Climbing Mt. Fuji, Japan (Things to know before you go)

There is an old Japanese saying that says a wise person will climb Mt. Fuji at least once in their life, and since living in Seoul, we’ve had quite a few friends who have traveled to Mt. Fuji and made the climb.  The same Japanese saying also states that only a fool would climb it twice, so you can imagine it’s not a very easy climb…  Mt. Fuji has always been a must visit while in Japan, and I figured that it would be a great accomplishment to be able to make the climb all the way to the summit, with that goal in mind, we decided to commit to hike the mountain and started planning our trip.  I do want to mention that in no way shape or form are Scott and I very fit.  Most of our friends who have made the climb are pretty in shape, so of course I had to do a lot of research and find out what we were in for.

So here is our plan for the climb, our packing list for the climb, and some tips to prepare if you ever decide to make the climb as well!

Planning the Climb: 

There are a few things that you will want to know before you tackle Mt. Fuji.  Mt. Fuji is approximately 12,389 ft (3,776 m) high, which is really really high! To get to the top, there are four main trails that you can take, but the most travelled path is the Yoshida Trail, which starts at the Fuji Subaru 5th Station.  The Fuji Subaru 5th Station is approximately 7,562 ft (2,305 m) up and is the highest point that vehicles can go.  This means that there are many buses that will take you up to the Fuji Subaru 5th station and from there you will pick up the Yoshida trail to make your ascent to the top of Mt. Fuji.  If you are really into climbing, and want to climb from the base, you can do that, but for the average person, I don’t think that is recommended.  Let’s just say we chose the Yoshida Trail as the starting point for our hike.  

So once you have decided which route you are going to take, you will need to figure out if you are going to “bullet climb” (which means climbing up and down all at one time) or if you are going to break up the climbing into 2 days and stay overnight at a mountain hut.  So what are some Pros and Cons of each? Here are my thoughts: 

Mt Fuji Pros and Cons

With all of that in mind, and knowing our own physical condition, we opted for the 2 day climb, which ended up being the right decision for us.  We in no way could have made the climb all at once, and we actually met some people who had intended to bullet climb, but had to give up, as darkness was settling in and they hadn’t even made it up to the summit.  They ended up staying at the same hut as us.  We had also heard about people who had to turn around because they succumbed to altitude sickness from climbing too fast.  That’s why we made sure to arrive early in the morning to Fuji Subaru 5th Station to ensure we had time to acclimate to that altitude and started climbing a little earlier so that we could climb slowly to ensure none of us would get sick and have to turn back.

Packing List:

Climbing Mt. Fuji is definitely a challenge, and being prepared was really essential in us being able to make the full climb.  Mt. Fuji is only open for climbing from early July to early September, so that means that the weather at the start of your hike will be pretty comfortable, we were able to wear our hiking pants and just our base layer t-shirt.  But as you go higher it gets colder, and then as it gets later in the day, the temperature will drop even more considerably, so packing appropriately and ahead of time is a MUST.  Here is our recommended packing list:

Mt Fuji Packing List

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have all of your gear planned out before the hike.   We ended up wearing every piece of clothing that we packed (except the poncho) and used almost everything we brought.  We were so happy that we packed a little extra food, as we ended up finishing it all.  We also had brought an extra water bottle and the electrolyte tabs were nice and we added the chia seeds in the drink for some extra energy (a tip we got from a friend who is a frequent hiker).

So you may be wondering why 100 yen coins are very important.  Well…the huts all charge ¥200 to use the bathroom, so it is a good idea to be a little extra prepared on that front.  Additionally, if you end up buying a hiking stick at the 5th Station (which we recommend because it makes a really cool souvenier), you will have the opportunity to get a stamp branded on your hiking stick at each hut and the stamps range from ¥300 – ¥500.  You should also have some extra money in case you need more food or water (note there is nowhere to buy food or water on the descending trail, so be ready in advance of your climb down).

Last but not least, I would recommend picking up a can of oxygen at the 5th Station, Scott and I were able to share 1 can.  One of the shops at the 5th Station had the cans for ¥800 (we saw another shop that had them for ¥1500) and we used it a few times when I was feeling a little light headed and couldn’t catch my breath.

Booking a Mountain Hut: 

There are a lot of choices for Mountain Huts.  I tried to find out more information about the different huts to decide which one to pick, but there’s not a lot out there about them. At least not in English.  After seeing them all during our hike, I would say they are all pretty comparable.  The lower huts seemed a little bit nicer, but really you are using the hut for the warmth and somewhere to rest your eyes and feet for a while.  After some debate, we opted for the highest mountain hut, Goriakoukan (御来光館), which is located at 11,320 ft (3,450 m).  We figured that this would mean that we would have less distance to climb in the morning, of course this meant that we had more to climb on the first day.  Honestly, it was tough getting to the hut at the 8.5 Station, we were pretty worried at some points of our hike that we might not make it in time.  But knowing how tired I felt in the morning, I was happy that we did not have to hike any longer in the darkness and the freezing cold than we did, so again, we were pretty happy with our decision to do a little extra work the first day. The Goraikoukan hut was ¥6,500 without meals and ¥8,500 with 2 meals (dinner and breakfast).  The dinner was definitely welcome, but the breakfast was really quite poor (so I would recommend packing something extra to eat).  There is also an option to just buy a bowl of ramen at the hut if you don’t buy the meals (you don’t have to reserve the ramen in advance).

Another thing to keep in mind, is that not all of the huts have English speakers.  I recommend taking a look at this listing for the mountain huts and seeing if the one you want to stay at is able to take reservations online and accommodating to English speakers.  I highly recommend making a reservation, as the last thing you want is to find out that they are sold out for the night and you have to sleep out in the cold. We saw a few people sleeping outside and they looked rough! I was very happy that we were able to book online on Goraikoukan’s website and they even accepted Paypal!  Goraikoukan has an English page, but the reservation page is in Japanese, so a tip to make your reservation is to use Chrome to open up the website.  Chrome will then ask if you want to translate the page, and you should be able to figure it out from there.  Booking in advance online made the whole process much easier for us.

A little more on the huts.  You will be sleeping either in bunks or the floor, but they do give you a sleeping bag, pillow and blanket.  If personal space is a big issue for you, keep in mind that you will have at least 1 stranger sleeping right next to you and there isn’t a lot of space for your stuff, but with that being said, you will appreciate being warm.  Since we were staying at Goraikoukan, we didn’t have to pay to use the bathroom each time (one payment covered you for the whole stay), which was good.  Keep in mind that the bathrooms are not going to be up to you normal level of sanitation, but they weren’t disgusting either.  Nothing a little hand sanitizer can’t fix! They all had western style toilets, but be ready for it to be a little smelly.

I hope that this information gives you a good idea of what is in store for you up on Mt. Fuji.  Next week, I will share our full itinerary and info on our actual climb, so stay tuned!

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