Trek your way to the summit of iconic Mt. Fuji.
Take a gander at spectacular Mt. Fuji. Designated as a World Heritage Site in 2013, it’s 3,376 metres of historical, spiritual and cultural heritage—and a bucket-list item for both domestic and international travellers who want an impressive and truly iconic Japan experience. Each year, around 300,000 people come to Fuji during the climbing season, which begins in early July and continues into early September. Mt Fuji is Japan’s highest-altitude volcano, and though it’s been dormant since the last big eruption in 1707, it’s still classified as an active volcano.
The mountain is divided into 10 stations, with paved roads winding up as far as the fifth station. From about halfway up the mountain, hikers can start their journey on foot from one of the four main trailheads, listed here from most to least trafficked: Yoshida (the trail with the most first-aid stations), Fujinomiya, Subashiri and Gotemba (the trail with the fewest amenities and lowest-altitude starting point). Each trail has a different character to appeal to a range of climbers. While there are some steep sections, on-season amenities help make this a feasible experience for any average traveller. A round-trip journey can take up to 16 hours, so most people choose to stay overnight in order to catch sunset or sunrise views from the summit. To enjoy the trip, climbers must come equipped with some basics: sturdy hiking boots, cold-weather layers, waterproof top and bottoms, a hat, a light source for night hiking, two litres of water, some portable snacks and a healthy sense of camaraderie. It’s especially important to layer up because even in summer, temperatures can dip below 0 degrees Celsius. Mountain huts provide some shelter from the elements, and you can get two meals and one night’s lodging for about $70. Expect to cozy up to many fellow climbers, too, because the mountain tends to pack out during school and national holidays. The crowds are part of the cultural experience though, so feel free to embrace the experience, if not your new acquaintances.
Experienced climbers seeking to avoid the crowds can apply for an off-season pass. But climbers be warned: the journey becomes much more challenging due to severe weather conditions, poor cellphone reception and lack of aid stations. If you’re an active person with a good fitness level and a serious hankering for adventure, however, several companies offer guided off-season tours—just be sure to plan your trip well in advance and follow a training program to get you in peak condition.
Mountin’ Mt. Fuji
There are many ways to get the most out of your Mt. Fuji experience, whether you’re an outdoor buff or a total newbie. Just follow these practical tips to keep you from getting stuck between a rock and a hard place.
DO stick to your memories.
Have your walking stick branded at each subsequent station for a unique souvenir of your pilgrimage to this sacred mountain.
DO NOT depend on plastic.
Most mountain huts only accept cash, and you’ll also want to bring plenty of small change for the toilets.
DO see the rising sun.
Catch some shut-eye in an overnight hut, then switch on your headlamp in the wee hours to finish your trek in time for sunrise.
Illustration by Chieko Watanabe