Saturday, July 14, 2012

Climbing Mt.Fuji : Japan's Highest Peak

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan located on Honshu Island at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft). This is a volcano that last erupted in 1707–08, Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji's exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers. It is one of Japan's Three Holy Mountains along with Mt. Tate and Mt. Haku.

Climbing Season of Mount Fuji

Walking Stick for Sale

Mt. Fuji is officially open from July 1st to August 31st. The mountain huts are open during this season. As the altitude is high, it often happens that the weather conditions are very much different between the point where you set off and the summit. Especially in the afternoon, the weather becomes quite unstable with quite a high possibility of thunder, and you are advised to draw up your plans so that you will be making your way down before the thunder starts. Please note that, even in mid-summer, the average temperature at the summit is between 5 deg C and 8 deg C. Depending on the wind conditions, you will feel the temperature dropping to near freezing point. From October to around mid June, climbing to the summit is highly perilous due to extreme wind and weather conditions, snow, ice and a risk of avalanches. Plan and prepare your climbing trip well in advance in order to make it a pleasant trip. Beginners are recommended to plan out an itinerary setting off during the morning and spending the night at the mountain hut. A walk around the crater of Mount Fuji takes about one hour. The mountain's and Japan's highest point is located immediately next to the weather station on the opposite side from where the Yoshida Trail reaches the peak.

Climb Timing

The best time for climbing Mt. Fuji is from late July to late August when the weather conditions are stable. Please bear in mind that it would be wise to avoid the period between August 13th and 17th, which is the long holiday week (Bon holidays) in Japan when it becomes very packed with crowds of people. Remember that climbing up Mt. Fuji during the night can be dangerous, and you are kindly requested to make thorough preparations and arrangements in advance, especially as the mountain huts often turn out to be full during the crowded season.

Pay and Use Toilet
Most people try to time their ascent in order to witness the sunrise from the summit. Also, the chances of the mountain being free of clouds are highest during the early morning hours.

The recommended way of doing this, is to climb to a mountain hut around the 7th or 8th station on the first day, spend some hours sleeping there, before continuing to the summit early on the second day. Note that the sunrise takes place as early as 3:45AM to 4:45AM in summer.

Another popular way is to start climbing the mountain around 10pm from the 5th Station and hike through the night to reach the summit around sunrise. Obviously, this is a more tiring way of climbing the mountain and brings an increased risk of suffering from altitude sickness.

Popular Climbing Trails

There are four routes for climbing Mt. Fuji. Here is the most popular courses.

Kawaguchi-Yoshida-Guchi Trail course (Yamanashi Prefecture)

This is the most popular base for the climb to the summit, and the most easily accessible 5th Station from the Kawaguchi fuji five lakes and central Tokyo. It takes an average of 6 hours to climb up to the summit of Mt. Fuji. It has many mountain huts on the way, but during the peak season, it becomes so packed that you will have a hard time to even weave your way through the crowd.
5th Station(go-gome)

Lots of mountain huts line the trail around the 7th and 8th stations, and there are separate trails for the ascent and descent. The sunrise takes place on this side of the mountain. The sunrise in the early morning is a breath taking view.

Altitude: about 2300 meters
Ascent: 5-7 hours , Descent: 3-5 hours
Trail Name: Yoshida Trail
Sunrise from the 8th Station

Fujinomiya Trail Course (Shizuoka Prefecture)

This is the shortest course for reaching the highest point, but it consists of many steep areas. There is no special route for the descent, so you will need to climb down the same path that you used for the ascent. In the middle of the trail, you can see the crater of the last eruption in the Hoei era (1707), located at the east side of Mt. Fuji. From around an altitude of 3,000 meters, the path becomes all rocks. At the Eighth Station which lies at an altitude of 3,250 meters, there is the Mt. Fuji First-aid Center where you can consult the doctor if you are feeling unwell. At the mountain top, there stands the Okunomiya inner shrine of the Sengen-taisha Grand Shrine, as well as mountain huts.

Starting point: New Fifth Station (2,400 m)
Time required: 5 hours for the ascent & 2 hours and 40 minutes for the descent

Gotemba Trail course (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Gotemba Train Starting Point

The 5th Station of Mt. Fuji Gotemba Trail is at an altitude of 1,440 meters above sea level. It is the lowest starting points among all Mt. Fuji trails. This route is longest trail to the summit. It's usually less crowded than other trails, allowing you to enjoy the climbing. A unique landscape called Osunabashiri (sand slope) can be found on this trail. Hoei Crater, which was formed by the last eruption of Mt. Fuji in 1707, is also located along the trail.

Altitude of the starting point : about 1,440m
Ascent : about 6 hours and 20 minutes
Descent : about 3 hours and 10 minutes

Subashiri Trail(Shizuoka Prefecture)

This 5th Station is located only at 2000 meters above sea level and is the base of the Subashiri Trail. The Subashiri Trail meets the Yoshida Trail around the 8th station.

Subashiri Train Starting Point
The Subashiri 5th Station on the eastern side of the mountain is the second easiest to access by public transportation from Tokyo after the Kawaguchiko 5th Station. Buses serve the station daily during the climbing season from July until late September and run on weekends and national holidays from May through October.

Like the Gotemba 5th Station, the Subashiri 5th Station is far less developed than the Kawaguchiko 5th Station, consisting of only a parking lot, toilets and two small shops and restaurants. The 5th Station is reached by a winding road through Mount Fuji's forests, which gets closed to private vehicles during the peak of the the climbing season.

The trail is not as crowded as other routes. The ascent from the Subashiri 5th Station takes about five to eight hours and the descent about three to five hours. Altitude: about 2000 meters
Ascent: 5-8 hours, Descent: 3-5 hours


Mt.Fuji Main Crator
At the mountain top, the rim of main crater is 600 meters in diameter and 200 meters deep. The course for making a tour of this crater includes the Kengamine peak which is 3,776 meters above sea level and is the highest peak in Japan. This course is called 'Ohachi-meguri' because the crater at the top of Mt. Fuji is shaped like a 'hachi' , or a bowl. At the summit, there are 8 peaks. The total distance is approximately 4 kilometers, and it takes an average of 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete the tour of Ohachi-meguri. Please make sure not to walk in this area by the crater in bad weather, or after the sun has set, when it becomes very dangerous.

Route: Sengentaisha-Okumiya - (20 min.) - Kengamine - (20 min.) - Kinmeisui - (10 min.) - Kusushi Shrine - (20 min.) - Ginmeisui - (5 min.) - Sengentaisha-Okumiya
Shrine in the Mt. Fuji Summit

Necessary Equipments for Mt.Fuji climbing

You are strongly advised to take with you sufficient amounts of water as water purchased in the mountain is very expensive. Other essential items include trekking shoes and a hat for shielding the sun. A walking stick or a trekking pole would also prove useful. In recent years, mobile phones can be used in the mountain. Moreover, in order to preserve the environment, please make sure to take your litter home with you.
Cap is necessary to protect from the strong sunshine. Choose the one with flanges. Chinstrap is also helpful against winds.
Sunglasses can protect your eyes from sunshine. They can also block dust in case you wear contact lenses.
Gloves are necessary to prevent you from getting injured. They can also keep your hands clean and warm.
Take long-sleeve shirts and sweaters so that you can adjust your body temperature. Long pants are recommended. Bring a couple pair of thick socks to avoid blister. The trails are mostly rocky and sandy, hence mountain-climbing boots or trekking shoes with thick sole are recommended. A walking stick (or pole) helps your climbing greatly. The walking stick can be bought from the 5th station.
Cash (small change) is necessary since you wouldn't be able to use a credit card at the mountain huts. If you climb at night, a flashlight or a headlamp is essential. Nice to have a sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Medicine, bandage, and tissues are useful just in case.

Mountain/Altitude Sickness

Quite a few climbers may suffer from headache, dizziness and nausea due to altitude sickness. To avoid altitude sickness, you are advised to climb the mountain at a slow pace and make frequent breaks. An overnight stay at a hut around the 7th or 8th station is recommended. Small bottles of oxygen, available at the 5th stations and mountain huts, can be an effective tool in reducing the altitude sickness. It is advisable to stop climbing in case the climber is heavily affected by altitude sickness as it further version as the altitude increases.

Mountain Huts

As the mountain huts are very well-equipped with facilities, there is no need for you to carry heavy items such as a tent or a rice cooker.
However, in case of emergency, you should take with you minimum provisions of water, and light snacks such as candies, biscuits, etc., as well as some extra clothes.
Some mountain huts accept reservations in advance. Especially in the crowded seasons, you will be required to share one room with other guests, so if you wish to secure private space, it is best to place a reservation in advance. Please note that water is very precious, so there are generally neither showers nor bathroom-vanities available at the mountain huts.
Average accommodation charges (for weekdays) at a mountain hut are as follows.
Without meals: 5,250 yen
With dinner and breakfast: 7,350 yen
There are lavatories, but these are not flushing toilets. When using the lavatory, you are obliged to pay a tip, so make sure you have plenty of loose coins with you. The average tip is between 50 yen and 200 yen.

Some mountain huts open a few days before the start of the official climbing season and/or remain opened until around mid September. Public transportation, however, is considerably less frequent or non-existent outside of the official climbing season

The Mountain Huts on Mt. Fuji Kawaguchiko (Fujiyoshida) Trail

The Mountain Huts on Mt. Fuji Fujinomiya Trail.


Access by Car

Driving to Mt. Fuji is not recommended. The parking lots are almost always full, and traffic regulation is placed at peak seasons.
Take the Fuji I.C. (Exit) on Tomei Expressway. Turn Left onto Nishi-Fuji road. Take the Koizumi exit and merge onto Route 139. Turn Right onto Fujisan Sky Line (Route 180). The road leads to Fujinomiya-guchi 5th Station (Go-gome).
It takes about 60 minutes from the Fuji I.C. to Fujinomiya-guchi 5th Station (Go-gome) by car.


From Shinjuku Station (Tokyo)- Kawaguchiko-guchi 5th Sta.(Go-gome)
2600 yen (one way), 140 minutes
6 round trips per day during the climbing season
2 round trips per day on weekends/holidays in the off-season (daily during most of September) 

Shin-Fuji Sta. - (Tozan Bus) - Fujinomiya-guchi 5th Sta.(Go-gome)
Fares: 2,310 yen (one-way) / 3,000 yen (round-trip)
Total Time by bus: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Mishima Sta. - (Tozan Bus) - Fujinomiya-guchi 5th Sta.(Go-gome)
Fares: 2,390 yen (one-way) / 3,000 yen (round-trip)
Total Time by bus: 2 hour and 5 minutes

Shin-Fuji Sta. - (Tozan Bus) - Fujinomiya-guchi 5th Sta.(Go-gome)
Fares: 2,310 yen (one-way) / 3,000 yen (round-trip)
Total Time by bus: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Gotemba Sta. - (Tozan Bus) - Gotemba-guchi 5th Sta. (Go-gome)

Fares: 1,080 yen (one-way) / 1,500 yen (round-trip)
Total Time by bus: 40 minutes

Kawaguchiko Sta. - (Tozan Bus) - Kawaguchiko-guchi 5th Sta.(Go-gome) 
Fares: 1,500 yen (one-way) / 2,000 yen (round-trip)
Total Time by bus: 55 minutes

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