Mount Fuji or Fuji-san is Japan’s highest mountain (3776 meters) and the focal point of the sprawling Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It is visible from Tokyo on a clear day, but it is not even near the city. It is located to the west of Tokyo on the main island Honshu.
Mount Fuji is a symmetrical volcanic cone, often called Fuji-san (“mountain”) and has nothing to do with the honorific ‘san’ for people’s names.
How to get there
Mt. Fuji can be approached from all sides, but transport schedules are sharply cut outside the official climbing season in July and August. You can take a bus from Tokyo, from Shinjuku to the trailhead at Kawaguchiko Fifth Station. The most affordable approach is by Odakyu train from Shinjuku to Gotemba, but this way you will have to change trains but the price difference is minimal.
If you are flying to Japan, you can land on Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport near Shizuoka which was opened in June 2009. Don’t let the name fool you, this airport is over 80 km away to the west of the mountain and not much closer to Mt. Fuji than Tokyo’s airports. If you are in Tokyo you can take the Keio express bus from Shinjuku in Tokyo. The direct bus takes 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on traffic and the season.
There is no direct access to Mt. Fuji by train, but you can get close and change to a bus for the rest of the way. From Tokyo, the two main points are Fujiyoshida and Gotemba. If you are going to Mt. Fuji with a car take the Chuo Expressway from Shinjuku.
And of course, there are guided tours offered by travel companies in all Japan. These tours may include round trip bus fare, climbing guide, hut, meal (packed rice box), and a visit to a hot spring after the descent.
Nearby places to see
The main reason why you are visiting Mount Fuji is to see its glory of course. For better sight you will have to maintain some distance. The most popular places for sightseeing tours of Fuji are Hakone, to the east of Mt. Fuji towards Tokyo, and the Fuji Five Lakes, located in north of the mountain. Fuji is often “hiding” behind clouds. Visibility is perhaps the worst in the hot, muggy summers and the best in the winter, when the air is dry and clear. You can get The Mt. Fuji Welcome Card which is free card that will help you get discounts for different attractions and tours.
Things to do
Things to do on Mt. Fuji is, of course, to climb it. There is a Japanese say – “A wise man climbs Fuji once and a fool twice”. Professional athletes have completed the climb in less than two hours and there’s even a yearly race to the top but, for most people it takes 4 to 8 hours at walking speed. There are overnight climbs and enthusiasts are taking these tours in order to be up on Mount for the sunrise (go-raiko). Once you finish your climbing you can try to sleep in a mountain hut and catch the sunrise if you like.
Be well prepared for this climbing. You will need sturdy shoes (hiking boots), rain-proof clothing and head covers. Do not wear shorts by any means! Gloves and warm, layered clothing are also strongly recommended. You will also need flashlight and spare batteries (if climbing at night), sunglasses and sunscreen, toilet paper, Japanese 100-yen coins, as the toilets are pay-per-use and cost either ¥100 or ¥200, plastic bags to contain your garbage, a poncho in case of rain (don’t buy cheap poncho which you can find anywhere in Tokyo because it will tear up during your climbing). Also, don’t forget your camera. There is no water on the mountain so take a liter or two with you. Also, take food.
The most popular starting point is Kawaguchiko 5th Station (2305m), which offers you a last chance to stock on supplies before heading out. Actual rock climbing is not required, but you will wish to use your hands at some points for support, that is why wearing gloves is necessary. The trail is well marked (even at night) and in season you will find it difficult to get lost. Due to the danger of landslides do not venture beyond the trail; visibility may also be very rapidly reduced to near-zero on cloudy days. Once at the top, you will pass under a small torii gate and encounter a group of huts selling drinks and souvenirs; here you can even find vending machines.
Gotembaguchi route is the longest and toughest access route from the fifth station. There are separate routes for ascent and descent, which will take 7 to 10 and 1.5 to 3 hours accordingly. The path is clearly marked with signs, so night climbing (with a flashlight) is possible. The climb from the 5th to the 6th station is over an enormous ash field, which formed during a recent eruption in 1707. Mountain huts at the 6th, 7th and 8th stations operate during official climbing season and also provide warm food (curry rice, ramen, soba, drinks etc). Beware of rocks from 8th station and above. Bring enough water supplies or buy water at the fifth station.
Huts from 7th station onward offer primitive accommodation, but you must make reservations. Prices are fairly reasonable (¥5250 a night). You will share your tatami mat with the halitosis, funky boot juice and other 150-500 strangers, but that’s just part of the whole adventure. If you want a warm hut you will have to pay a resting fee, (¥1000-2000 per hour or ¥5000 for the entire night). The huts also have extremely basic toilets, (using the toilet will cost you ¥100/200).
Best season to visit
Schedule your visit to Mount Fuji during the climbing season which is from July to August. These months are ideal because of the good weather, accommodation options and convenient transportation. It is possible to see Mount Fuji any time of the year, but July and August are highly recommendable.