus tickets for the Subaru Line Toll Road (1500 JPY one way) bound for Mt. Fuji’s Kawaguchiko 5th station, where most climbers start their ascent. We were one of the last people to board the bus, so we had to stand for the 50-minute bus ride up the mountain. Most of the other commuters in the bus were also foreigners, since Japanese climbers usually climb as part of group tours.

At the trailhead

2,305 masl at the 5th station

When we arrived at the Kawaguchiko 5th station (2,305 m elevation) at around 9 pm, we were surprised to see busloads of climbers! The group tour buses proceeded directly to the 5th station so this was where we realized just how many people we would be climbing with.

A group of climbers stretching before starting the climb

The 5th station looked like the perfect tourist trap, with shops selling souvenirs and climbing accessories that anybody might want to buy at the last minute.

Souvenir shop at the 5th station

Food and snacks cost double the price when compared to convenience stores outside the mountain (I bought a Snickers bar for 250 yen, which would normally have cost 120 yen. As we went up, this price increased at each station until it ballooned to 600 yen near the summit!).

Buying bread from the genki shopkeeper

We had dinner/snacks upon our arrival and started our ascent at 10 pm.ย The temperature was much lower at the 5th station compared to lower elevations, so we put on our jackets before starting our ascent.

Fight!

The climb to the summit

Where to?

The start of the 5th station featured several signs and maps to guide us to the right direction.It wasn’t necessary, though. The continuous stream of people coming and going along the trail was guide enough for us.

Our fellow climbers

The first part of the trail consists of wide man-made stairs that was built from volcanic gravel. At first, the stairs were wide enough for 5 people to climb side by side. As the climb progressed, the gravel were replaced by large boulders and the trail became narrower and narrower until we had to line up one by one.

Wider trail during the first half of the climb

Climbing the narrow trail

And what a line we made! The light from climbers’ headlamps made a dotted line from the 5th station to the summit. It was really a sight to behold, and the photos we took were not enough to do it justice .

A portion of the trail showing the line of light from headlamps on the horizon

Every ‘station’ on Mt. Fuji serve as a rest stop, consisting of cottages with some benches to sit on. The huts serve as lodges (for those who can afford to sleep there at 8,000 yen/night), but it also sells souvenirs and food.

At one of the rest stops, where stamped wooden sticks were sold as souvenirs

There were some huts offering temporary shelter, but only if you buy food from them. We bought hot chocolate (at 500 yen a cup!) so that we can sit inside the hut. Unfortunately, if you only buy drinks, you cannot really enter, only your butt is allowed to sit on the elevated floor while your foot remains outside. We tried to sleep while sitting, with our heads on our knees. After about 20 minutes in that position, we gave up and headed off again.

For me, the worst part was to not go at my own pace on the later stages of the climb. It was really hard to stop every few steps to wait for the people ahead of me. And since the line was so many kilometers long, it was really slow-going.

Walking ever so slowly…

But the crowd was part of the Fuji experience, so we just trudged on with the group.

Smiling, because there was nothing else I could do ๐Ÿ™‚

By 4 in the morning, the summit was only a few meters away, but the sun was already starting to appear and the huge crowd and narrow path really slowed the climb. We just decided to stop, sit and enjoy the sunrise. And it sure did not disappoint! Watching the sun rise in Mt. Fuji while we were above the clouds was a very majestic moment. The sea of clouds were also a sight to behold.ย The magnificent sight made me forget my fatigue and drowsiness for a while.

At 5 am we stood up to finish our hike, and it was quicker since not too many people were on the trail at this time. Afterย 10 minutes, we reached the summit (Yey!).

At the summit of Mt. Fuji

The Japanese Flag on the highest point in the country

It was like market day up there. There were far tooย many people buying food and souvenirs while others were busy looking for a place to rest.

We walked past the shops and stalls and picked a spot to sit on for breakfast. When we’ve had our fill , we were so sleepy that we just had to take a nap. Since we did not have anything to lie on, we just lied down on the gravel. And so it was that we came to the top of Mt. Fuji to sleep on the dirt ๐Ÿ™‚

I think this was my first (and last) time to sleep directly on the dirt, and I slept fitfully ๐Ÿ™‚

Going down and back

View of the Fuji Lakes from the summit

After our power nap, we started to descend by 7 am.ย I had trouble going down because the path was made of loose gravel, which made my feet sink.

The terrain going down

I felt that the soil was weighing me down, plus the dust flying around did not help to motivate me at all.

Leftover snow from the past winter

Climbers alongside the heavy machinery used to make the trails at Mt. Fuji

But I was eager to get the descent over with, so I just continued going down with the group until we reached the 5th station before noon.

Climbers “resting” near the end of the climb

We lined up for the bus to take us back to Kawaguchiko and from there, we rode the bus going directly to Tokyo (2,500 yen fare), where we slept for most of the three-hour trip. When we arrived back in Tokyo, our adventure seemed surreal. I couldn’t believe that just the night before we were climbing the tallest mountain in Japan with throngs of other climbers, then the next day we were back in the busy streets of Tokyo. Our Mt. Fuji experience will definitely be one of my more memorable climbs.

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12 responses to “Taking on Japan’s highest peak: Our Mt. Fuji climb

  1. Hi! I am heading out to Mt Fuji as well in two weeks. However, I wasn’t able to book a hut so I was hoping to climb it throughout the night. I was wondering if you knew if 1.) you got all the stamps from each station that late and 2.) can you get some refuge from the weather if it gets brutal. I was hoping to walk up during the afternoon to catch the scenery, but I guess I can only walk at night since I didn’t reserve a hut.

    Thanks for your post – it seemed like you had a lot of fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi! ๐Ÿ™‚

      To answer your questions:
      1. Yes, stamps are given throughout the night since the climbers never stop coming ๐Ÿ™‚
      2. You can get inside some of the huts that serve food if you buy from them. They will welcome you inside their huts as long as you pay for their food ๐Ÿ™‚

      Enjoy your climb! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hello! I just came back from the trip and thanks again for your help. I just made a video about it if you want to check it out ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hi. I would like to ask how do you purchase your bus ticket to get down from 5th station to Kawaguchiko? I am not climbing Mt Fuji. I will be going from Shinjuku straight to 5th station, linger around and take the bus back to Kawaguchiko. Where can I get the bus ticket from 5th Station to Kawaguchiko? Many thanks.

  4. Pingback: Second to none: Climbing Mt. Kitadake in the Japan South Alps | The (mis)adventures of a geologist lakwatsera

  5. Hello. Thank you for your information. May I ask why do you choose to take the train instead of the bus? I am planning to take the bus and I am wondering if it’s a feasible idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hello! We took the train because of our schedule, but returning from Kawaguchiko to Tokyo we actually took the bus. So if your schedule fits the bus schedule’s then better take the bus

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  6. Pingback: Hiking Hakusan: enjoying the colors of the “White Mountain” | The (mis)adventures of a geologist lakwatsera

  7. What day(s) of the week were you on the mountain? I understand it is less crowded on week days. And did you experience any of the symptoms of acute mountain sickness?

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