Thought about climbing Mount Fuji, the highest and most prominent mountain in Japan during your trip? Althought hikers won't be able to see snow capped cone of Mt. Fuji in the distance as one way to reward yourself for reaching the summit, the spectacular views seen while climbing Mt. Fuji on clear days and the experience of conquering it, is very rewarding.
Best Season to Climb
Early July to mid September is the official climbing season when the mountain facilities are open. However, as you go high up in the mountain, the weather changes drastically from summer to winter. So its best advised to go by mid August 'cause towards the end of August to early September, the summit may reach to minus 3℃.
Around July 20th to the end of August when the weather is practically stable and schools are on holiday, the trails are super crowded. Because Mt. Fuji is structurally prone to falling rocks, the more it is crowded, unconsciously, hikers are disturbing the mountain's surface structure causing more falling rocks. Even a relatively small stone can reach fatal speeds as it hurtles down a slope. And there are number of deaths due to this which are reported every year so although it is not required, for safety reason, it is best advised to bring or rent a helmet.
Unfortunately, due to current covid-19 situation, all trails on Mt. Fuji are closed for 2020.
Trails on Mt. Fuji
There are four different trails, Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomiya, which you can choose to take to reach the summit of Mt. Fuji. These trails are split into 10 stages. Most climbers will start from the fifth station (as its the easiest, fastest and safest) and go through Yoshida trail because is the most popular trail equipped with the most support facilities, including mountain huts. Make sure to check the Yoshida Trail map prior to making your plan for the climb.
This Yoshida trail is joined by the Subashiri trail at the eighth station which has more varied views.
Those experienced hikers who would like to challenge the veteran level trail, then take the longest and least crowded Gotemba trail or the steep and rocky Fujinomiya trail.
More information on the characteristics of each trail can be found on the official website.
How to get to Mt. Fuji
During climbing seasons, regular shuttle buses run from nearby train stations to Mt. Fuji from around 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m for ¥1,500 (one-way). There are also direct bus options from Tokyo, Gotemba and Shizuoka which can be booked online directly from its official website.
For the way back, the buses typically start at 8:30 a.m. and finish at 8:30 p.m. Each of the trails requires different access so once you decide which trail best suit your climbing level, see details on the official website.
Will I be able to do reach the summit in a day and come back down?
It’s possible to summit Mt. Fuji in a day if you start early and if you are a experienced hiker. Keep in mind that if you decide to take this option, you will be walking for 11hours in total, 7hours going up from 5th station, and 3 to 4 hours getting back. Because of its high altitude, if you don't pace yourself well, there is a high risk of getting altitude sickness. Some might feel dizzy and some might feel nauseous as you go up. Or in my personal case, some get altitute sickness on the way down. Anyhow, when such symptoms appear, this is a sign of altitude sickness. Don't underestimate and miss this sign. If you encounter such situation, just come down and challenge the mountain on another day when you feel better and are ready.
Aside from trying to get to the summit as fast as possible and not enjoying the beauty of the mountain, a major part of Mt. Fuji’s appeal is the chance to watch the sunrise from the top of a mountain (known in Japanese as goraikou). If that’s your goal, you have two options: start in the early afternoon and rest at a mountain hut at the seventh or eighth station in the evening before heading to the summit after midnight. Or start in the late evening and power through to the top without a long break. If so, make sure to wear a helmet with head torch (plus spare batteries) as its pitch dark and hard to see any incoming falling rocks. There are death reported due to getting knocked out by the falling rocks in previous years.
Although mountain hut costs extra money plus need a reservation, it helps you to acclimatize to the altitude and gives you a chance to rest your legs. This means it’s a good option for less experienced or confident climbers.
There might be a chance to see this beautiful anticrepuscular rays seen while climbing Mt. Fuji
Booking a mountain hut
Booking a mountain hut prior to your climb is essential, especially at peak times, it is very risky to just turn up on the day although it’s sometimes possible. Most of the huts take bookings over the phone in Japanese. So if you are unfamiliar with the language, ask someone to help you. Some might take online reservation however, checking over the phone is a plus. On the Yoshida trail, there are several huts including theKamaiwakan,Fujiichikan,Toyokan,Gansomuro, and Goraikokan huts.
These huts have shared room which the costs range from around ¥6,500 for a sleeping bag to ¥11,000 for a sleeping bag in a semi-private space with breakfast and dinner included. The food is fairly basic, usually curry or noodles. The volume of the food depends on the hut but typically small with no seconds. So if you know you want to eat alot, make sure to carry some extra with you.
Veggie options are also available at a few of the huts, including Toyokan and Taishikan, but be sure to request this in advance when you book. Dinner will usually be served around 5 p.m., with lights out at 9 p.m. Most huts will do a wake-up call around 1:30 a.m.
What's good about these huts are that they have a small shops where you can purchse supplies such as food, water, and oxygen canisters, however the prices are more expensive than how you can get it at the base. Make sure to carry lots of coins and cash as they don't take credit cards. Some will let you rest inside for short periods of time for ¥1,000 an hour and they also have toilets you can use for around ¥200 (so make sure you carry plenty of change!).
Proper clothing and equipment is essential
Having the right gear can make a huge difference to your climb. The weather on Mt. Fuji can be fickle and unpredictable, so bringing rain gear and jacket is essential. Even if there's not a cloud in sight when you set off, there maybe sudden drop of rain plus temperature. When you start your climb, it may be super hot and humid however, the temperature will drop dramatically as you climb. So make sure to dress in layers that can easily be added or removed to keep you comfortable. If you’re aiming for the ultimate sunrise view, be aware that the pre-dawn temperature at the summit can drop to around 0℃ and you’ll feel a lot chillier when you’re not moving. More, its really freezing if you are vulnerable to cold.
Appropriate shoes are a must, preferably with ankle support. Although there are number of hikers wearing regular sneakers or some even sandals, the more comfortable with hard soles with ankle supprot, the less chances of getting injured and tired.
If you’re climbing at night, bring a helmet with head torch (plus spare batteries) so that you can safely make your way to the summit in the dark on the rocky trail.
Descenting Mt. Fuji on loose rocks and pebble trail
The first part of the trail descenting is made up of loose rock and pebbles and is a hazard for slipping and falling flat on your back or face forward. So a trekking pole is a plus, especially in such cases like this. But, an alternative is to buy a wooden pilgrim staff before you set off, which you can have it branded with unique stamps at each station (for a few hundred yen each), and which also makes a fantastic memento of your climb.
Renting Gears for the Climb
If you decide to challenge Mt. Fuji but its too much to buy gears, there are a number of climbing shops that all you to reserve equipments online in English, such as Yamarent and Soranoshita. They can have the items shipped to your hotel or collect it in person when you arrive.
Recommended amount of water to take during the climb
Here is how you would calculate the minimum amount of water it is recommended to take during the climb
5＋total hours of the climb×your weight in kilogram(kg)＋500
(ex. A person with 65kg taking 4 hours to hike should have 5＋4hours×65kg＋500=1085ml which is 1.85liters of water)
You’ll want plenty of fuel to keep you going so make sure to carry enough water and food. It is important to stay hydrated as it is said that higher you go, the more you loose water. And keep you fed by stopping every hour or so to grab some chocolate, almonds, or whatever you brought for the climb to give you a burst of sugar and prevent you from building up a deficit.
Good Luck on your Climb!
With all the preparation out of the way, there’s only one thing to do: choose a date and get climbing! Whichever trail you’ve chosen, you’ll be able to get a bus to the fifth station and continue from there on foot. Typical ascending via the most popular trail, Yoshida trail will take 7 hours on average, and descending 3 to 4 hours in average. Make sure to eat and rest well before the climb as it will be a long day. Plus, don't forget to pack well. Majority of the accidents happen on the way down due fatigue, adrenaine and gravity so don't rush and have enought food and water for the return journey too. Or simply schedule the hike longer and stop at each hut to rest as you encounter them.