Standing at around 3,776m tall, it is the nation’s tallest active volcano on the main island of Honshu. Climbing Mt Fuji is also a highlight for both foreign tourists and locals. Importantly, it is the pride of Japan and features in many stories, paintings and even company logos. Climbing season usually opens from the beginning of July and ends around the middle of September.
Climbing Japan’s tallest peak is no easy feat either, even if you start from the 5th station like most people. Via the Yoshida Trail, it is easily a 5-6 hour hike to the summit, and approx. 2-3 hours descent, not including breaks or crowds. The peak season is usually from mid-July to the end of August, the same time School and Universities close for Summer Holidays. The hiking trails can be especially congested during the Obon holiday during the middle of August or weekends too.
The most common trail and probably the most hiking friendly is the Yoshida trail. Leaving from Tokyo it is definitely the most accessible and as it faces the sunrise, probably the most popular. In fact, this particular path has been used by pilgrims for over 500 years. To access the Yoshida trail from Tokyo, you can catch an express bus from Shinjuku station.
There are other trails too, including the Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomioya trails. The Yoshida trail usually opens a little earlier than the others, around July 1. The remaining trails will open around July 10. They all tend to close the same time, around September 10.
There is limited accommodation available across trails, but they offer a chance to rest, refresh and recharge with a light meal or two. Unfortunately, the huts are pretty basic and provide very limited space. Don’t be surprised if you’re squeezed or huddled in between two people.
Some people like to climb from just after lunchtime to make it to their hut or accommodation that evening. After a chance to rest, they will arise to try and catch the sunrise at the summit, around 5 am or so. Alternatively, others climb from later in the afternoon/evening and ascend non-stop until they reach the summit in the morning. If you opt for the latter, make sure to come extra prepared with flash or headlamps, food and water and other essential equipment.
So before you attempt this serious challenge, make sure to check out our top 10 Tips for climbing Japan’s most renowned and hailed landmark.
Make sure to prepare yourself physically before you attempt this 3700m giant. Particularly for beginners, do not think this is a simple walk in the park (literally), as it is quite the opposite.
Do what you can to build up your endurance, stamina and work on your leg muscles. This includes stretching, taking long walks, going for mini-hikes, light jobs, leg weight training and more. You could also practice on easier hill slopes or mountains too, to build yourself up. The more the practice, the better prepared you will be to take on Fuji, and the less you will need to recover after accomplishing the hike.
2. Pack for all kinds of weather
Even in the middle of summer, the higher altitudes of Fuji can change from calm to extreme in an instant. Huge gusts of wind, violent storms, heavy rain, hail and more can assault the hiking trail, so prepare for the worst. This includes some kind of wet weather protection.
The higher altitudes will also be a lot cooler than Tokyo and the lower stations. So, make sure you pack warmer clothes for the cold conditions at the top. You might want to consider some Heattech undergarments from Uniqlo. Also, think about a windbreaker jacket as well.
3. Stay Overnight, Catch the Sunrise
Of course, you could be unlucky like us to miss the sunrise, due to a thick wall of cloud. Perhaps I just attract the bad weather, but I digress. Most people climb the mountain, in the hope they can experience a clear sky’s sunrise, and what a truly astonishing sight it looks like.
Furthermore, staying overnight also gives you a chance to eat, recuperate and get your energy back for the final trek to the summit. Even if the accommodation conditions are very basic.
4. Proper Shoes
I really cannot stress this point enough, don’t do what I did and wear sneakers. Don’t be that guy or that person. I strongly recommend you play it safe and come fully prepared, and that includes proper hiking boots or shoes. I cannot remember the number of times I almost slipped or tripped, where I could have potentially injured myself in the process.
The number of rocky trails and slippery surfaces make it especially necessary for proper footwear. Additionally, combined with the sudden change in weather conditions, makes them a must-have for this climb.
5. Bring Food, Snacks and Water
Simply put, bring foods and snacks high in calories or energy. This includes energy bars, chocolate and other high calorie related snacks. While you can purchase limited supplies on the way up the mountain, and at the top, they are severely overpriced.
Water too is something you will need, especially at the higher altitudes where you may be prone to headaches or dizziness. You may want to keep a combination of normal and sports water, as that sugar can come in handy for extra bursts of energy.
Take care to take all garbage and waste with you as you will not find any trash cans along the trail.
6. Pack a Flashlight
Whether you climb during the day, evening or early morning a flashlight is essential in dark conditions. Especially in extreme weather conditions during the evening, you may need it to navigate steep ascents, slippery trails or rocky tracks. Otherwise, you might want to consider a headlamp, as this keeps your hands free for climbing and balance.
7. The More Support Equipment the Better
Altitude Sickness can cause all kinds of symptoms from headaches, nausea, dizziness and lightheadedness. To prevent these kinds of feelings, we recommend you take a break to adjust to the conditions. As a preventative measure, you may also want to bring some small oxygen tanks with you for extra air.
A backpack is crucial to help you carry everything you need to bring. This includes all your food, extra layers of clothing, additional equipment, flashlight and garbage. You don’t want to go overboard with what you pack, but you also need to make sure you have enough to survive the climb. Pack light and try to limit heavy items, as that will no doubt make the climb more challenging.
A hiking stick is of course totally optional, but they are quite popular anyway. They help support your climb, but beyond that, you can purchase them at the 5th station for around 2,000 yen. Moreover, at every hut, you can stick branded for a few extra hundred yen. Hence, making it the perfect memorabilia after accomplishing your climb.
The climbing period tends to open from early July, and usually ends around early September. However, in saying that, the summer holidays for schools and universities also occur from Mid-July to the end of August. As a result, we recommend as much as possible you avoid weekends, and holiday periods like Obon around the week of August 15 or so.
Therefore, the best timing would be either before or after the summer holiday season. The beginning of July or early September. However, if this is impossible, then we would suggest that you plan for weekdays outside of the Obon holiday season.
Mt Fuji and its surrounding area is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and hence a sacred and protected area. In order to help maintain the site, keep it clean and the trails in good order, you’ll be asked to make a 1,000 yen donation.
Plus, you will also be asked to make a small donation of 100 or 200 yen to use the toilet facilities on the mountain. These are generally available at each of the stations along the trail.
Finally, it is good to keep some extra cash on you, just in case. This could be for extra equipment or supplies, food and drink along the way. In addition, it is good to keep some money on hand in case of an emergency situation, so make sure to keep some handy.
10. Rubbish and Waste
This may seem annoying or a little bit troublesome, but is a request of the grounds staff. As a condition of climbing Fuji, you must take your garbage and waste with you at all times. Unfortunately, along the trail there aren’t any rubbish bins, so you will need to wait till you return to the 5th station. You may want to discard any unwanted luggage at the 5th station too before you set off on your trek up the mountain.
Well, those are our trips for climbing Japan’s highest volcano. Do you have any more to add in the comments section? Alternatively, we would love to hear about your experience with conquering this challenging hike. For more information, you can also visit the official Mt Fuji website.
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