I recently completed one of my longstanding bucket list goals – climb Mount Fuji. Well, actually, my real bucket list goal was to eat noodles on Mount Fuji:
Mount Fuji to me is a mountain made for everyone and anyone. Whether you’re a serious climber, the enthusiast, someone who wants to try something different, the kid or an octogenarian, almost every demographic has thought about climbing this thing. I’ve wanted to climb it for the longest time because it’s been such an inspiring symbol of Japan, a country I really enjoy visiting. The oddly symmetrical mountain has had so much reverence in Japanese culture, the peak having inspired artists, poets, modern day companies and tourists for almost half a millennia. Having climbed it, I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about it to take the plunge. The views are incredibly breathtaking and the journey feels very much like a metaphor for all of life’s challenges.
If you can conquer Mount Fuji, you can take that with you to help conquer any of the other challenges you’ll inevitably face in your life.
You won’t regret it.
5 important tips before making the climb:
Wear appropriate clothing:
You’ll pretty much experience 3 distinct seasons going up Mount Fuji if you do it in July or August. At the bottom, it’ll be a sweltering 28C degrees and you’ll definitely get hot, so make sure you wear some lightweight training gear. Near the 7th station, the temperature will start to feel like a chilly late fall day, dropping to around 10C. Near the peak, you’re going to be hit by some chilly winds and the temperature goes down to 0C and less. As you’ll probably spend some time losing heat waiting for the sun to rise, you should put on some insulated that traps heat in and something that will protect against the chilly, strong winds at the top.
Bring snacks, lots of water and money:
Aside from the cabins found at the 6th, 7th and 8th stations going up, there’s not much in the way of food and unless you’ve reserved something in advance, you’re only going to get candy bars, instant noodles and maybe a sugary bun. If you want something with a bit more protein or healthier, your best bet is to pack snacks with you from the 7eleven in town or at base camp. It’s worth also lugging water with you to the top, as the higher you go, the more expensive items get. A 500ml bottle of water at 8th station goes for ~¥400 yen (4USD)! As well, at each station, they ask for a donation or charge¥100 -¥200 yen to use the washrooms. Bring a bit of cash with you up the mountain – sorry, no ATMs yet! Mountain lodgings at the 7th or 8th station with dinner and breakfast will run you ¥10000 Yen ($100USD) per night. There are many options, some better than others, so it’s best to do a bit of research online first. I can fully recommend the Taishikan where I stayed.
Make sure you have a strong headlamp:
When you’re hiking up at night, there are NO lights on between stages. You’ll need to get a headlamp from the stores at 5th station or in town. It’ll cost you just shy of ¥1000 yen (10 USD)
Get to the top well in advance to get a good spot for the sunrise:
Because the climb of Mount Fuji appeals to almost everyone, you will most likely never be alone anywhere along the hiking trails. In consequence, the summit is jam packed at the top with people. To get a decent spot, your best is to reach the summit around 2 hours before the sun rises!
Save energy and be prepared for the hike down!
Everyone always talks about the hike up, but what goes up, must come down. The hike down Fuji is awful. It’s basically 3 1/2 hours of zig-zigging back-and-forth with nothing to do or see. Your descent is via a different path from the one up that’s littered with loose rocks, pebbles and stone, providing little stability, so you’re constantly putting strain on your ankles and knees while trying to balance and stay upright. There are also no more lodgings or rest areas on the way back (except toilet stations) from the 7th station downwards. I wish someone had told me about this – you’ve been warned!
Other good reads and resources on the internet:
The Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Mt. Fuji by High Snobiety: A video shot by my brother detailing his Mount Fuji trip. He’s actually done it a couple of times!
Fuji Mountain Guides: If after reading this post, you still feel a bit worried about making the trek solo or with a friend, these guys offer great English language-friendly tours. You can also rent lodgings on the mountain. I’ve rented here and the website was (really) simple and straight forward!
Highwaybus.com: Not the best website around, but if you’re coming from Shinjuku, Tokyo, this website worked for me to book my return trip to the mountain town of Kawaguchiko. From Kawaguchiko station, it’s another hour and a half bus ride to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji, where most begin their hike up.