How to Summit Mt. Fuji Without Looking Like An Idiot


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Mount Fuji is one of the most iconic symbols of Japan, not to mention the highest peak the country. With about five minutes of Googling I, like many Westerners planning a trip to Japan, realized that it’s actually possible to hike up this mythical mountain. The problem is, for many tourists this is about where their Mount Fuji research stops. When I was getting ready to summit Mt. Fuji, it seemed like every Japanese person I knew had a story of an unprepared tourist shivering in a T-shirt in below-freezing temperatures, or vomiting with altitude sickness after trying to sprint up the mountain in a few short hours. Locals think that tourists have no idea what we’re doing when it comes to climbing Mount Fuji because we generally make fools of ourselves when we try to do it. Here’s how to climb it right.

When to Go

The start of the trail to summit Mt. Fuji

The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is July and August, which is basically the only time you should attempt it unless you’re an experienced climber. During this time of year, the trails are relatively clear, the mountain huts along the trail are open, and there are easy bus connections between Tokyo and the mountain’s 5th station (where most people begin their hike).

Although you can make the climb during the day, I think it’s much more rewarding to climb overnight and reach the summit in time for sunrise. Watching the sun come up from the top of Mount Fuji is easily one of my favorite travel experiences to date – hands down.

The view of the sun rising from the summit of Mt. Fuji

Most people who do the overnight hike begin the trail in the afternoon; break at one of the mountain huts at the 7th or 8th stations for a few hours in the evening, and then continue to summit Mt. Fuji in the early hours of the following morning. It’s important to call ahead to book a space in a hut because they’re almost always full during the climbing season. All the huts have roughly the same facilities and are priced around 5500 yen ($53) per person. It’s ridiculously expensive, particularly when you consider that these 50 or so dollars gets you a sleeping bag in a communal room filled with other people; but you’re halfway up a mountain, so it’s clearly a seller’s market.

How to Summit Mt. Fuji

Hikers in one of the huts on Mt. Fuji - How to Summit Mt. Fuji

There are actually 4 different 5th Stations on different sides of the mountain, which are collectively the most common places for people to begin the climb. Most buses from Tokyo drop hikers off at Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, where you can access the Yoshida Trail. This is the trail most hikers choose to follow to summit Mt. Fuji because it has numerous mountain huts along the way, and the sunrise occurs on this side of the mountain. The trail is very well marked and there are typically hundreds of other hikers following the same route, so, fortunately, it’s virtually impossible to get lost.

The distance between the 5th Station and the summit is only about 6 km; however, it’s a seriously steep 6 km, with about a 1500 m increase in elevation along the trail. If you’re hiking the Yoshida Trail, the ascent should take about 5-7 hours, despite the short distance you’re actually covering. Basically, you have to climb slowly – really slowly. I completely underestimated how intense the change in altitude would feel. Brent and I climbed slowly, but my heart was still pounding the whole way and we frequently had to stop to catch our breath. This is another reason why I think an overnight hike is better than a day-time one: Aside from getting to see the amazing sunrise, the overnight hike generally means spending a few hours of rest at the 8th station, which gives your body more time to adjust to the increasing altitude.

What to Bring to Summit Mt. Fuji

The View of the Sun Rise from Mt. Fuji - How to Summit Mt. Fuji

You can buy snacks, water, coffee and hot noodles at the mountain huts found along the ascending trail, however, everything is extremely expensive, so it’s a better idea to pack your own. Obviously, there are no ATMs along the way, so it’s best to bring some cash in case you need to buy extra supplies along the way. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are no huts along the descending trail, so you should stock up on water and snacks from the hut found at the summit.

August is the hottest time of year in Tokyo – think about 31oC and crazy humid, yet temperatures at Fuji’s summit often dip below freezing. Bringing layers is essential. By the time we reached the summit, I was wearing a fleece, jacket, gloves, two layers of long pants, and a hat, and I was still incredibly cold. Of course, if you’re doing the overnight hike, you’ll also need to bring a headlamp to navigate the final part of the trail after dark.

Smiles at Sunrise on Mt. Fuji - How to Summit Mt. Fuji

I was pretty prepared to summit Mt. Fuji, but one thing I really regret not bringing is walking poles. During the climb up, I kind of wondered why so many people were bothering to use hiking poles, but on the descending trail, I discovered that other hikers were using the poles to brace against the incline. The descending trail is very steep and covered in gravel that makes it almost impossibly slippery. My running shoes had been comfortable up until that point, but the sharp angle painfully forced my toes into the corners of my shoes, and I was limping by the time we reached the bottom. The other perk of bringing hiking poles is that you can have them branded at each station along the ascending trail, which is kind of a kitschy but a cute souvenir of your experience.

 

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How To Summit Mt. Fuji

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Jessica Dawdy is a serial expat who has been slowly working her way around the world since 2011. She’s lived in 7 different countries, doing everything from painting houses to teaching English. Catch up with her travel stories and expat adventures at Ways of Wanderers. Read more about Jessica here.
  1. I debated real hard for a week whether or not I should have climbed. Did you feel you were in good enough shape to go?

    • It’s definitely doable by anyone if you’re prepared – I saw people of all fitness levels, older people and even fairly young kids with their families (you can even see a kid in the first photo). The key was that they all knew what they were getting into, hiked slow, and brought the right supplies.

  2. I spent 40 days in Japan earlier this year in winter, so unfortunately I didn’t go up Mount Fuji, but it’s definitely on the to-do list when I go back again, which I certainly will as it’s one of my favourite countries out of around 70 visited.

  3. I’m visiting Japan next November, so I’m bummed I won’t be able to do the hike. It’s definitely on my list though for another visit – great post about what to expect!

  4. What an incredibly useful article as I will be heading back to Japan in the spring (and the first time to Fujisan). I hope that even during the spring I will be able to do a tiny bit of climbing, even if it is just to the first hut 😀

    • I think some buses run from Tokyo to the 5th Station during the spring, which gives you a pretty awesome view. Plus, then you can at least say you were on the mountain!

  5. Hopefully you saved someone planning to climb Mt. Fiji a world of hurt if they read this. As we also learned the hard way on the Milford Track in New Zealand, experienced hikers use poles for a reason.

  6. Stephanie Garcia says:

    Hello!

    I realize this is coming out of nowhere and that makes it seem all sorts of odd, but my name is Stephanie. I’m doing an online scavenger hunt (which is totally real and not made up, I promise!) called the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (https://www.gishwhes.com/). It has a website and is Google-able and everything!

    One of the items is two pictures. One of a person at the bottom of Mount Fuji and another of the same person, wearing the same clothes, at the summit, holding a sign that says, “Everything is easy when you GISHWHES!!”

    I found your blog post on Gary Wolff’s blog about climbing Fuji and decided it wouldn’t hurt to try to message you.

    Can you help? Do you know anyone who might be planning a trek to the summit this week?

    Please feel absolutely free to email back to tell me you want to help, or to say that you would please like me to never email you again.

    I can be reached at pets [dot] garcia [at] gmail [dot] com

    Have an awesome day!

  7. This cracks me up, because my husband and I were totally those crazy tourists when we went to Mount Fuji. We didn’t realize it wasn’t that high of a climb, and had only expected to walk up a little bit of it during a day trip. We were only wearing T-shirts and shorts and I had to buy the most embarrassing rain gear because of the poor weather that flared up.
    Everyone thought we were nuts, but being Canadian we really didn’t find it that cold 🙂

    • I climbed Cotopaxi in Ecuador with a handful of Canadian boys who insisted it wasn’t that cold even as we trudged through snow near the top. Characteristic trait I guess?

  8. The only climbing I did was the Masada Mountain in Israel.. But that takes only from 1 to 3 hours depending on your physical condition:) The sunrise there was pretty terrific too, though. So how many hours were you actually climbing/resting overall?

    • Our hut was one of the highest, so it took us about 6 hours going up (with lots of breaks), then we chilled out at the hut for maybe 4 or 5 hours, a few hours at the summit (waiting for sunrise), and then about another 3 hours going down.

  9. Great post here! I couldn’t climb it on my last visit this Winter, but it sure is on my list for the next time.

  10. Kamolika says:

    Hi Jessica, a very nice and useful write-up. I climbed Mt. Fuji a weekend ago. And it was exactly how I felt. You brought it out so well in your article.

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