#56 Hiking Mt Fuji for idiot

Idiot like me.

If you have zero idea about hiking the famous Fujisan, and one fine day you feel like, yololetsdothis, then you’ve come to the right place.

To lay down the background for you, I’m no expert in hiking, this is my first hike since I graduated from high school. So here’s what I think you need to know in order to hike fujisan.

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If these kids can do it, you can do it.

Mount Fuji, also known as Fuji-san is the highest mountain in Japan (~3776km) Mt Fuji is an active volcano last erupted 1707. (fun fact: it is made up of 3 separate volcanoes) I’m sure you remember Japan was affected by a magnitude 9 earthquake on 2011. Since then, speculation for Mt Fuji eruption goes wild. Activities of Mt fuji have been closely monitored. If you care to read about it online, there are endless predictions about how Mt Fuji is the next volcano to erupt, suppose to erupt on 2015… They basically tell you the volcano is suppose to erupt ‘right about now’. It’s a goodtoknow, I personally wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you need some reassurance, here is the link to Japan Meteorological Agency, you can refresh this page daily.

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Climbing season is generally from July to September. Trails will only be open for climbing during this period. I managed to squeeze myself in on the last day of climbing season. Everything on Mt Fuji will be close outside climbing season, even direction sign will be removed. In my opinion, timing is very important to make the best experience out of it. Generally, to avoid big crowd is close to impossible. You wouldn’t want to miss the chance of hiking with another few hundred like minded people too. Avoid school holidays, schedule for a weekday climb and you will be fine. Also, be reminded that a sunrise on top of Mt. Fuji is not guaranteed. I didn’t manage to catch one, but the view of standing above cloud was majestic.

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There are hiking trails available to choose from, Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomiya. The most common one is the Yoshida trail, which start from Subaru Line 5th station.

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Sign for Yoshida Trail.

There are different 5th station for different trails. Make sure you get to the correct one, and descend to the same station you depart from. The easiest way to get to Subaru Line 5th station, if you’re not driving, is by bus, to Fujisan station. There’s no train direct to this station. You have 2 options,

Kawaguchiko Station
    ↓    Mountain Bus
Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station
OR 
Shinjuku Bus Terminal
    ↓    Expressway Bus
Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station
If you hold a JR pass and want to work out how to save money to go to the nearest train station and get a bus to 5th station. Let me tell you from personal experience, just get a return bus ticket from Shinjuku (if you’re coming and returning to tokyo after climb) This is the most straightforward option. The train-bus combo won’t save you much money and you’ll have a lot of waiting time prior the climb, not helpful.
Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station. What’s there? Restaurant, coins operated locker (I stored all my belonging here, including my laptop and extra cash), some random hotel, lots of souvenirs shops, public toilet (probably the worst one you can find in Japan), vending machine for drinks (500Y for one bottle). You can’t really find much packed food there, if you need to do some last minute supply shopping, choices are very limited. They do offer some energy bars, but I advice you to bring everything from the surface.
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Met this casual bunch of people. Ohmygodamireallygoingtoclimbalone disaster overturned.

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Ian is very quiet, I was munching the entire time, Johnny and Ken were talking shit, Amy sang all the way up while cursing occasionally. Ascend was fun.

Since I only decided to hike last minute, I went for it alone. Was it scary? Yes, at first. But this decision turn out to be one of best thing I did for my 2 weeks long career break in Japan. I met some wonderful people and climbed together. If you’re wondering is this a hike that you can do alone, without a tour guide, answer is YES. You can make friend with other solo traveler or just anyone you met in the bus or during the hike. It’s hard to get lost when you’re hiking with another few hundred of people, especially on the way up to catch sunrise, you get tons of human traffic, you get stuck waiting for people in front of you to move along than losing your way. So, You can hike alone, if you’re tight on budget, a tour is not necessary, but you will have to do all the planning on your own (which isn’t very hard).

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Ascend view.

 

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Thanks to Johnny for all my pictures.

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I look so horrible in all of it though.

From 5th station, it takes about 6hours to reach summit and 3 hours to descend. Usually, people depart from 5th station around noon, stay at a mountain hut for a nap, leave the hut around 2am in the morning to the summit to catch sunrise. Staffs at these huts are very professional, they usher you in, bring you food, show you where to sleep, tell you what time the sun comes up, and wake you up the next day to continue hiking. Mountain huts are available from 5th station onward. Majority huts are at 7th and 8th station. My advice is, get the highest hut possible so you can minimise the hiking time in the morning. I didn’t manage to book the highest cause it was full. You can refer to this list, I only listed down huts that have english spoken staff. You can go google them, or ask your front desk to make a reservation for you through phone call.

  1. Goraikokan (8.5th station), online booking available
  2. Fujisan Hotel (8th station), where I stayed, online booking available
  3. Hakuunso (8th station)
  4. Taishikan (8th station) Amy, Ian, Johnny and Ken stayed here. The bedding look more spacious than the one I stayed in

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Maaaa hut!

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Alternatively, you can also start your hike close to midnight, ascend all the way up to summit, see sunrise and descend. Strongly recommend you to not do this. Because Ted’s mum said, nothing good happens after 2am. Chances of altitude sickness is higher, while you need to adjust to sleepiness, there’s also no view for you to enjoy. You will be climbing rocks in darkness, go imagine.

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Now, for descend. I realized that all sites give you overload information about ascend, and it ends at the summit. Did y’all ever come back down? Very frustrating. For an average person, descend takes 3 hours, if you stay at peak till 6am, depends on whether you want to walk around the crater, if you do, add another 1 hour, descend take good 3 hours. Estimate yourself to take 4 hours to descend, maybe add another hour if you want to have lunch and buy some souvenirs, book your bus tickets out of 5th station before you climb. This is that one piece of advice that I wish I get before hand. I spent about 4 hours at the station staring at people because I couldn’t get an earlier bus.

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The fog cleared up when I start my descend. And then the view is just.

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Magnificent.

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Everyone went click frenzy

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I really do look horrible with my overnight mtfuji weathered braid.

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I could never get over how beautiful this is.

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Descend route – full of little loose rocks. Fell down so many times.

If you don’t have proper hiking shoes and will be wearing sneaker, airmax thea in my case, expect yourself to take longer, and also find out where to get yourself a pair of new knees. Sneakers are generally not recommended, ascend is no problem, but descend could be difficult, it will ruin your shoes too. Do you really want to spend money on hiking shoes for one hike though? Another option you have is to rent them.

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Descend view.

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At the mountain hut, there is a changing room, toilet and place for you to sleep. By saying place, I mean a space 3/4 the size of a sleeping bag. Get ready to cosy up with Korean uncle next to you. Our shoulders was probably less than 10 cm away from each other. Surprised I manage to sleep. If you travel in a group, you probably feel less awkward.

The hardest part of the hike for me is during descend. My knees hurt like crazy, I’m not even joking. I had to stop a few times to rest because I just couldn’t continue walking. If you have no problem adjust to altitude, then ascend is very enjoyable. Your hiking company makes huge difference. Also, a proper meal makes a difference, regardless of how fit you are. I had a big bowl of hot ramen at 5th station before I start the hike. Although I’m underdress for the weather, I still feel great ascending.

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Signs along the way are colour coded according to trails. Subashiri trail will join Yoshida from Shita-edoya hut. Ascend is no problem, but during descend make sure you descend to the correct station.

What do you do at the peak? There’s the crater. If you want to go walk around it, you can. Or you could just walk around, take photo, take a rest. I was freezing, and there is no sunrise for me. So the only thing that’s on my mind was ‘Let’s get out of here’

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No sunrise.

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Only sun sad. SO SAD.

Preparation

The first thing that struck my mind when I decided to climb was would I die up there drama. I found my answer. No, I won’t. And I was really really unprepared.

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Wear layer of clothings so you can layer them on the way up (5 degree at peak), take them off coming down. I got this useful little leaflet from north face when I bought my jacket. I found so many standard advice I didn’t know which to follow, so I just put on whatever I have with me. I wore a sport bra, dry fit tank, light weight cotton tee, light jacket, long dry fit pants. These 3 layers was sufficient till dusk. After sunset, temperature falls, I put on another t-shirt and a thick jacket on top of my light jacket, and a layer of legging under my pants. That’s 5 layer and 2 socks in total and I almost freeze to death when I was at the peak. It gets a lot colder when there’s wind. So wear clothing that break wind and waterproof in case of rain. Here’s a list.

Clothing

  1. Short sleeve, wear one, bring an extra
  2. Long sleeve, pack in bag
  3. Light jacket
  4. Thick jacket/ wind breaker/rain jacket (From northface, pretty thin material)
  5. Long pants
  6. Legging, pack in bag
  7. Socks, wear one, bring an extra
  8. Undergarment (I brought extra and had a change, feel a lot more comfortable)
  9. Cap
  10. Gloves (did not have one with me, bought one up there and it was useless)
  11. Sunglasses
  12. Heat pack (from daiso) if you like, you’ll thank yourself for it
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Everything I brought fit into this Herschel bag pack that claimed to be waterproof.

Supply

  1. 1.5l of water, I also brought some isotonic drinks and a bottle of green tea as well. Expert say you shouldn’t drink too much or you will end up with many toilet breaks (Y100 per entry) I drank them in moderation and use the toilet once when I reach my mountain hut and another time before I continue to ascend.
  2. food (rice ball, some cracker preferably non salted, chocolate, high energy bar) chocolate saved my life, and they’re so yummy. I had endless boxes of pocky stick and dark chocolate on the way up. I was constantly munching. Bring more food, you can never have too much.
  3. Sunblock (need them during descend, strong sun, no trees, if there’s no cloud then you’re baked)
  4. Wet wipes
  5. Mouth mask, if you like to cover your nose during descend, it gets really dusty
  6. Flash light/ headlight (did not bring one, walked with people who have one)
  7. Money (Y100 coins, if you already paid for your mountain hut then you don’t have to bring much, bring enough for you to buy some supply and toilet break, toilet is Y100 per entry, 500ml water is usually Y500, you can also get some hot drinks or hot cup noodle to keep yourself warm)
  8. Hiking stick (Personal opinion, the souvenir hiking stick wouldn’t help you much, and you need to carry it, makes a great souvenir but I opted without, professional hiking stick will really help you during descend)
  9. Plastic bag (to carry home all your garbage and keep your clothes and gadget dry) I used ziplock
  10. Camera/GoPro (must bring, worth carrying all the way up)

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Other rubbish I brought

  1. Wifi modem (if your wifi modem reception is good, you can get wifi signal all the way up to the peak. I’ve seen people who talk on the phone while hiking, I brought my modem with me, rented from travel recommends, (highly recommend their service) and kept on touch with my family and friends.
  2. Fully charged external battery (while our iPhones are not weather friendly, it act all funny when it’s cold, 50% battery, next thing you know it’s flat)
  3. Earphone (jamming my japan playlist while I was alone thanks to bel’s recommendation) music makes all the differences, felt like I’m in a music video looking over the sea of clouds.

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At the peak. No. You won’t get a picture without human in it. Just no.

Last thing is, I wore my contact lens to hike, took it out when I reach the mountain hut, put them back on and continue ascend. I prefer to wear contact lens because my spectacle is not as comfortable. Some site strongly recommend you to not wear lenses. I did just fine. But brought a twist and throw lens solution with you if you do. I fill up my cases with solution, screw tight and put them in a ziplock, when I took my lenses out there were no solution in the case. Sad. Must be the altitude.

I know I ramble on a lot. Took me a few days to type out all these informations. To recap, here’s a little checklist of what you need to do if you’re planning to climb.

  1. decide when to climb (crowd, weather)
  2. choose a route
  3. do all necessary booking (bus and mountain hut)
  4. prepare all necessities
  5. go have fun

 

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Hopefully this longest blog post in my blogging history help you in some way or another.

If you are wondering should you climb Mt. Fuji or look at it from far and get a great picture, I say it all depends. It was a real good experience for me. If you have the time, your travel partners are ok with it, I say go for it. If not, don’t sweat about it, I’m sure visiting Japan itself is an amazing experience.

 

 

Cheers, dee

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