Climbing the World Heritage Mt. Fuji for First-timers
Mt. Fuji, which has long been considered to be Japan's foremost sacred mountain, is often viewed as a symbol of the country. It is such a special mountain that many Japanese people aspire to climb it at least once in their life. This time, we offer a guide to climbing Mt. Fuji, which has garnered even more attention as a result of being registered as a World Heritage Site.
What is Mt. Fuji?
Mt. Fuji is a stratovolcano that is located on the border of Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. It was created by volcanic activity approximately 10,000 years ago, and is Japan's tallest mountain at a height of 3,776m. Due to its frequent eruptions and lava flowing down the mountain in the past, Mt. Fuji was feared and revered as a frightening and mystical mountain where the deities resided. During the Heian Period (794 - 1185), when the volcanic activity started to subside, it changed from an object to be worshiped from afar to one to be worshiped by climbing it. It has also been an inspiration for many artists for its beautiful form. Mt. Fuji has long been a source of spirituality and art for the Japanese people, and as such was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2013 as a representation of Japanese culture and its relationship with nature.
When Can You Climb Mt. Fuji?
Mt. Fuji can be climbed between July and early September, when the hiking trails between the 5th station and the summit are open. Climbing season differs depending on the trail, but all trails have more hikers after mid-July. There may be changes depending on the amount of snow that is left and weather conditions, so be sure to check the official website before going.
Walking around the crater at the top of the mountain is called Ohachi-meguri. The view from the highest point in Japan is stunning! On a clear day, you can see as far as Mt. Yari in the northern Japanese Alps. Walking around the crater will give you a sense of the size of the crater and the sheer scale of Mt. Fuji.
When is the Best Time to Climb Mt. Fuji?
The best time to climb Mt. Fuji is on a weekday between late July and early August. This time of the year often has clear days due to the high pressure after the rainy season, and the highest daily low temperatures of the year. Another consideration in addition to the weather is the number of people. When it is crowded, it will take more time to climb due to pedestrian traffic on the trails, and the huts will be full, so try to avoid the weekend and go during the week. Also, be sure to look out for alpine plants with delicate flowers. In particular, the Subashiri Trail goes through the forests, so you can keep an eye out for any alpine plants while walking.
What to Bring and Wear
Mt. Fuji has volcanic gravel, so be sure to wear footwear with thick, strong soles, such as hiking or trekking shoes. It is best to wear high-cut boots to prevent gravel from getting in. The weather can change suddenly, so rain gear is a must. The wind is very strong too, so select highly durable separates made specifically for hiking or trekking. The temperature at the summit can be below 0°C before sunrise, even at the height of summer, so be sure to bring warm clothes. Moisture-wicking underwear, a towel, a hat to protect from the sun, and a headlamp are also essential. Don't forget to bring water for hydration as well as food such as chocolates, cookies, and nuts that can be eaten on the move, and a bag for bringing home any trash. Bring your own hiking map and compass so you do not get lost. You may also want to pack a helmet, masks and goggles in case of an unexpected eruption. Be sure to submit a hike plan at the trailhead. You will be asked to write the planned route and information on each person in your party, including emergency contacts and a list of belongings. The plan helps to focus the search in case of an emergency.
The Four Trails
There are four trails to the summit, each with a different starting point. The signage for each trail is marked by a different color, so remember the signs for your trail and you won't mix it up with other ones when you come to a fork. Each trailhead can be accessed by bus from the main station at the foot of the mountain.
This is the most popular route (151,969 people climbed it in 2016), and is often crowded. It is virtually flat until the 6th station, and gently ascends and zigzags from there to the 7th station. It is rocky from the 7th station to the summit. There are many shops at the trailhead and many huts along the way. There are first aid centers. The signs for this trail are in yellow.
Trailhead: Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station (Yamanashi Prefecture side)
Time: Ascent approx. 6 hours, descent approx. 4 hours
This trail takes the same route as the Yoshida Trail from the 8th station to the summit, for both the ascent and the descent. The trail is in woodlands with relatively gentle slopes up to the 7th station, and becomes rocky from the 8th station onward. There is a mountain hut at each station. It tends to get crowded beyond the 8th station, where it merges with the Yoshida Trail. There are no first aid centers. The signs for this trail are in red.
Trailhead: Subashiri Trail 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture side)
Time: Ascent approx. 6 hours, descent approx. 3 hours
This is a gentle gravel trail up to about the 8th station. It has the fewest climbers and does not get crowded, but is the longest, and there is no shade so you must be careful not to get heatstroke. You can get lost when the fog is thick, so beginners should walk with experienced climbers. There are no mountain huts between the 5th and 7th stations. There are no first aid centers. Signs for this trail are in green.
Trailhead: Gotemba Trail New 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture side)
Time: Ascent approx. 7 hours, descent approx. 3 hours
This is the shortest trail, and has many rocky areas overall. The number of climbers is less than half the Yoshida Trail, but it can get crowded near the summit. There is a mountain hut at each station. There is a first aid center. The signs for this trail are in blue.
Trailhead: Fujinomiya 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture side)
Time: Ascent approx. 5 hours, descent approx. 3 hours
How to Enjoy the 5th Station of Mt. Fuji
The 5th Station of Mt. Fuji has overnight accommodations, restaurants, and shops, and is a tourist destination that is easily accessible by a shuttle bus or taxi from the foot of the mountain. Many of the facilities are open from around mid-April to mid-December. The first place you should visit when you arrive at the 5th station is the Fujisan Komitake Shrine, where you can pick up a goshuin (a piece of paper on which a Shinto priest writes the shrine's name and other things in calligraphy). A priest will write "Fujisan" on the paper in calligraphy with a strong hand. Once you've visited the shrine, go to Amano-ya for a Fujisan Melonpan. Melonpan is a common Japanese sweet bread covered in melon-flavored cookie dough, and the one sold at Amano-ya is in the shape of Mt. Fuji. The lava rocks of the melonpan are cocoa-flavored, and the snow is depicted by powdered sugar. Before you leave, stop by the post office to buy a Mt. Fuji-shaped wooden postcard as a souvenir. Additionally, if you post mail here, it will be stamped with a special scenic postmark unique to this post office.
Highlights of Mt. Fuji
If you can't make it to the summit but would like to enjoy the nature of Mt. Fuji, walk the Ochudo, a flat trail around the 5th Station. You can enjoy a variety of scenery, such as forests of Erman's birch and Japanese larch, which are resistant to rain and snow, and a desolate landscape of reddish black rocks. The reddish black rocks are actually magma that formed into rocks in the air when Mt. Fuji erupted. This is a trail on which you can see Mt. Fuji as it really is - a volcanic mountain surrounded by harsh nature.
How to Enjoy the Summit
Many people go to the summit to see the "goraiko" (sunrise). The sun rising slowly above the horizon is a sight to behold. Once you've seen the sunrise, move around so you can see the "kage-Fuji" (Mt. Fuji's shadow). The huge shadow of the mountain that gradually grows is a reaffirmation of the sheer scale of Mt. Fuji, which you'd just climbed. If you still have energy, try the "ohachi-meguri", a 90-minute walk around the crater. Stop by the Okumiya of Sengentaisha Shrine and Kusushi Shrine to follow the footsteps of Mt. Fuji worship. Kengamine, which is on the other side of Yoshida Trail, has a stone monument at the highest point in Japan, and is a perfect spot for photographs. There is also a post office at the summit, and if you send a postcard from there, it will have a unique postmark with an image of the summit of Mt. Fuji.
Types of Mountain Huts and How to Reserve Them
The mountain huts on Mt. Fuji are simple lodgings for people who want to sleep. Guests can order simple meals, such as dinner and breakfast, but the facilities are minimal. Water is valuable on the mountain, so there is no water for washing your face or hands. Almost all huts are mixed-gender. At the weekend, it is likely that you will only be able to get just about enough space to lie down in, so be sure to make advance reservations by phone or online. Most of the huts charge about 8,000 JPY a night with dinner and breakfast included, but rates are higher on Fridays, Saturdays, and days before National Holidays.
Know Your Hiking Etiquette
There are rules and etiquette to follow in order to fully enjoy your hike on Mt. Fuji. The most important one is to take your garbage home. Also, picking plants and animals, taking lava and other rocks away, or writing on buildings, rocks or stones are prohibited by law. Tents and fires are also not allowed. It is good manners to contribute to the Fujisan Conservation Donation Campaign (1,000 JPY), whose aim is to pass down the beauties of Mt. Fuji to future generations.
Use the Convenient Mt. Fuji Pass
Mt. Fuji Pass is a handy pass to have when climbing Mt. Fuji. It is a pass exclusive to foreign tourists, and grants unlimited rides on buses in the Mt. Fuji area of Yamanashi and Shizuoka and on trains operated by Fujikyu Railway. It also includes tickets to various local tourist spots. There are 1-day, 2-day and 3-day tickets, so you can choose the one that suits your schedule.
Price: 5,500 JPY - 10,000 JPY/adult, 2,750 JPY - 5,000 JPY/child
Available to purchase at: Otsuki Station, Kawaguchiko Station, Mt. Fuji Station, Asahigaoka Bus Terminal, Shin-Fuji Station, Gotemba Station, Mishima Station, the Fujikyu counter at Fujinomiya Station *Passport required when purchasing Mt. Fuji Pass
Use the Convenient Mt. Fuji Pass
How to Get to Mt. Fuji
From Tokyo, it is about 2.5 hours on a highway bus from Shinjuku to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. The fare is 2,700 JPY one way. From Osaka or Kyoto, it takes about 10 hours (9 hours from Kyoto) on a night bus to Mt. Fuji Station, from which you will need to take another bus to get to the 5th station. The night bus is 8,700 JPY one way (8,200 JPY from Kyoto), and the bus to the 5th station is 1,540 JPY one way.
Be sure to read this article before climbing Mt. Fuji so that you can go fully prepared!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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