One of my favorite people to hike with is my younger sister Lorianne. She’s always up for challenge, low maintenance, and honesty she’s pretty hard core. Last summer my dad and her traveled to the other side of the world, Japan, for a couple weeks. It had always been her dream to visit and she absolutely loved it. Of course, she couldn’t go all the way to Japan and not hike one of the most famous mountains in the world, Mt. Fuji. She hiked the mountain successfully and returned to Orlando with some amazing experiences in her quiver.
I’ve asked her to share some of the things she thinks everyone needs to know before embarking on the tough climb. So take note, and hopefully you’ll leave feeling more prepared for the hike of a lifetime. Take it away, Lori!
Thanks, Sadie! Last summer I had the opportunity to hike the Yoshida trail up Mount Fuji. The elevation is 12,388 feet, but from the fifth station up the mountain, the hike is only 3.5 miles to the summit. You can do this in one day or two. There are small huts along the trail where you can book a night so that you may wake up while its dark the next day and summit in time to see the sunrise. It took me about three hours to reach the Fujisan Hotel on my hike, which is the hut closest to the top (make sure you reserve it!). After a nice curry dinner and some rest, I woke up around 1:30am and starting hiking again.
The second half of my hike took much longer as the trail was packed and you could only hike as fast as the slowest hiker. I reached the top in time to have a snack and watch the sunrise. It was truly a beautiful experience. It then took me about three and a half hours to descend. But you should know, the Yoshida trial has a different descending path than the ascending trail, so you will end up in a different location than the trailhead.
Here’s what to know before hiking Mt. Fuji.
1. Carefully plan how you will get to the Yoshida Trail.
Before you can begin your hike up Mt. Fuji and experience the glorious sunrise at the top, you have to get to the trailhead right? Well, its important that you carefully plan out how exactly you plan to make it there. In order to get to the fifth station on Mount Fuji, which is the highest station you can get to by transportation for the Yoshida trail, you must book a bus ride.
We choose to use the Keio bus line which will take you to the fifth and last station up the mountain. Our plan was to board the Keio bus from the Shinjuku station in Tokyo, which is fairly easy to locate from any district in the city. The day before our trip, we decided to make a dry-run to the Shinjuku station and find where the Keio bus boards. We knew we would only have a few minutes to get from the train to the bus, so it was important we knew exactly where to go.
I’m really glad we did this dry-run as the Shinjuku station is quite large and you need to cross the street and go up a flight of stairs in order to find the bus-lines. If you have a couple free hours any day before your climb, I would suggest doing this, or at least printing out a map of the station.
Even with our pre-bought Keio bus tickets and dry-run trek to the station, our plan still went arry as a typhoon blew through the coast and our bus was canceled. We found a different, more complicated, way to get to Mount Fuji for the following day, but I could have lived without the stress if only we had a plan B. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
5th bus station on Mt. Fuji located at the Yoshida trailhead.
3. Bring warm clothing.
The official hiking season for Mt. Fuji is early July to mid-September. During these months, Japan is very hot. So you might be inclined to pack light and forget the winter clothes. But if you plan on hiking to the top of Mount Fuji to see the sunrise, please be prepared for cold weather. As it is known, the higher altitude you get to, the colder it gets.
Try to bring a warm jacket, long pants, leggings, mittens, warm socks, and a hat. I wore some yoga leggings under my Columbia zip-off cargo pants. In the morning when it when it was cooler, I stayed warm. Then in the afternoon when the sun was shinning and my blood was flowing, I unzipped my cargo pants transitioning them to shorts, still with my leggings underneath. Not the most flattering, I know, but it worked well for me. In fact, there were a lot of locals sporting the same legging-under-shorts style, so it worked out well.
On the trail.
4. Be prepared for some serious climbing.
Before hiking Mt. Fuji, I didn’t think it would be that bad. I was expecting a steep hike, but I really didn’t understand why people would refer to their trek as “climbing”. Now, after hiking Mount Fuji, even on the mildest trail, I understand. It is true that a majority of the hike is just that, a steep hike, but there is a fair portion of the Yoshida trail were it is so steep if feels as though you are rock-climbing. Because of this, many of the hikers brought along trekking poles to help. While I don’t normally use poles, my dad thought I should, so I brought one and I was so thankful for it.
There is a small portion near the top of the volcano, that is very steep and slippery. While hiking down, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I slid about every third step. The air is also very thin up there which can make the hike more difficult. But there are small huts with outdoor stands along the Yoshida trial where you can buy oxygen cans to help you breathe. Which leads me to my last comment.
Almost to the top of the summit!
5. Bring along some extra cash.
Of course there are numerous shops at the base of Mount Fuji, but there are also several huts and shops along the Yoshida trail and at the top. Snacks, sweets, souvenirs, oxygen cans, and more are all available for purchase. You can even purchase a postcard and mail it right through the post-office located at the top of Mt. Fuji. How cool is that? Its an opportunity to share that once in a lifetime experience with your loved ones.
Enjoying the view from the top!
Overall, hiking Mount Fuji is definitely at the top my list of great adventures in Japan. It is certainly one of the most physically demanding hikes I’ve completed, but absolutely rewarding. Waking up in the hut while its still dark out to summit the volcano and see the sunrise at the top was incredible. It felt like a pilgrimage with hundreds of other hikers lined up, all with headlamps ablaze. Sitting peacefully at the top, waiting for the sun to pop over the clouds is so exciting. Then hearing the cheers from everyone when the sun finally shows itself makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. If you have the chance, go hike this mountain, you won’t regret it.
Fujisan Hotel where I slept.
Watching the sunrise from the summit!
Mystery berry flavored ice cream, my reward for the hike!