Summiting Mt. Fuji was at the top of my list of things to do on my last trip to Japan. There were a few things that made it seem a little difficult to plan for, and that’s what I want to talk about here, as well as some little tips that should be helpful if you want to make it to the summit yourself.
(1) Which trail should I choose?
That depends on you! But you should know that this guide is for the Yoshida Trail. We picked this one because it is the easiest to access via public transit, and it had lots of mountain huts. Added bonus, it is real hard to get lost on this trail because there is great signage and lots of other people.
(2) When should I go?
The season to hike Mt. Fuji is from early July to early September, and I would suggest that you go in the first week if at all possible. If not, aim for less busy weeks. There were already lines forming on the trail in the first week, when we went, and I would not want to be there when it was more busy.
Safety/Legal Note: You SHOULD NOT attempt Mt Fuji off-season. It is extremely dangerous.
(3) How the heck do I get to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo?
This seemed needlessly complicated when I was trying to figure out how to get there by train. What you really need, however, is a bus, specifically this one. This will take you from Shinjuku Station to the 5th Station on Mt Fuji, where most people start their hike. It is a liiiiitle hard finding the bus station if you come in from the subway, because Shinjuku Station is so big, but it is in a big, bus-sized parking structure across a major street. If you get your tickets early (which I would suggest, and which you can do from this website), there will be some directions there as well.
Pro-tip: Bring Dramamine if you get carsick because the road up the mountain is curvy.
(4) Do I really need to stay on the mountain overnight?
I would suggest staying in one of the mountain huts for the night for two reasons.
- While Mt Fuji is definitely hikeable in a day if you get an early start and are an experienced hiker, this will give you a chance to break up your hike and enjoy yourself more.
- The mountain huts are not the most comfortable, but there are some seriously surreal views at night that made it worth sleeping shoulder to shoulder to people in a giant bunk bed.
We stayed at the highest hut on the trail (Goraikoukan, which was 8,500 yen a night with meals), and I think that this worked really well because we did most of the uphill hike the first day. Do try to get your reservation as soon as they open for the season, because Mt. Fuji is very busy. I will say, I found the website to be very confusing because parts of it are not in English, but if you spend some time looking through it, you can figure it out.
(5) What gear do I need?
Again, this depends on you. What I would suggest that you bring or rent (gear is available for rent at the Fifth Station where you arrive via bus) are clothes for rainy weather, because conditions change rapidly on the mountain, and you NEED to have good hiking shoes that are properly sized and broken in. What is optional are hiking poles, which I think may be helpful on the way down, but a little dangerous on the way up due to the steep conditions. Some people also bring little oxygen canisters, which I really don’t think are necessary, because Mt. Fuji is not as tall as it looks, but again, this is up to you. There is food at the mountain huts if you don’t want to carry your own, but I do suggest bringing something to give you a little sugar rush when you need it on the way up.
(6) Some people say Mt. Fuji isn’t worth the effort? What should I expect?
Mt. Fuji can be very crowded, and if you are looking for a wooded hike, this isn’t the trail you are looking for, however, I loved Mt. Fuji and I think you will too if you go in knowing a few things.
- The trails up and down Mt. Fuji are very steep. Please train and prepare before coming. Build your muscles and endurance, and break those hiking shoes in! If you are afraid of heights, be aware that there is some scrambling on the way up. The way down consists of steep switchbacks that will most likely murder your knees.
- There will be queuing on the trails, and there will be LOTS of slow hikers. Be mentally prepared to take your time, and enjoy the views.
- There aren’t many trees above 5th Station. Mostly, you will be climbing up the cone of the mountain, which is fairly featureless. That being said, I love that desolate look of high mountains above the tree-line, and the views off of Mt. Fuji’s slopes are unbeatable.
(7) Anything I should know about being responsible while on the mountain?
Mt. Fuji has had problems with litter in the past, and it is essential to avoid becoming part of that problem. There are no trash cans once you get started on the trail, so please be prepared to pack your trash out. I usually bring along some grocery bags to tie up any trash that I don’t want just sitting in my pack, and it is always good to keep a close eye on your wrappers, etc. when you are stopping to eat. It can get windy up in the mountains, and even accidental littering is detrimental for the environment.
As always, other hiking rules apply. Stay on the trail to preserve the environment and for your own safety, even if there is a line on the trail or an apparently easier way up the slope. Do not take anything from the mountain. There might look like an endless supply of volcanic pebbles, but if everyone takes some, it will be a really problem in the long-run.
Remember that you are a guest on the mountain, and enjoy yourself.
Explore, Grow, Thrive!