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Every year, many people try to climb Japan’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji, which is 3.776 meters high. Mount Fuji climbing season is very short, so it is necessary to start planning early and to prepare, as it is not so easy to climb. Usually the season starts in the beginning of July and ends in the begining of September. It is summer in Japan, but on the top of Mount Fuji the temperature is very low. This year (2018), most trails open on July 10th and close September 10th.
I climbed it with a friend, on the days 14 and 15 of July. I decided to climb it on that weekend because there was a holiday (sea day) on the 16th, so I had one more day to rest. But I recommend climbing it in weekdays, as the number of people rise a lot during weekends and holidays. The weather varies a lot, so if you really want to climb it, it may be better to set an extra day to climb it. In the beginning of July, it is still rainy season (tsuyu) in Japan and in August, typhoons are more frequent, which make it impossible to climb mountains. We were lucky to climb it in a day without any rain and very little wind. Even with a perfect weather, I was freezing in the top of Mount Fuji.
The main trails are: Yoshida trail, Fujinomiya trail, Subashiri trail and Gotemba trail. The most used trail is Yoshida trail, which is located in Yamanashi prefecture. The other trails are located in Shizuoka prefecture.
This is the most famous and “easy” one. It is recommended to beginners because this trail has many mountain huts to rest (yamagoya), toilets, support centers, etc. It is possible to see the sun rise from all parts of this trail, so even those who couldn’t climb until the top can see this beautiful view.
Usually, it takes about 6 hours to climb and 4 hours to descend the mountain, without considering rest time and the traffic in the trails. Usually, who wants to see the sun rise leaves the 8th station (hachi gome) at 1:30 in the morning. But as there are many people leaving the same place at the same time, I think it is better to leave the 8th station at about 0:30, because the traffic in the trail is heavy and sometimes it is very hard to go ahead, as the paths are very narrow.
It is important to pay attention when descending the mountain, because in the 8th station (hachi gome) the trail is divided into 2 ways, one to Yoshida trail and another to Subashiri trail, which takes you to another side of the mountain.
Fujinomiya trail starts in a higher point and ends in a higher point of Mount Fuji. So if you want to get to the highest point of Mount Fuji faster, you may want to use this trail. There are less resting points than Yoshida trail and it is the second most used trail to climb Mount Fuji.
This trail has different views compared to the other trails, including vegetation in the beginning of the trail. The sun rise can be seen from every part of this trail as well.
Gotemba trail has only a few places to rest and it is recommended to people with experience. I don’t know what I was thinking at that time, but 9 years ago, when I was in high school, I climbed it with some friends using Gotemba trail, because it was the hardest one. I almost gave up, but there was a Japanese self-defense group (jieitai) climbing Mount Fuji as well, and they helped me carrying my backpack. Now I know that this trail requires a good physical preparation and it is not recommended to beginners.
OHACHIMEGURI (Walking around the crater)
This time we didn’t have enough time to walk around the crater of Mount Fuji. It takes about one and a half hour. We need a lot of energy to descend the mountain, so it is better to try to walk around the crater only if you have enough energy left. Someday I want to try it.
To see the sun rise from the top of Mount Fuji is one of the most expected moments. Most people start climbing at evening, arrive at the 8th station (hachi gome) at night, rest a bit and start walking again after midnight to see the sun rise from the top of the mountain. It is a a unic experience and the feeling of achievement is incredible. Many people try to get to the top before the sunrise, so there is a heavy traffic in the trail, so it takes more time to get to the top. And as it is really cold up there, I recommend wearing very warm clothes.
Most people say it is harder to descend the mountain, as it hurt the legs and feet. Even though I was wearing trekking boots, my feet hurt a lot. If you start climbing at night, you cannot see the path, but when you start walking during the daylight, you can see all the way and realise it never ends.
WHAT TO BRING
The weather changes a lot in Mount Fuji, so it is important to be prepared in all occasions. It is summer in Japan, so the temperature gets higher than 30ºC, but at the top of the mountain the temperature sometimes is lower than 0ºC. The sky may be clear, but it can get cloudy and start raining at any time, and the wind can be very strong.
- Backpack of about 25 liters
- Sports wear
- Windproof wear (if possible waterproof as well)
- A good and comfortable sneaker (if possible, high cut trekking boots)
- Cap and beanie
- Socks (it is better to use more than one pair of socks, in order not to hurt the feet)
- Water (1.5 – 2 liters) (it is possible to buy in the trails, but it is very expensive – about 400 yen)
- Food (cereal bars, chocolate, etc – food that contain a lot of energy)
- Money (change for toilet, it costs about 200 yen each time)
- Cellphone, camera and extra batteries (power bank)
- Flash light (head lamps are very useful)
- Garbage bag (there are no places to throw garbage, so we must take all garbage home)
- Sun glasses
- Medicine and emergency kit
It is also useful to bring tissues and wet tissues. In the toilets there is toilet paper, but tissues are useful at any time. It is also recommended to use helmets, because of falling rocks, but I didn’t see anyone using it. Trekking poles are also useful, especially for the legs. It is possible to buy a wood pole an Mount Fuji, which is a nice souvenir.
After the long walk many people go straight to onsen (thermal water) to take a bath and relax. For those who don’t like onsen, I also saw some places to take a quick shower, but it was very expensive (1.000 yen for 4 minutes of shower).
HOW TO GET TO MOUNT FUJI (GO GOME)
It is possible to go by plane, train, bus, car, bicycle, etc. It is better to research the easiest, cheapest and most comfortable way in advance. I think the best way to go is by bus, as it is easy, cheap and comfortable. You cannot park your car at Go Gome, the station where most people start the climbing. There are also many travel agencies, where you can book the bus and/or guide.
RESTING HUTS (YAMAGOYA)
Most resting huts are booked in advance, so the easiest way to book it is by booking it through a travel agency. Many people don’t book a resting place, and rest outside it, but it is very cold outside and uncomfortable, especially when it is raining. Usually there are sleeping bags at the huts, but the rooms are shared and there are many people getting in and out all the time. It is also very noisy, so it may be hard to sleep, but it is a good place to rest the legs, eat and rest, in order to complete the climbing without any problems.
I costs about 7.000 per night. I found a web site in japanese with some information and contact details of each hub (click here). Some hubs can be booked on the Internet. And some serve food as well.
Climbers are asked to donate 1.000 yen to help with the conservation of Mount Fuji, to help keeping it clean. This fee can be paid beforehand or at the mountain entrance.
It is very tiring to climb Mount Fuji, but it is worth it. If possible, I think it is better to start preparing yourself physically few months before the climbing. But the most important thing is to rest well the day before climbing it. Many people start climbing it at the end of the day, without sleeping very well. It is very tiring, and the chances to get sick with the altitude (kozanbyou) get higher. I heard that half of the climbers get sick with the altitude and the best solution it to go back, as the symptoms only get worse in higher altitudes. I recommend to research a lot and be prepared to climb Mount Fuji.
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