Climbing Fuji-san is a bucket list item for so many visiting Japan, but why? Formed ~600,000years ago, standing alone, and visible from Tokyo on a clear day, there are few other sights as quintessentially Japan. There is a Japanese proverb that says “One who has never climbed Mt. Fuji is a fool! But, the person who climbs it more than once is a BIGGER fool!” I guess I know where Dom and I stand with the Japanese!
During 2018, we were both able to climb Fuji-san, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not once, but twice. Both times we tackled the Yoshida Trail (yellow trail), and had a blast. Due to the amount of snow at the peak for most of the year, the climbing season is actually very short. They vary somewhat from year to year, but generally speaking the Yoshida Trail opens first at the beginning of July while the rest of the trails open a week or two later. The official season comes to a close sometime in mid-September. During this time, we would also advise you to avoid the following dates each year: Yama no hi (Mountain Day), Obon and Tanabata Festivals, as they generally equate to larger crowds/lines on the mountain.
Although you can climb outside of the designated season (Dom and his buddies climbed in June 2018 and had a fantastic time – see the pictures with snow above) there is no support along the way and a solid chance that there will be snow at the top. On the bright side, there are obviously way fewer people to contend with. There are five climbing trails (Kawaguchiko, Fuji-Yoshida, Gotemba, Subashiri, Fujinomiya) to choose from with the Fuji-Yoshida Trail being the most popular.
Both times we climbed we chose to ascend and descend on the same day although many people choose to stay the night at one of the many huts and then complete the ascent in the morning to witness the sunrise from the summit. My understanding, however, is that the lodging can get pretty tight (many of the huts require reservations, especially those on the most travelled trails). This makes for a perhaps less than restful night sleep, but it does give you the opportunity to see the sun rise over the land of the rising sun. No matter which trail you choose or whether you decide to break up the hike or do it all in one swoop you’ll want to be prepared. We have outlined some of the most basic information below that we think will help set you up for a killer time! Don’t see the answer you’re looking for? Head on over to the Official Mt. Fuji Climbing Website for more information!
What gear do I need?
Honestly, this all depends on weather, but it’s absolutely better to be prepared for the worst just in case. Here’s the best site we have found for Mt. Fuji Weather Updates!
- Rain jacket (with a hood) & rain pants: Rain gear because it’s bound to rain if you don’t have it. We cherry picked the days we climbed (somewhat) so we didn’t run into any poor weather, but both times came prepared for the worst. If you’re thinking an umbrella might work; you’re wrong. You’ll need your hands to help on the ascent and for your poles on the way down, plus it can get gusty on the mountain. We splurged on some nice rain gear last year during the rainy season, and have found out paying more is way worth it. We love our Outdoor Research Interstellar Jackets. They breathe fairy well, are extremely light weight, and have kept us nice and dry on many an occasion. Check out the mens version Here, and womens Here.
- Hiking boots: Good ankle support is key here. The loose gravel can be brutal, particularly on the way down. We love our Salomon GTX boots, as they are not too heavy, but offer enough support to make us feel more comfortable on rocky terrain.
- Hiking poles: We recommend two to help stabilize yourself (especially down the mountain). Never underestimate the benefits of a wide base of support. Although we love our Fuji souvenir hiking pole; we relied much more on our hiking poles. The souvenir stick took a seat in the side on my Osprey Backpack for the majority of the climb as I felt I was able to dig into the gravel better with poles. We use ones from Black Diamond that are light weight, but very sturdy. They have come in handy many times on hikes where we have the kids on our backs and need to make sure we have extra stable footing. Check them out Here.
- Hiking Backpack: One that has a hydration pak inside would be an added bonus! There is nothing worse than being dehydrated, so the easier it is to stay hydrated the better. Additionally, carry the water you plan to drink. I think a CamelBak (or similar) is key here as it makes hydration easy and packs well. There is no water available on the mountain to fill your bottles (unless you choose to purchase on the mountain). We love our Osprey’s Hiking Backpacks so much they made our Top 5 List for Traveling with Kids.
- Long Sleeve Shirt: Helps to keep you warm as well as provides a nice thin layer for protection from the sun.
- Tank Top: Just in case it gets extra warm I’d sport this under my long sleeve shirt.
- Fleece/Pull Over: Dress in layers for the climb and remember that the temperature at the top will be around the low to mid-40s (Fahrenheit), so bring a warm sweater/sweatshirt/jacket/pullover to put on top when there gets to be a chill in the air.
- Gloves: You may want them for the summit when it cools off.
- Hiking Socks: Love the Seoul Story ones! Nice height and not too thick/thin, plus some fun color choices!
- Baseball or Full Brimmed Hat: Helps keep sweat out of your eyes and provides some sun protection. Patagonia has some great baseball ones and Outdoor Research has a wide brimmed one that came in clutch for us during our 4-day trekking adventure in Nepal!
- Buff (or similar): something to keep the dust away from the majority of your face and/or to provide an extra level of sun protection. It can get awfully dusty on the descent as it’s a lot of loose gravel.
What should I put inside my backpack?
- CamelBak: A hydration pak of some kind is great. I filled mine with 3L of Gatorade and used the majority. Make staying hydrated easy!
- Trail Mix or Onigiri
- PBJ Sandwich (or something that transports easily)
- Lara Bars (energy bars of some kind)
- Extra Bag for Trash: On Mount Fuji, it is expected that you pack out everything that you bring in. Be respectful + keep it clean for all to enjoy!
- Ziploc Bag: To put your phone and wallet in if it begins to rain.
- Sunscreen: Don’t forget to apply it to those easily forgettable spots like hands, ears, and neck. The sun is powerful on the mountain! If I was going to do this hike again I probably would have purchased Outdoor Research’s ____ gloves to protect the tops of my hands.
- Lip Balm (Burt’s Bees or Carmex work great)
- Wallet: Make sure to have enough yen to cover the stick brandings, any food you would like to purchase on the mountain, restrooms (restrooms on the mountain are not free and are usually paid via the honor system – make sure to bring 100¥ coins), parking, and bus fare.
- Phone: We had service the entire time we were on the mountain and even got to FaceTime the kids (briefly) from the summit.
- External Battery for Phone
- Fleece/Sweater: You’ll want this for the summit as it can get chilly!
- Rain Gear: Because it will definitely rain if it’s not in there. Make sure that your pack is either waterproof or have a rain cover to don.
- Camera: It’s breathtaking! You’ll want pictures – we promise!
Where should I park?
If you’re completing the Yoshida Trail we suggest parking in this lot. Parking is 1,000¥ during season. Parking Lot Map from 2018 below!
After I Park How Do I Catch the Bus?
After parking, purchase a bus ticket at the ticket counter (see parking map above). The bus is 2,000¥ /adult (round trip) while elementary school kids are 1,000¥ . After purchasing your ticket, go ahead and get in line. You’ll take the first or second bus up to the fifth station. The only transportation between the base and the fifth station are buses during the official “climbing season,” so you won’t be able to drive up to the 5th and park. However, if you climb outside of the official season you’ll be able to drive up to the 5th station and park no problem. Obviously none of the shops will be open, but you’ll save on the pricey bus fare which is pretty great. You do have to pay a toll to get up to 5th station on the Fuji Subaru Line (1,200¥), but parking once you get there is free. Below is the Bus Schedule for 2018!
How much time does it take to climb Fuji-San?
The following was the itinerary when Dom and I climbed the mountain together (obviously this will vary depending on where you are coming from and your athletic ability level):
- 0315 Leave the house & drive to parking lot (see Google Map Pin above)
- 0500 Park in designated lot
- 0550 Got on bus to 5th Station (long line to wait in)
- 0600 Bus departs
- 0645 Arrive at 5th Station (your already at 2,300m here!)
- Restrooms (Free at 5th Station (200¥ all other places on the mountain)
- Purchase hiking stick (Hiking stick: ~1,200¥ , these vary a bit depending on which size stick you choose, etc.)
- 0650 Start hike (start zig zagging up the Yoshida Trail)
- Stop at huts along the way to get hiking stick branded. The brandings range from 300 – 500¥ , so make sure to bring enough cash to cover these. There were 25 brandings total when we ascended the mountain on the Yoshida Trail during the 2018 climbing season.
- ~1035 Summit Fuji
- Walk around perimeter of crater
- Visit both shrines
- There are two different Goshuin available at each shrine (each Goshuin costs 1,000¥), so remember to bring your book if these are something you’re interested in collecting
- You can also get your hiking pole stamped at each of the two shrines (each stamping costs 500¥ and takes the place of the branding on the way up)
- 1230 Head down Fuji to 5th Station
- If you are descending the Yoshida Trail be prepared to take a different route down the mountain. There are several points during the descent where the trail divides. Look for the yellow markers if your plan is to head back to the 5th Station.
- 1430 Back at 5th Station
- Restroom Break
- 1500 Bus back to parking lot
- 1535 Arrive at parking lot and change shoes (sandals felt so good!)
- 7-11 stop (Ramen sounded even better!!)
- 1800 Back Home
Hiking Mt. Fuji Tips:
- We recommend reading through the Official Mt. Fuji Climbing Website beforehand.
- Check the weather forecast before you depart. Mount Fuji is an isolated peak and it’s weather can change quickly. Come prepared.
- Pack light, but make sure you have a few warm layers. Despite being warm at the fifth station the temperature (and weather can change dramatically at the summit – Be prepared.).
- Pack snacks. There is food available on the mountain, but it can be rather expensive. Try to eat a little bit as you travel upwards. After all you definitely don’t want to bonk!
- Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the hike. Hiking Fuji isn’t exactly the most technical hike, but it is long and the altitude definitely begins to take a toll on you as you near the top of the mountain. You need to be prepared for a long day on the mountain, and it’s probably best to make sure you are in reasonable shape before attempting it.
- Start early (if you are doing a one day climb). Even if you are an experienced hiker and are sure you are going to make good time, you never know what unforeseen circumstances may slow you down. On one of our trips, we waited nearly an hour to get on the bus to take us to 5th station. The last thing you want is to be caught on the mountain unprepared after the sun goes down.
- Know the location of the First Aid Centers along the trail. Just in case you run into some trouble it is a good idea for your group to be prepared regarding where help is located. If climbing via the Yoshida Trail, your centers will be at the 7th and 8th stations.
- Drink plenty of fluids. We carried about 2L of Gatorade in each of our CamelBaks each time and drank almost all of it.
- Double check that your hiking pack has a rain cover (just in case!).
- Highly recommend trekking poles (they help so much on the descent).
- Take your time and go at your own pace. Everyone’s “normal” is different…listen to your body. Don’t rush. Remember this is an experience of a lifetime.
- Yoshida Trail is the most popular because of the number of stamps, however, it is also the road most travelled. Other sites have suggested that perhaps the Subashiri Trail affords some better views? Drop us an email or a comment below and tell us about your experience!
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