Our stay in the yamanashi mountains came with a lot of surprises: working on a fruit farm, weed whacking for eight hours a day, eating the best homemade Japanese food I’ve ever had, and…climbing to the top of Mt. Fuji.
Only a few days into staying and working at our hosts farm, a routine “walk taro after work” made for a confident Mt. Fuji rising through the clouds within our view. This was quite the treat since we had no idea we would be nestled within the Minami-Alps and in view of Mt. Fuji while planning our stay here. With our eyes in awe at her presence, Kvetina, another volunteer staying at the farm, coincididly mentioned she’ll be taking the climb the following weekend, and without hesitation we happily obliged to join.
If it wasn’t for Kvetina, we probably would’ve never went on this last minute adventure, so a HUGE thanks to her. Kvetina, wherever your travels have taken you, this post goes out to you.
On to the hike…
No matter how you go about hiking Mt. Fuji, it’s an intermediate climb, at best. So for the average joe climber, i.e. me, you’ll be fine. Here are just a few things to make your climb a little more comforting when hiking Mt. Fuji…or any other mountain-hike for that matter:
Transportation to the Base
If you can find a semi-easy way to get to the starting point of your hike, you’ve already won half the battle. Whether it be bus, rail, car, or even hitch-hike, this might be the most important part, especially if you’re on a time constraint. For us, getting there no later than 8PM and to start the hike by at least 9PM, was crucial. We planned on doing the popular night-hike so we could catch the sunrise. Thanks to Kvetina and Laurie, they had already mapped out the bus route a day prior to the hike, so we were ready to go.
Be sure to bring a sufficient amount of funds. Luckily for Mt. Fuji, it’s only a 1000 yen (about 10 USD) for the entrance fee. Be aware as the bathrooms along the mountain will cost you 200 yen (about 2 USD) to use and the “stations”, rest stops along the mountain that’ll sell food, have cups of ramen for 500-600 yen (about 5-6 USD). In that case, I would highly suggest bringing your own food. For us, it wasn’t really the hike itself, rather, getting there put the most hurtin’ on the wallet. From the farm we were staying at, we had to take 3 buses. In total, it cost nearly 4000 yen (about 40 USD) for each person, and that was just one way.
The weather wasn’t too bad for most of the hike. Yet, unless you are 100% sure the weather will be at-least decent, I would recommend clothing for all weather types. The more clothing options you bring, the better off you’ll be. This doesn’t mean packing a giant backpack with your whole wardrobe, but some layers for warmth, rain gear, a nice pair of gloves, and you’ll be just fine. We went at the beginning of the climbing season so the weather was unpredictable. To give you an idea of our hike, at the base of the mountain, it was a brisk 40 degrees F/5 degrees celsius with mild wind, but once at the summit, it dropped about 10 degrees F/-12 degrees celsius with strong winds and patches of rain.
Rest-up, take your time, and have fun!
Be sure to get plenty of rest so you can truly enjoy your hike. Whether you do a night or day hike, it’s a beautiful climb to the top! As mentioned before, Mt. Fuji is an intermediate climb at best, and since it’s the tallest mountain in Japan, it’s only fair that you’re gonna get a lot of toursists. With that being said, don’t be afraid to go at your own pace. A lot of climbers will be doing the same, especially as you climb higher and the air gets thinner. Take your time, and enjoy the hike.
Make sure you come back down the way you went up!!!
As we made our descend from what we thought was the end of our journey, we soon found out that we had come down the wrong side of the mountain. Not the end of the world, but definitely a hassle being that we were pretty exhausted. It’s also an inconvenience since you’ll most likely have to to take an alternative bus route back to your original destination. Again, not a huge deal, but it just means more time it’ll take to get back, and additional transportation fare. As long as your mindful of which 5th station (starting points around the mountain) you begin your hike at, and which trail you took, you’ll be on your way back celebrating the victorious climb in no time. We started our hike at the Fuji Subaru 5th Station/Yoshida Trail. Unfortunately, we made our descend down the Subashiri Trail/Subashiri 5th station, which put us on the other side of the mountain. So as soon as we reached the bottom, we soon found out we had to spend additional bus fare to get back to our original station.
Although joining without hesitation, our first soon-to-be mountain hike was a bit daunting. After accepting the challenge, I even remembered thinking, “What did I just get myself into?” Nature hikes, walks along the Pacific coast, and frolicking our way to the top of Multnomah Falls, are definite pastimes back in the Pacific Northwest, but climbing the tallest mountain in Japan?!
In the end, it was a decision I’ll never regret. Here’s to Mt. Fujisan, to all the folks that trek it to the top, to the delicious bowl of ramen we had at the summit…and to Kvetina. We definitely wouldn’t of had this great opportunity without her. From helping us navigate our way to the base of the mountain, making sure we were on the right buses (her Japanese is awesome, although she’ll beg to differ), and to keeping our spirits high as it got colder and more wet nearing the top of the mountain (I swear she was a mountain goat in her previous life). This one goes out to you!!!
Written by Donald Dang