There are more beautiful mountains in Japan to climb, that’s for sure. But Fuji is worth doing once in your life. There is nothing like the view from the summit - or soaking in an onsen overlooking the iconic mountain afterwards.
Hikers.Before, During and After.
My companions on this Fuji Hike were Angelica, Jesse and Yesenia. All first timers, all active in their own way - surf, cycle, yoga. They braved altitude sickness, sleeping very close to strangers and sore knees to summit. They all agreed that the payoff at the top was worth it, but that there were ways to make the experience better. Here is a bit about what we learned in prep for your own Fuji climb.
We left Tokyo at 7:45am from the Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal. Were at the 5th Station by 10am and on the trail by 11am. We worked our way up at a fairly quick pace, stopping at stations along the way for water, treats (Snickers!) and photo opportunities.
We arrived at our accommodation, Goraikoukan, for the evening by 3:30pm. After lounging around on the tatamis and stretching, we ate dinner (5:30pm) and climbed into our bunks. The cabins are crowded, everyone said you are sleeping like sardines, and they weren’t kidding. You are lying arm to arm - 8 people to one bunk section. It was a little overwhelming. And the cabin cleanliness was questionable. I highly recommend bringing your own sheet, or maybe a micro sleeping bag to put a little distance between you and their linens. Lights out in the cabin was 9pm and it was mostly quiet till around 2am when everyone started getting up in prep for sunrise.
Tip: Bring a clean sheet, eye mask and earplugs. Will contribute greatly to getting good rest.
Our party woke up at 3am, drank hot tea, ate toast with jam and then headed on our way up for the final ascent.
You can see all the headlamps working their way up the mountain side. It was relatively less crowded than on a weekend, but we still waited in line to get to the summit. The climbing season for Fuji is short, the Yoshida trail is only open from July 1 - Sept 10th. Weekdays are less crowded than weekends. If you can manage to go on a weekday,
Tip: Time your climb for after school is back in session to avoid the bulk of the crowds.
Being above the clouds and watching the sun peek out over the horizon is unforgettable. It was very cold and windy at the top of the mountain, so it was good to have gloves, hat, scarf and extra jacket.
Tip: Bring a thermos and fill it with hot tea or coffee, you’ll appreciate a nice warm drink while you stand still, and wait for the sun.
Most previous hikers emphasized that going down Fuji was much harder than going up. It's true. The descent, on switchbacks, with loose gravel is harrowing for the knees. Having hiking boots with good grip and hiking poles to stabilize you as you work your way down was crucial. We made our way down the mountain in 2.5 hrs.
Tip: Wear a face mask on the descent to keep all the dust out of your mouth and nose!
Post Climb Onsen
Almost exactly 24hrs after leaving Tokyo we were back in the Fuji 5th Station Parking lot. We had a cup of coffee at one of the Station cafes and then took a bus to Kawaguchiko Station (about 30mins). At Kawaguchiko Station we caught a local bus to Yurari Onsen (15 mins). For 1300 JPY you get access to amazing baths and on clear days, a beautiful view of Fuji. A post hike bath was exactly what we needed to refresh ourselves and feel comfortable getting on the train/bus back to Tokyo.
Tip: Pack sandals and a clean pair of clothes for after the baths.
Hiking poles (so helpful on the walk down)
Warm wool socks
Thermals (top and bottom)
Water proof layer
Beanie, Gloves, Scarf (summit is CHILLY!)
Change of clothes for after onsen
Sheet or sleeping bag (for hut - cleanliness is questionable)
Face masks/bandana to cover nose and mask (keep the dust/soot - out of your nose/mouth)
Approximate budget - 22,000 JPY
Accommodations - 8500 JPY
Transportation - 7000 JPY
Hiking Poles - 2800 JPY
Incidentals - 2400 JPY
Onsen - 1300 JPY