For any visitor to Japan there are a few things that are absolute must do activities and one of these is climbing the famed and beautiful Mount Fuji. For those who are not physically able to climb this mountain, which stretches to a very high 3,776 metres above sea level, just seeing it is still high on the priority list. Fuji in all its splendour seems to almost perfectly encapsulate Japan – that is to say seeing a picture of Fuji seems to represent Japan almost in its entirety though many other things do a hefty job as well. For those interested in braving the slopes of this mountain, read ahead for a climber’s guide to conquering Mount Fuji.
When To Climb?
While it may be tempting to tackle Mount Fuji at any time of year there are some times of year where it’s plain just not accessible – such as in winter and in late autumn and early spring. In fact if you try to climb it during these times you will find nothing on the mountain open to the public and al trails closed. Trails open early July through to mid-September and this is the official climbing season. The mountain is at its peak in August when all the climbers seem to descend onto its slopes and you will find yourself in queues in some parts to traverse the paths. In this sense, if time is not a factor for you consider timing your climb for either early or late in the season.
Late June and late September will find snow on many portions of the mountain with some huts available. Only experienced mountaineers with proper equipment should consider the climb in these shoulder seasons. Climbing in October is perilous as heavy snows at higher elevations pose risks of avalanches and the weather is unpredictable at best.
Climbing Fuji lends itself to being great for the outdoor lovers among us and the region includes the Fuji Five Lakes. Lake Kawaguchiko is the most well developed to welcome foreign tourists and this region is ideal for viewing the mountain at close range – perfect for photos! – and is a great base for climbing the mountain as well. There are also many hot springs and options for catching a quick bite to eat before tackling Mount Fuji around the area, so be sure to take advantage of the amenities, even if you aren’t climbing Fuji.
This region on the slopes of the mountain is home to the Fujinomiya Sengen Shrine as well as the Shiraito Falls – Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls. This is the traditional starting point for climbing Mount Fuji and is still used today as one of the most popular routes for climbers.
A quick rundown on the trails is as follows:
Yoshida Trail: Ascent 5-7 hours; descent 3-5 hours.
Subashiri Trail: Ascent 5-8 hours; descent 3-5 hours.
Gotemba Trail: Ascent 7-10 hours; descent 3-6 hours.
Fujinomiya Trail: Ascent 4-7 hours; descent 2-4 hours.
It’s not advisable to try to summit and descend in one day and instead is advised to overnight at one of the mountain huts along the trails that offer sleeping spots as well as food.
It’s not necessary to hire a guide, however if you don’t want to leave anything to chance and prefer a professional to plan your climb for you there are a number of professional guiding companies that will provide guides for a fee.
Costs and Miscellaneous
Costs to climb Fuji depend on whether you eat at the mountain huts, but at the trail heads expect to contribute around 1000 yen (about $10USD) to go toward various mountain upkeep. Mountain huts average around 7000 yen for an overnight stay plus two meals (5000 without meals). Camping is not allowed on the mountain and any garbage that you create must be taken with you as there are no garbage facilities.
There you have a couple of tips and information on climbing the highest mountain in Japan. Climbing Fuji is one of the most exhilarating things you could do in the area and is definitely worth doing for the sunrise if you’re up to the task. So pack your hiking boots – the mountain won’t climb itself!