Climbing Japan’s most beautiful mountain
While Mt. Fuji attracts hikers from all over the globe, the surrounding area offers unique attractions, too.
©Odakyu Electric Railway/©JNTO
Mt. Fuji, with its perfect shape and gorgeous snow-capped peak, is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japan. Every year visitors flock to Japan to embark on the climb up this ubiquitous mountain, with the goal of catching a breathtaking sunrise from the summit. If you’re planning to take on this formidable climb, there are a few things you need to know.
The climbing trails are only open for a short period of the year—July to September. Though it’s possible to start from the base, most climbers take a bus up to the fifth station and go from there. Climbing season may be during the height of summer, but a change of warm clothes is a must. Mt. Fuji can reach temperatures below freezing at night, especially at the summit. Since the climb is so popular, the trails are well worn, and even beginners are encouraged to give it a go. Some common ways to reach the top are the Yoshida route, the Gotemba route and the Fujinomiya route.
The Yoshida route begins at Fuji Subaru Line fifth station and it’s the easiest way to go, as the start is fairly high up the mountain and the route is not too steep. It can be crowded, but the trails are clearly marked and it’s hard to get lost. The Gotemba route, which starts at 1,440 metres, offers more of a challenge. Fewer people take this course, and as a result there are fewer places to rest and resupply, so be sure to bring plenty of water. Fujinomiya is the shortest route, but also the steepest. While this route is popular as well, because of how steep it is, altitude sickness is more common.
©Fujiyoshida City/© JNTO
Though from a distance Mt. Fuji is renowned for its natural beauty, climbing the mountain can be a dreary experience. The mountainside is made up of ash and volcanic rock deposited through many eruptions. However, while the trek up the mountain is less than picturesque, the view from the top more than justifies the hike. Most people stop to rest at the eighth station and continue on at night in order to reach the summit in time for sunrise. At 3,776 m above sea level, Mt. Fuji’s summit allows for a prime view of the sun painting the clouds a warm gold as it breaks the horizon.
The Fuji Five Lakes area, which sits at the base of Mt. Fuji, also has lots to offer visitors once they’ve conquered the climb. Fuji-Q Highland amusement park boasts Takabisha, the world’s steepest roller coaster, and Fujiyama, which was once the world’s tallest roller coaster. It’s also home to the notorious Senritsu Meikyu (or Haunted Hospital), the third-longest haunted attraction in the world.
Or, for travellers seeking a more relaxing experience, the hot springs of Fuji Five Lakes are the perfect place for a rejuvenating soak while taking in the pristine air and spectacular views of Mt. Fuji.
Diamond Fuji ©AC WORKS.CO.,LTD
The area also offers numerous museums and tourist attractions, like the Fuji Fugaku Wind Cave and the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave, both located within the Aokigahara Jukai forest. The wind cave, designated as a natural monument, stays cool throughout the year and has many interesting lava formations, including now-hardened “lava ponds.” The ice cave is known for the ice walls stacked long ago when it was first used as a natural refrigerator for silk worm cocoons. For hikers and non-hikers alike, Mt. Fuji is a must-stop spot when visiting Japan.
© FUJIKYUKO CO.,LTD.&FUJIKYU
Fuji-Q Highland amusement park is famous for record-breaking roller coasters and other thrilling rides like Senritsu Meikyu, one of the biggest haunted attractions in the world.
Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha, also known as Mt. Fuji Sengen Shrine, is a traditional starting point for climbing Mt. Fuji. In the past, climbers would stop here to pray before going up the mountain.
Mt.Fuji eats and treats
Oodles of noodles at Fuji Five Lakes
If you go to Mt. Fuji, make sure to try the Fujinomiya Yakisoba, a hometown favourite. Fujinomiya Yakisoba is made with firmer noodles than your usual soba dish and is finished with powdered sardines. Tsuke-Napolitan, another dish that’s famous in the area, pairs Japanese dipping noodles with a tomato-based broth.
Sakura ebi – Fresh from the sea
These little shrimp common to Shizuoka Prefecture are called “sakura” shrimp because of their pink colour—similar to sakura, or cherry blossoms. They’re primarily caught off Suruga Bay. Kakiage tempura takes sakura shrimp and serves them up in a crispy, delicious batter. Be sure to sample this local comfort food when you’re in the area. And fresh sakura ebi make for delicious sushi, which can be found at many restaurants around Fuji Five Lakes. You can also pick up some sakura ebi senbei, or shrimp crackers, as a souvenir.
While for many the ultimate souvenir of Mt. Fuji is the breathtaking view from the summit, there are a ton of snacks, goods and trinkets available to commemorate your trip, most of which come in some semblance of the stately mountain itself. From cone-shaped beer glasses that become Mt. Fuji once the foam settles, to origami that reveals Mt. Fuji once folded, the souvenir shops of Fuji Five Lakes have thought of every way imaginable for visitors to take Mt. Fuji home.
Melonpan (melon bread), a spongy snack, is served in this fitting shape by a bakery on Mt. Fuji. It’s topped with cocoa powder and icing sugar “snow” for a rich, bittersweet taste. Photo: Courtesy of Amanoya
The mountain-shaped senbei rice crackers of Mt. Fuji come in four flavours that represent the different looks of the mountain in spring, summer, fall and winter. Photo: Courtesy of Senya, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten