On the postcards, Mount Fuji is beautiful. There’s no doubt about that. A snow-capped deity, framed with cherry blossom and cloudless skies, an image recreated in a thousand different ways across the land of the rising sun. Up close and personal, however, Fuji-san feels different. Blood-red volcanic soil. Earthy, wet and submerged in mist. Slippery, stubborn and chasing my breath.
Mount Fuji is 3776 meters in height and Japan’s highest mountain. It is not surprising that the nearly perfectly shaped volcano has been worshiped as a sacred mountain and experienced big popularity among artists and common people.
Mount Fuji is a volcano whose most recent eruption was in 1708. It stands on the border between Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures and can be seen from cities as far away as Tokyo and Yokohama on clear days.
If you take the shinkansen from Tokyo in direction of Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, the best view of Mount Fuji can be enjoyed from around Shin-Fuji Station on the right hand side of the train, about 40 to 45 minutes after leaving Tokyo.
Note however, that clouds and poor visibility often blocks the view of Mount Fuji and you really have to consider yourself lucky if you’re able to get a clear view of the mountain, from down below.
Visibility tends to be better during the colder seasons of the year than in summer. Visibility also improves during hours in the early morning and the late evening as well.
If you want to enjoy Mount Fuji at a more leisurely pace and from a nice natural surrounding, you shouldn’t even be climbing Mount Fuji. Instead, you should head to the Fujigoko region at the northern foot of the mountain, or to Hakone, a nearby hot spring resort.
Mount Fuji officially opens periodically for climbing during July and August via several different routes.
There are four official routes to scale Mount Fuji. The two most popular routes are as follows, listed below.
1: Lake Kawaguchi-Yoshida-guchi route
This is the most popular course.
Non-stop bus services are available from the center of Tokyo and Nagoya. It takes an average of 7 hours to climb up to the summit of Mt. Fuji. This course is recommended as it has many mountain huts on the way, but this also means that during the peak season, it becomes so packed that you will have a hard time to even weave your way through the crowd.
Starting point: Fifth Station (2305 m)
Time required: 7 hours for the ascent & 4 hours for the descent
Departure from the Fifth Station where there is the rest house. From the gentle slopes to the rocky slopes, there are mountain huts at the Seventh Station and Eighth Station. After passing the torii gate standing at the Ninth Station, you will be climbing up bare rocks. Ascending further, you will see a white torii gate, and going up the steps, you will finally be arriving at the summit.
At the mountain top stands the Kuzushi-jinja Shrine where you can have a stamp impressed as a token of having climbed up as far as the mountain top. You will find the most mountain huts here, as well as a mail box at the summit.
For the descent, you will be required to climb down a different path.
2: Fujinomiya route
This is the shortest course for reaching the highest point, but this also means that it consists of many steep areas. There is no special route for the descent, so you will need to climb down the same path that you used for the ascent.
Starting point: New Fifth Station (2,400 m)
Time required: 6 hours for the ascent & 4 hours for the descent
You set off from the Mt. Fuji Guidance Center. Here stands a monument of Sir John Rutherford Alcock who was the first foreigner to succeed in reaching the summit of Mt. Fuji.
You will be climbing up a winding path of sand and gravel. As you make your way up, you will be able to command a view of the crater of Mt. Hoei-zan below you.
From around an altitude of 3000 meters, the path is made up of entirely of only rocks. At the Eighth Station which lies at an altitude of 3250 meters, there is the Mt. Fuji first-aid center where you can consult the doctor if you are feeling unwell.
At the mountain top stands the Okunomiya inner shrine of the Sengen-taisha Grand Shrine, as well as mountain huts.
There is no special route for the descent, and you will be required to climb down the same path you used for the ascent. Manners are usually observed here when passing those people climbing up simultaneously, as you climb your way down.
Right at the top of Mount Fuji is the rim of a crater 600 meters in diameter and 200 meters deep. View the crater includes walking around a short course, around the Kengamine peak which is 3776 meters above sea level and the highest peak in Japan.
This course is called ‘”hachi-meguri” because the crater at the top of Mount Fuji is shaped like a “hachi”, a kind of bowl.
At the summit, there are 8 peaks, and when connecting these peaks, a magical shape is formed, resembling the image of Sakyamuni Buddha seated in the form of a lotus flower. The total distance of this course is approximately 4 kilometers, and it takes an average of roughly 1 hour to complete the circuit of Ohachi-meguri , around the mountain’s crater..
You’ve to make sure not to walk in this area by the crater in bad weather, or after the sun has set, as it becomes very dangerous.
There are also many mountain huts atop Mount Fuji. As the mountain huts are very well-equipped with facilities, there is no need for you to carry heavy items such as a tent or a rice cooker.
However, in case of emergency, most people usually take with with them minimal provisions like light snacks such as; candies, biscuits, etc., as well as some extra clothes.
Some mountain huts accept reservations in advance. Especially in the crowded seasons, more often than not, you will be required to share one room with other guests so if you wish to secure private space, it is best to place a reservation in advance.
Water at the top of Mount Fuji is considered very precious, so there are generally neither showers nor bathroom-vanities available at the mountain huts.
It is also strongly advised to take with you sufficient amounts of water as water purchased in the mountain is very expensive. Other essential items include trekking shoes and a hat for shielding the sun. A walking stick or a trekking pole would also prove useful.
Most importantly, make sure you pay attention to return routes. I cannot stress this enough!!
The trail that we took off the mountain splits into two directions. Picking the wrong direction will cost you hundreds of dollars in terms of taxi fares. And from where you came, it’s entirely possible to land yourself over on the opposite side of the Country!
Whichever route you choose, bear in mind that the climb down is definitely far more difficult when compared to climbing upwards. The way down was extremely gruesome (read: endless endless switchbacks in foot-deep loose red dusty dirt with dozens of other hikers kicking it up into your face such that you need to wear a mask to avoid getting dusk in your eyes/nose/mouth and to avoid getting sunburned, all while forcing yourself to jam your toes into your boots (to avoid slipping) with every downhill step on a path filled almost entirely with rocks.
In recent years, thanks to advanced technology, mobile phones are able to receive signals from Mount Fuji, as high up as the 8th station. That sure sounds like wonderful news for all you Facebook / Instagram addicts out there!
Sending out an SOS has never been so easy!
I hope you did enjoy this post and found it informative.
~Thanks for reading!!~