When you think of Japan, what are the first few things that come to mind when you think of Japan? Sushi? Anime? Sumo? For Japanese people, the most outstanding and popular symbol is… Mt. Fuji! Since 2013, Japan’s highest mountain has been on the World Heritage List. So congratulations on that, Mister Fuji-san! A famous Japanese saying is that a wise man climbs him once, only a fool twice. So if you are contemplating hiking Fuji-san next year (this year’s hiking season closes this weekend on September 10, 2022) and want to know how to prepare in advance, we’ve got you covered! I recently climbed Fuji-san for the first time during my summer break in August, so here are some great climbing tips that make hiking Fuji-san an unforgettable experience.
Some Basics About Hiking Mt. Fuji
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Mount Fuji is a beautiful mountain to look at, but hikers are allowed to enter only for a short period between July 10 to September 10. During the off-season, the mountain’s peak is covered in snow, so hiking Fuji-san would be way too dangerous. Our tip: Hike the mountain during the August-peak season. It is less likely to rain or for you to get caught in a thunderstorm because the mid-July rain season is no joke. Different routes are available depending on your hiking ability and how fast you plan to reach the summit. Keep in mind, during the short hiking season, more than 200,000 hikers are expected every year, so the more popular and accessible route you choose (like the Yoshida trail), the busier the path will get.
The best thing about hiking Fuji-san is the breathtaking view, especially the sunrise you can experience at the top. The sunrise was definitely on my bucket list, so my friends and I decided to stay at one of the charming mountain huts. One of my friends recommended booking a guided tour with the Hato Bus Company, which I can recommend for beginners.
The package included:
- A roundtrip bus ride from Shinjuku station to the 5th station of Mount Fuji (more info about that later).
- A stay at one of the mountain huts, including dinner and a given breakfast snack for the trail.
- A fantastic stay at this onsen right after finishing the hike.
A Breakdown of the Available Hiking Paths
Photo Credit: Canva
Perfect for Beginners – The Yoshida Trail
Hiking Fuji-San is challenging, so choosing an accessible route works best for most beginners. Fuji-san is divided into 10 stations. The 10th station is at the summit of 3,776 meters, and bus services go up to the 5th station. This is the station where many hikers enter the Yoshida trail, with many mountain huts and amenities to use while going up. It takes about 6 hours to ascend, and the itinerary usually includes a mountain hut-stay at the 7th or 8th station to see the sunrise the following day. After hiking Fuji-san, hikers take a different descent trail, which takes about 4 hours to get back to the 5th station.
People Who Love a Good Challenge – The Fujinomiya Trail
On the shorter side, hiking the Fujinomiya Trail takes less time to ascend (only 4 1/2 hours), but it is steeper and harder to climb. You also have to take the same route on the way down, which takes only an average of 2 hours but is also more challenging. So, I would not recommend it, especially if you’re a beginner.
Other Honourable Trail Mentions
After reaching Mount Fuji’s summit, hiking another 90 minutes around the crater via the Ohachi Meguri Trail gives you an excellent 360-degree view. The Subashiri Trail is perfect for hiking off the beaten path with fewer people but also has fewer mountain huts and amenities. Also worth mentioning is The Gotemba Trail, which you can climb in a minimum of 7 hours, depending on where you start.
Preparing to Hike Mt. Fuji
Before the hike starts, preparation is key. I remember people telling me they saw hikers in jeans and regular sneakers and assumed they were over-prepared, which is false. Hiking Fuji-San is not a walk the in the park; it is a steep mountain with fast-changing weather conditions and less oxygen available the higher you climb. Getting some shorter hiking trips in beforehand doesn’t hurt. To make the hike fun and enjoyable, we prepared this checklist of things to bring for the climb.
Photo Credit: Author
See the Sunrise Above the Clouds
Photo Credit: Author
Hiking Fujing-san can be challenging, especially for people who get altitude sickness very quickly. So take your time to prevent headaches and altitude sickness! On our way up, the guides that worked with the Hato Bus company ensured we took 10-minute breaks every 30 to 40 minutes, where we practised deep breathing techniques and sat down on our backpacks for a while to keep the pressure off our shoulders and backs.
After we relaxed at one of the cosy mountain huts on the 8th station, we started climbing the last two stations up to the summit. Hiking Fuji-san in pitch-black darkness was a thrilling adventure, and we even saw the milky way and beautiful shooting stars on our way up. The headlamp came in handy when we climbed over big vulcanic rocks on the Yoshida trail, and also, the hiking sticks made the climbing way easier. Because there were many other hikers on the road, we often had to stop and wait for the queue to move, but we reached the top of Mount Fuji around 4 am.
Around 4:20 am, the sun began to rise, so we saved a good spot, close to the little Fuji-san mountaintop post office, where you can send a postcard from the top of Japan! Sitting on my backpack, a hot cup of instant noodles in my hand, bought at one of the stores at the 10th station, watching the sun begin to rise was a fantastic experience. That wonderful feeling is hard to describe when you finally got to the top. Watch the sunrise above the clouds and take a memory picture!
Hop Into an Onsen After Hiking Mt. Fuji
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After every ascent follows the descent, which also takes a lot of stamina and energy. I can assure you nothing is better than jumping into an onsen to relax your tired bones and sore muscle cramps that are already setting in. We went to the Yamanakako Onsen Benifuji no Yu hot spring, where we could see Fuji-san in all of its glory from afar. It was an odd feeling, looking at the mountain we had climbed just a few hours prior. Tired and happy, we ordered a nourishing meal at the onsen cafeteria and headed via taxi to Kawaguchiko to stay there for another night at a traditional Japanese guesthouse (a ryokan). If you have another day or two to spare, treat yourself and stay at one of many beautiful Japanese inns. I can recommend this ryokan, where I stayed twice during my time in Kawaguchiko. Ideal for relaxing and recharging your batteries after hiking Fuji-san.
- Yama no Hi: Celebrating Japan’s Mountains on Mountain Day
- Hiking in Japan: Preparation, Equipment & the 7 Best Trails in Japan!
- What is Onsen? The Ultimate Guide to Japan’s Most Popular Tradition
- Escape to Yamanashi – Mount Fuji and 7 other Awesome Places to Visit