Mt. Fuji is one of Japan’s icons for its perfect shape and snow-capped peak. Many visitors to Japan enjoy the view from the Hakone or Fuji-Goko (five lakes) areas. But have you ever thought of climbing it? Actually, it being a relatively easy climb, everyone from young kids to senior citizens can enjoy the experience. It takes about 6 hours to ascend and 3-4 hours to descend, originating from the 5th Station base point which you can reach by car or bus. When I say “relatively easy”, I do not mean it is not hard. You do not need special mountaineering knowledge or techniques, but you do need average physical strength and endurance.
Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) high. The climbing season is from the beginning of July to the end of August.
Many climbers start climbing in the afternoon, spend a night at a hut and start climbing again early in the morning to watch the sunrise at the summit. You should ascend slowly and steadily to avoid altitude sickness. You need to bring warm clothes since the average temperature at the summit is approximately 40°F even in the summer. Raingear is also a necessity due to weather changes. Other things you should bring with you are: suitable shoes; a hat; extra clothes for change; a towel; handy food such as chocolate; water; sunblock lotion; and a headlight or torch. (If you are prone to altitude sickness, bottled oxygen will help.)
Mountain huts are very basic and rustic. Some do not have showers. You are usually required to share a room, and there are certain rules you should follow, such as when to have supper and turn the light off. As they are sometimes very crowded, making reservations in advance is recommended.
The best moment is the sunrise. You will feel a sense of accomplishment, and it is a somewhat religious experience. It is no wonder that Mt. Fuji has been an object of local religions, and you may even meet people on pilgrimages in traditional clothes on the way to the summit. Yamanashi Prefecture issues a certificate of climbing to the top of Mt. Fuji for foreign visitors which will commemorate your achievement forever. (For more information about the certificate, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
You can try to conquer the summit of Mt. Fuji for yourself, although some companies offer guided climb tours:
JTB Sunrise Tours:
Whole Earth Nature School:
Many tourists see Mt. Fuji, but few climb it. If you want to take something special back with you from your trip to Japan, why don’t you give it a shot?
For more information:
Missed my first chance while I was stationed at the U.S. Navy shipyard in Yokosuka, returning this summer to see the sunrise. 3776 meters will be the highest summit I have climbed to date, so expecting to follow slowly after the obaasans and ojiisans!
I climbed in back in 1993 when I was in the Marines. It was kind of a tough climb I got a severe headache towards the end of the first day. I remember the little momasons (old ladies) passing me since they climbed it all the time. It was a workout and I was in the Marines!!