It’s one of the most recognisable mountains in the world, and has some of the most spectacular views anywhere in Japan, Mt. Fuji is a climbers dream, and the thing most people don’t realise is that most people can make the climb. Today, Japlanning is letting you know when you can climb, and the best routes and options to complete the life-changing experience that is, climbing Mt. Fuji.
Fuji-san sits at 3776 metres tall with it’s almost symmetric look, it’s the most volcano-looking volcano in the world, because of this, it has become one of the most influential mountains in the world to artists and has been painted and drawn for centuries. Located just over one hundred kilometres from Tokyo, on clear days it’s visible from the city.
This iconic mountain is something most people want to at least see when visiting Japan, but you must be warned: getting that clear view of Fuji isn’t as easy as you’d think for such a massive mountain. Due to clouds and weather, viewing Fuji is usually better in the colder months than the summer months, and in the early morning or evening - a midday view in July is a rare site due to cloud coverage.
Despite what most people assume, Mt. Fuji is not a hard climb. Just about anyone in good health and fully mobile can make the climb, with few areas of mountainous rocky tracks, its more the steepness and the thin air that makes it most difficult. The reason a climb up Mt Fuji is on most climbers’ bucket lists is the the spectacular sunrise views it offers, rewarding some of the most spectacular sights on earth to those dedicated to make the climb.
Mt Fuji’s official climbing season spans from July to August. That’s right - you really only have two months where you can safely climb Fuji. During this season, all of the stations up the mountain are open, and offer canned air, food, refreshments, and some a place to sleep.
The peak times in climbing the mountain are from late July to the end of August, which is the summer holidays in Japan. August hits it’s peak with Obon week, where it is so busy many climbers have to queue up at certain passages on the mountain to make the next part of their climb.
Some do climb in the bookend months of the official season, June and September. In these months, however, it is recommended that only experienced climbers try to make the climb, as transport to the mountain is limited, and only a few stations open on the mountain, and usually only on weekends. As the weather can still be below zero in these months on the mountain, you need to be prepared.
Any time out of these months is considered the off season, and not recommended for anyone to attempt the climb. All stations are closed for climbing, and you risk ice, snow and avalanches, as well as below freezing temperatures.
Mt Fuji has several trails for making the trek to the top. Which one you choose will usually be on how much time you want to spend ascending, and also how difficult you want the climb to be. The most popular trails are:
Kawaguchick 5th Station
Starting here at the most popular station to begin a climb to the summit is at 2300 meters, and will take you (on average) between 5 to 7 hours to ascend to the top. Descent is about 3 to 5 hours. This trail, which is known as the Yoshida trail, has many mountain huts along the way, and this is the side of the mountain where the sunrise takes place.
Subashiri 5th Station
This station is the lowest to start your journey from at 1400 meters and takes between 7 to 10 hours to complete the journey, with fewer huts along the way between the 7th and 8th stations, this is the most difficult trail to take on, and is not recommended for a first-time climber.
Fujinomiva 5th Station
This station is the closest to the summit at 2400 meters. It’s the base for the southern approach to the summit and easily accessible via public transport from the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo. The trail has about six huts along the trail to the summit and takes between 4 to 7 hours to make the climb.
So, now you know when to go make your climb and some of the best trails to take, but how do we make the climb?
Most people make the trek to be at the summit for sunrise, as it’s considered one of the greatest sunrises in the world (you’ll see that there is a reason Japan is known as the land of the rising sun)! The climb up the mountain isn’t too difficult in terms of climbing, at certain points the terrain is quite rocky and steep, however there are caution signs the entire way warning climbers of sudden wind gusts and falling rocks. Beyond this, the biggest challenge, especially to those who haven’t climbed before, is the strain it takes on you, and how thin the air gets the further you ascend up towards the summit.
To get to the top for the epic sunrise, and free of cloud coverage, it is recommended to finish the climb to the top, for the greatest sunrise of your life before 4:30am, as sunrise can occur this early during the summer months, which is the official climbing season.
Most people try to time their ascent in order to witness the sunrise from the summit. Also, the chances of the mountain being free of clouds are highest during the early morning hours.
The recommended way of doing this, is to climb to a mountain hut around the 7th or 8th station on the first day, spend some hours sleeping there, before continuing to the summit early on the second day.
Some people choose to make their way to the fifth station late in the evening and hike throughout the night to reach the summit at sunrise. This is not recommended, as it is far more tiring and you have a greater risk of altitude sickness and injuries happening, it is discourage by all local authorities to climb this method.
Once at the summit a walk around Fuji-san’s crater takes about an hour. The highest point of the mountain, and the highest point in Japan is located next to the weather station opposite where the Yoshida trail meets the summit.
To make the trek to the top, you need to make sure you have certain supplies and equipment to make it as easy for you as possible, the key things needed are:
CLOTHING - You need to have clothing to protect you from low temperatures and strong winds, as it can sometimes be zero degrees at the summit in the summer months, so you need to be rugged up! Some gloves would also go a long way to protect your hands when climbing some rocks.
SHOES - You are climbing a mountain, so proper footwear is required, your not doing this in thongs or crocs! You want proper hiking shoes, with good ankle support for the climb.
FOOD - This goes especially for the trails with less mountain huts. You need to make sure you bring enough food and water for the way up and down. Make sure you keep hydrated and your energy levels up. All the huts will sell you supplies, but keep in mind that the higher the altitude typically means the higher the prices too!
FLASHLIGHT - You will be climbing in some darkness, and although there are lights on the trails, a flashlight is recommended to see better and avoid trips and falls.
All trails have mountain huts along the way, however, the Yoshida trail, which is the most popular, has more than a dozen along the way between the 7th and 8th Stations (there are 9 stations up to the summit). All trails do have huts, but the rest do have much fewer. An overnight stay in one of the huts is usually around 5,000 yen per person without any extras. For around 7000 yen, they will also provide you two meals. In the climbing season, expect these to be extremely busy, so be sure to make reservations! The Fujiyoshida city website lists phone numbers for all mountain huts to make reservations.
At each station and also at the summit you will find shops where you can purchase snacks, refreshments and supplies like canned oxygen to help with the thin air.
Now it’s time to decide how you are taking this on.
You can get a group tour organised through great tour sites like Japanican, who have climbing season group climbs on sale that include transport to and from Tokyo, accommodation in a hut, meals and a guide to help you. These start at 31,500 yen per person and can be booked here.
ON YOUR OWN
To do it all on your own here the the details to get there from Tokyo.
FROM SHINJUKU STATION
- 2600 yen (one way)
- TIME: 140minutes
- Times - 6 round trips per day in the climbing season
- 2 round trips per day on weekends/public holidays in the off season
FROM FUJISAN/KAWAGUCHIKO STATION
- 1500 yen (one way) 2000 yen (round trip)
- TIME: 50Mins
- Times- 11-16 round trips per day in the climbing season
- 5 round trips per day in the off season
From Tokyo you take the JR Chuo line from Shinjuku Station to Otsuki Station, then from Otsuki Station take the Fujikyu railway line to Kwawguchiko station. Note that the JR Rail pass isn’t valid for use on the Fujikyu railway line.
The “Mount Fuji Round Trip Ticket” is available for use by foreigners (proof of passport required at purchase), and covers all trains from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko Station return and costs 5500 yen.
A climb up Mt Fuji can be a life changing experience that will stay with you the rest of your life, the peacefulness up at the summit as you watch one of the most spectacular sunrises over Japan with hundreds of climbers from Japan and around the world is like nothing else in the world. If you are planning a trip to Japan in the climbing months you should defiantly look at putting a climb in your itinerary.
Have you climbed Fuji-san before, or have always wanted to?
Let us know in the comments below!