April 2, 2023

What to know about climbing Japan’s most famous mountain

Prospective Mount Fuji climbers should read Climbing Mount Fuji: A Complete Guide Book by official guide Richard Reay.
Few sites in Japan are as iconic as Mount Fuji, which was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. Each year, around 300,000 people climb the famous peak, many of whom are foreign visitors to the country. And while many might think that such a climb is out of their league, just about anyone in reasonably good shape (between the ages of approximately 10 to 80) is capable of making the trek.

About the Climb
Mount Fuji stands at more than 12,000 feet high, located about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, making it a great side trip from Tokyo. The mountain is too dangerous to climb during the winter, so the short trekking season lasts only from July 1 to August 31. The climb takes roughly six hours up and three hours down, though a one-day trip is not recommended.

For most, the hike begins with an hour at the starting point to acclimatize to the altitude, before beginning the trek in the afternoon. In the evening, it’s typical to rest in a mountain hut, have dinner, and sleep for a few hours before heading out to reach the summit by 4:30 or 5am to watch the sunrise.

Along the way, the mountain is divided into 10 stations, with most climbs starting about halfway up. Yoshida, the most popular trail, begins at the Kawaguchiko 5th station, and offers mountain huts and vendors selling snacks and water.
At the top, climbers are rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views, as well as the opportunity to walk around the crater at the summit. There is even a post office where trekkers can mail postcards celebrating their accomplishment.

How to Prepare
Those taking on Mount Fuji should be prepared for the possibility of altitude sickness, in which case they should seek first aid along the route. Another consideration is the potential for all kinds of weather – rain gear, sturdy boots, hats, gloves, and sunglasses are among the necessary accessories for a climb. Other important items include a flashlight or headlamp, snacks, water, and plenty of cash.

It’s also a good idea to purchase a traditional wooden climbing stick (sold on the mountain) to aid your journey – plus, hikers can have stamps burned into the pole at each station (for a fee) to commemorate their experience.

Climbers can hike the mountain without a tour group by taking public transportation to the Kawaguchiko 5th trails and reserving a sleeping hut in advance. Using a guide, however, can make the experience easier and more enjoyable for many travelers. Most Japanese tour companies offer Fuji packages that include experienced guides, sleeping hut fees and reservations, and meals.

A few tour options include a 2-day sunrise climb from Viator, a similar itinerary from JTB USA, and several tours from Fuji Mountain Guides.

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