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Mount Fuji

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Mt. Fuji at sunrise, seen from Lake KawaguchiMt. Fuji at sunrise, seen from Lake Kawaguchi
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Mt. Fuji at sunrise, seen from Lake Kawaguchi

Mount Fuji (??? Fuji-san, 3776 meters) is Japan's highest mountain. Visible from Tokyo on a clear day, the mountain is located to the west of Tokyo on the main island Honshu.

fuji Travel Guide :

Mount Fuji

Understand

A perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone, the mountain is a near-mythical national symbol immortalized in countless works of art, including Hokusai's 36 Views of Mt. Fuji.

Mount Fuji

When to go

Climbing out of season

If you have the skills, climbing out of season can be an amazing experience — imagine being the only people on the mountain surrounded by snow looking out over an amazing landscape 3776m up! And you don't have to go all the way, as in good weather, the slopes of Fuji draw numerous people doing various sports activities.

The official climbing season lasts for only two months, from July to August. Even during these months, when Tokyo often swelters in 40-degree heat, temperatures at the top can be below freezing at night and climbers must dress adequately.

Climbing outside the official season is not only technically illegal without police permission but extremely dangerous without alpine climbing experience and equipment. Nearly all facilities are closed in the off season. The weather, unpredictable any time of year, is downright vicious in the winter and there are cases of people being literally blown off the mountain by high winds.

Mount Fuji

Get in

Main approaches to Mt. FujiMain approaches to Mt. Fuji
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Main approaches to Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji can be approached from all sides, but note that transport schedules are sharply cut outside the official climbling season. For up to date information, the city of Fujiyoshida maintains a Fuji access page (http://www.city.fujiyoshida.yamanashi.jp/div/english/html/A_Fujifolder/fuji_top/fuji_access%5Cfuji_access.htm) listing current routes and schedules.

Mount Fuji

By bus

The quickest option for reaching the slopes of Mt. Fuji is to take the Keio express bus from Shinjuku in Tokyo. The direct bus takes 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on traffic, costs ¥2600, and takes you directly to the start of the climb at Kawaguchiko 5th Station. To buy a ticket, take the west exit at Shinjuku station, then follow the circle of busstops to the left. The Keio building is on the corner near stop 26, right across from Yodobashi Camera.

Mount Fuji

By train

Alternatively, you can go via the nearby town of FujiyoshidaFujiyoshida, which you can reach by taking the JR Chuo line to OtsukiOtsuki and changing to the Fujikyu line. The Fujikyu line passes through Fujiyoshida to Kawaguchiko, from where hourly buses (50 minutes, ¥1700) shuttle to the 5th Station.

Visitors coming from Chubu or Kansai may wish to opt for the southern approach via FujinomiyaFujinomiya instead. The nearest Tokaido Shinkansen stop is Shin-Fuji station. If arriving on the ordinary Tokaido line, change trains to the JR Fujinomiya line at Fuji station.

Mount Fuji

Get around

Once on the mountain the only way of getting around is on foot. The sole exception is horseback riding, available on the Fujiguchiko trail between the 5th and 7th stations only for the steep price of ¥12,000.

Mount Fuji

See

For merely seeing Mt. Fuji, it's better to maintain some distance. The most popular places for sightseeing tours of Fuji and surroundings are Hakone, to the east of Mt. Fuji towards Tokyo, and the Fuji Five LakesFuji Five Lakes, located just north of the mountain.

The Mt. Fuji Welcome Card (http://www.mtfuji-welcomecard.jp/) is a free card that can get you discounts for various attractions and tours in the vicinity.

Mount Fuji

Do

Torii gate at the summitTorii gate at the summit
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Torii gate at the summit
No spot in this world can be more horrible, more atrociously dismal, than the cindered tip of the Lotus as you stand upon it. — Lafcadio Hearn (1898)

The thing to do on Mt. Fuji is, of course, to climb it, preferably overnight so you can reach the top in time to see the sunrise (go-raiko). As the Japanese say, a wise man climbs Fuji once, and a fool twice, but the true wisdom of this phrase is usually only learned the hard way. Depending on your pace, the climb up will take 5 to 8 hours, and the descent another 3 to 4.

Mount Fuji

Preparation

An absolute minimum set of clothing for climbing Fuji would be:

  • sturdy shoes (hiking boots if possible)
  • rain clothing
  • head cover

Gloves and warm, layered clothing are also strongly recommended. Other supplies you will need are:

  • flashlight and spare batteries (if climbing at night)
  • sunglasses and sunscreen (which will most likely be needed during the descent even if you climb at night)
  • toilet paper

Also bring along at least 1 liter of water per person, preferably 2. High-energy snacks as well as a more substantial fare (rice balls and such) will also come in very handy.

Mount Fuji

Kawaguchiko route

The usual starting point is Kawaguchiko 5th Station (?????? Kawaguchiko Go-g?me, 2305m), which offers you a last chance to stock on supplies before heading out. The initial stretch through flowery meadows is pleasant enough, but the bulk of the hike is a dreary and interminable slog: the volcanic landscape consists of jagged red rock in varying sizes from dust to boulder, with the trail zigzagging left and right endlessly, and the hike just gets steeper and steeper as you progress. Actual rock climbing is not required, but you will wish to use your hands at some points.

The trail is well marked and in season you will find it difficult to get lost, as the trip is completed annually by 300,000 people and there may even be human traffic jams at some of the dicier spots. However, due to the danger of landslides do not venture beyond the trail; visibility may also be very rapidly reduced to near-zero if clouds roll in.

Once at the top, you will pass under a small torii gate and encounter a group of huts selling drinks and souvenirs; this being Japan, you will even find vending machines on the top of Mount Fuji. Yes, this is as anticlimactic as it sounds, but with any luck seeing the sunrise above the clouds will make up for it. You can also gaze into the long-dormant crater at the center of the mountain. Strictly speaking, this is not the highest point of the mountain; that honor goes to the meteorological station on the other side of the crater, an additional 30 minutes hike away and not really worth the trouble. A full circuit of the crater takes around an hour.

There is a separate path for descending down the mountain back to Kawaguchiko; be sure you take the right one! Do not attempt to run down the mountain; rolling down isn't fun, it's a long way to the nearest hospital, and you don't want to find out how much a helicopter medevac costs in Japan.

Mount Fuji

Other routes

In addition to Kawaguchiko, there are three other Fifth Stations at Subashiri (???, 1980 meters), Gotemba (???, 1440 meters) and Fujinomiya (???, 2400 meters). The Gotemba route is the longest and toughest, much of the climb being across an enormous sand field. Fujinomiya is the shortest route, but as it is on the "wrong" side you will not be able to see the sunrise before the summit.

Mount Fuji

Buy, Eat and Drink

Kawaguchiko 5th Station is the last place to have a meal or stock up on supplies without breaking the bank, although there's a bit of inflation even here.

All stations along the Kawaguchiko trail, as well as the summit itself, are equipped with mountain huts that sell drinks and basic climbing gear (sticks, flashlights, raincoats, even oxygen canisters). As all materials have to be hauled in on foot, prices are high and rise the closer you get to the summit. The huts also have extremely basic toilets, but they get the job done (¥100-200).

Note that most huts will not allow visitors to stay within the (heated) huts without paying a resting fee, either ¥1000-2000 per hour or ¥5,000 yen for the entire night (see Sleep). Simple meals (curry rice and such), if available at all, will cost in the range of ¥1000.

The summit has fewer people staying overnight and many more people resting, so the price of a cup of tea or a bowl of noodles is somewhat more reasonable.

Mount Fuji

Sleep

Huts from 7th station onward also offer primitive accommodations; reservations are strongly recommended if you plan on staying in these. Prices are pretty much standardized at ¥5250 a night for a very cramped space (one tatami mat or less) shared with the halitosis, funky boot juice and snoring of 150-500 strangers, plus an optional ¥1050/2100 for one/two meals.

  • Hinode-kan, Kawaguchiko 7th Station, tel. 0555-24-6522, 1 (http://www10.plala.or.jp/hinodekan/hinodekan.html). Notable primarily for having the only bilingual website on Mt. Fuji (but no regular bilingual staff). A stay costs ¥5250 per person, and there is space for about 200.
  • Fujisan Hotel, Kawaguchiko 8th Station, tel. 0555-22-0237. The largest hut on the mountain, with space for about 500. In two separate but nearby huts, it's a far cry from a hotel, but unlike most others English is spoken here.

A full list of huts (in English) with phone numbers is available here (http://www.sunplus.com/fuji/scott/huts.html).

Mount Fuji

Stay safe

Mount Fuji is a real mountain and should be treated with respect. Near the top the air is noticeably thinner, which may cause altitude sickness and breathing difficulties. The hike to the top is taxing, but hypothermia strikes when waiting for sunrise at the goal, while injuries typically occur during the descent phase when you're tired. Especially after heavy rains landslides are also a possibility.

These warnings are not a joke: every year inadequately prepared people die on Fuji.

Mount Fuji

Get out

If you climbed Mt. Fuji and survived despite (thanks to?) all the apocalyptic warnings here, treat yourself to a dip in the hot springs at Hakone.

Mount Fuji

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