The Ultimate Guide to Climbing Mount Fuji

The Ultimate Guide to Climbing Mount Fuji

One look at Mt. Fuji and you’re hooked! It is the perfect definition of cone-symmetry and beauty combined. It has a wide base and a slope that smoothens as it narrows to the peak. Located in Honshū near the Pacific Coast and barely 100km from Tokyo, Mt. Fuji stands at 3,776m and known for Japan’s tallest mountain. It is a stratovolcano with layers of ash, rock, and lava formed by violent eruptions. It is considered to be an active volcano because it squarely lies where three tectonic plates overlap, known as the “Tripple Junction”.These three plates are the North American Plate, The Eurasian Plane, and the Filipino Plate. The last eruption occurred in 1707, and the ash fell on Tokyo. Unbelievable! But since there is no proven direct way to measure the pressure of magma, there are no clear indications that eruption is imminent.
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park Photo by SteFou
Mt. Fuji is surrounded by four small cities namely Fujiyoshida, Fuji, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya. Five lakes also add to the magnificence of this mountain; Lake Sai, Lake Shoji, Lake Motosu, Lake Yamanaka and Lake Kawaguchi. The mountain is part of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.

Sacred Fuji

Mt. Fuji is Japan’s main symbol. It is considered a sacred mountain hence the many shrines at the base of it. Its graceful shape is known to have inspired great works of art. It has remained popular throughout the centuries. Especially after it was declared a World Heritage Site in June 2013 by UNESCO, it has become quite iconic. The fact that Mt. Fuji lies between the Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures, on clear days, it can be seen from Yokohama and Tokyo. However, clouds often hinder the visibility of the mountain. Visibility is much better during cold seasons as compared to summer periods. Also, early mornings and early evenings would be ideal.

Mount Fuji Climate

Mount Fuji experiences a Tundra climate, especially at the summit. This climate is characterized by scanty rainfall, extreme cold, and heavy winds. The cone is normally snowcapped for several months in a year due to the low temperatures in higher altitudes.

Climbing Mt. Fuji

Mount Fuji is visited by thousands every year, both locals and foreign tourists. Many with a goal to climb to the summit, others to just enjoy the view. It does not require any technical expertise to ascend it. However, due to its rapidly changing weather(unexpected thunderstorms, hailstorms, heavy downpours), steep inclines and rocky terrain, it is important to be well prepared with the right clothing and equipment. As you gain altitude, the air will inevitably get thinner so I would recommend that you pace yourself during the climb to allow for acclimatization. This will help decrease your chances of altitude sickness. Even though there is no snow in the months from June to October, temperatures at the summit are likely to drop way below zero. And in this case, I highly suggest that only experienced hikers should consider undertaking the ascent. A side note though; there are no restrictions regarding off season (July/August) climbing. There are signposts indicating that the trails are closed to minimize climbing accidents. Appropriate mountaineering gear and equipment is essential if snow is present on the mountain. Proper hiking boots, layered clothing, a headlamp, ski poles, some cash, and snacks would be ideal to carry along if you want to enjoy climbing Mt. Fuji. As I mentioned earlier, Mt. Fuji is a sacred mountain, so learning the culture will be an additional advantage. A tip from me would be that you observe good manners. This entails not picking plants, no carrying stones back home, no setting up fires even camping on the mountain. Is there a fee? Yes, a small fee of 1000 yen is required per person and is collected at the stations. It goes towards maintaining the environment and improvement of safety for climbers.

Best time to climb

There is an official climbing season on Mt. Fuji. This season refers to when the mountain facilities and the trails are in operation. The peak season is normally during school break which is from early July to mid-September. The other peek is during the Obon week which happens in mid-August. The crowds are quite large during this period. However, if you don’t want to encounter huge crowds, I recommend climbing Mt. Fuji on a weekday especially on the first weeks of July before schools close. Though the weather in early July can be a bit harsh. The weather on the mountain is relatively calm towards the end of July till early September and the summit free of snow. It is a good time to tackle the mountain if you don’t have hiking experience. Climbing the mountain from October to June is highly dangerous and I would advise you to steer clear due to a high risk of ice avalanches and gusty winds. For you to witness the breathtaking sunrise from the summit, climb during the early morning hours as the mountain is likely to be free of clouds. How can you achieve this? You ask. I recommend climbing to the 7th or 8th station on the first day. Get your sleep and rest on one of the mountain huts. Then proceed to the summit very early the next morning. See, no rocket science!

The sunrise in summer takes place between 4:30 am and 5:00 am.

You may also choose to start the climb late evening from the designated 5th station through to the summit during the night. This option is greatly discouraged because of increased chances of altitude sickness and fatigue. It is also possible to ascend and descend the mountain during daytime in a single day, but I would not recommend it for similar reasons as above.

Accommodation on Mt. Fuji

To say the least, while being modest, accommodation here borders on primitive. The probable reason would be that the huts are more of a cultural experience than comfort-focused.
Mountain huts at Mt. Fuji
Mountain Huts at Mt. Fuji, Japan
Don’t expect hotel conditions. The huts are like large dormitories, so you better get used to the idea of sharing space in close quarters. All the huts are more or less similar. Sleeping bags and mattresses are provided. Some even provide heaters to keep you warm and toasty. Some huts offer paid toilet services at a cost of about 100 yen, and other huts provide rest space for climbers who don’t intend to stay the night. This will dent your pocket by 1000-2000 yen. Most huts provide water, food, canned oxygen, hiking sticks and other items that you may deem necessary. Of course, at a cost. Pssst! Here’s a tip. If you’re on a budget, buy your water and food items at one of the 5th stations because the items increase in price as you go higher up the mountain.

Mountain climbing routes

This mountain has 10 stations in total. The first station begins at the base of the mountain while the 10th one is on the summit. Most people begin their ascent from the four 5th stations because the roads are paved up to this point and are accessible by buses or rental cars. From the 5th stations, there are four major routes on different sides of the mountain.
  1. The Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station or Kawaguchiko 5th Station is the base for the Yoshida Route.

It is the most popular among the four 5th stations and easiest to access and most developed which offers a good spot for sightseeing even during off climbing seasons, especially the Fuji Five Lakes and is accessible all year round. It has many restaurants and shops, parking lots and locker coins. You can get here by bus or rental cars via the Subaru Line which begins at Kawaguchiko Station.
Lake Kawaguchiko
Lake Kawaguchiko Photo by Guilhem Vellut
The Yoshida route is equally the most popular however high human traffic may be encountered especially on the 8th station. There are numerous huts and this trail provides a scenic view of the sunrise for those who don’t get to the summit in good time. It also has separate ascent and descent trails. You will ascend in 5-7 hours and descend in 3-5hours.
  1. The Subashiri 5th Station is the base for the Subashiri Route.

This station is less developed than the Fuji Subaru Line 5th station. It only has a parking lot, toilets and few restaurants. The Subashiri route is not as crowded as other routes until the 8th station where it joins the Yoshida route. You will ascend in 5-8 hours and descend in 3-5hours.
  1. Gotemba 5th station is the base for the Gotemba Route.

The ascent to the summit is longer because it is the lowest of the four stations. It is the least developed with only a shop, toilets and parking lots. The terrain is full of lava rocks and has a few huts. You will ascend in7-10 hours and descend in 3-5hours. During the descent, you could easily run from the 7th station to the 5th station in about 30minutes because the path is covered in loose ashy gravel.
  1. The Fujinomiya 5th Station is the base for the Fujinomiya Route.

The station is the closest to the mountain summit. It is easily accessible by public transport from the western side of Japan. It is slightly more developed than Subashiri and Gotemba 5th stations. The Fujinomiya trail is the shortest to the summit and it will take you 4-7 hours to ascend. The descent on the same track can take 2-6 hours. However, congestion is likely during peak season.

Fauna on Mount Fuji

Approximately 100 species of birds have been spotted on Mt. Fuji. There are also frogs and a few species of other reptiles. The Kano River has a type of fish called “Ayu” which means sweetfish. Marmots, black bears, squirrels foxes and insect species are also present on the mountain.

Flora on Mount Fuji

From the base of the mountain, you will find forest vegetation consisting of bamboo grasses, cypress, beech, maples and Nikko firs. As you get to the top, plant life is minimal due to the harsh weather conditions. You can spot mosses and lichens though.

Hiking with Kids

For the adventurous family, Mt. Fuji would be an ideal hiking project to undertake. Children at 7 years and above can comfortably climb the mountain, but I would not recommend them trekking to the summit because of the unpredictable weather conditions at high altitudes.

Things to do

Mt. Fuji being in Japan’s Capital City-Tokyo, means that you will not run out of things to explore and experience apart from hiking the mountain itself.

Visit Lake Kawaguchiko

It is the second largest of the Fuji Five Lakes. It offers quite a view of the locals fishing. You will find yourself naturally relaxing as you take in this beauty. There are many hiking routes which you could explore just for fun. There are also coffee shops around so you can sip away your troubles.

The Fuji 5th Station

This is a perfect spot for getting the best view of the mountain itself, without having to climb it!

Eat at HoutouFudou

This restaurant is famous for its hot noodles, a local dish. The masterful combination of mushroom, tofu, white cabbage, pumpkin and udon will make your taste buds summersault! You got to try it!

Aokigahara Forest

Aokigahara forest
Aokigahara Forest photo by Guilhem Vellut
Well, it’s known to be world’s second suicide spot, but it’s a beautiful forest worth your time. You will get to see the Narukawa IceCave that makes ice seem adventurous.

Lake Yamanakako Cruiser

Enjoy an elegant cruise on the swan-shaped ship as you enjoy scenic views from the base of the mountain. The Ship is modernly furnished to suit your taste.

Shibazakura Festival

With Mt. Fuji forming a great background for the pink flowers, it is a scenery to behold. These flowers (moss phlox)are like Mt. Fuji’s royal carpet. Go experience the pink affair that is only witnessed in springtime.

The Fuji Sengen Shrine

If you’re a cultural enthusiast, this is a must-visit spot. The architecture and history behind it are simply mind-blowing! The Yoshida Fire Festival It is celebrated at the Fuji Sengen Shrine as a way of bringing to a close Mt. Fuji’s climbing season. A torch is lit in front of every house in Fujiyoshida and the city is on fire. Not literally though.

Celebrate thePaul Rusch Festival

Dr. Paul Rusch is celebrated for dedicating his life to build the Kiyosato highlands. There are numerous rows of tents bearing fruits, vegetables, and artworks.

Shiraito Falls

Shirato Falls
Shirato falls photo by Reginald Pentinio
As a matter of fact that these flush falls are in the middle of lush green vegetation and you can , feel free to pass by though it isn’t a must-visit as there is nothing much to do here.

Running Events

If you love keeping fit, there are many running races held throughout the year. And a run through the beautiful scenery of Yamanashi and grape fields and the views of Mt. Fuji would be quite a painless and memorable workout!

Grape festival

Here’s one for the wine lovers similarly, the free wine and grape samples are available to celebrate during the harvest season and you could practice your wine-tasting skills here my friend! At the end, one last thing don’t forget your camera and You will definitely want to document your Mt. Fuji experience for yourself and others. Get a shot of the breathtaking sunrise while at it!