Gazing down on Japan from atop its symbolic mountain is high on the bucket list for most visitors and residents alike, but at 3,766m it’s not the effortless stroll that many elderly Japanese people make it seem. If climbing Mount Fuji is your summer to-do this year, here’s what you need to know.
Important: Due to safety concerns, the climb should only be attempted during Mount Fuji’s climbing season. The mountain trails are officially closed outside of this time. You can try some other Tokyo hikes instead.
The various trails of Mount Fuji
It’s possible to take four different trails to the summit of Mt Fuji, as well as one that goes on an ambling circular route around the 5th stations, for anybody who enjoys punishing themselves without much payoff.
Which trail on Mount Fuji is the best?
All the trails up Mount Fuji have their pros and cons, but we recommend the Yoshida Trail, which is the most popular for good reason.
If you’re coming from Tokyo, the Yoshida Trail is the best choice. It starts at the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station — which has easy access from Kawaguchiko Station — and has the bonus of facing the sunrise. It’s also the oldest route, having been used by pilgrims to climb the sacred mountain for over 500 years.
Note: There are two separate paths on the Yoshida Trail — one that goes up and one that goes down.
When to climb Mount Fuji
Trails are typically open between early July and mid-September each year. For 2023, the following dates for Mount Fuji’s climbing season have been announced:
- Yoshida Trail: July 1–September 10, with the descent open until the morning of 11 September
- Fujinomiya, Gotemba and Subashiri Trails: July 10–September 10
- Ohachi-meguri Trail (around the rim of the crater): July 10–September 10
Pro tip: Before making travel plans, it’s a good idea to double-check that the trails will be open on the days you want to do the hike. Just in case. If they aren’t open, you can’t climb Mount Fuji.
What you need to know before you climb Mount Fuji
As mentioned, Mount Fuji is not the walk in the park some may make it out to be. And while it is possible for a beginner hiker — provided you are fit and healthy — there are a few important things to consider before attempting to summit the highest mountain in Japan.
Altitude sickness: Could you get sick?
While the trail is relatively uncomplicated, even the most seasoned hikers may experience altitude sickness. Symptoms include dizziness, headaches, and nausea during the ascent. Remember to take it slow and allow your body to adjust — this is why we recommend staying over in a hut to better acclimate yourself. To help, you can also buy small oxygen inhalers, and if you feel unwell at any point during the journey, there will be first aid at the 5th, 7th, and 8th stations.
Note: If you are experiencing serious altitude sickness, the only way to alleviate it is to descend.
Views: What can you see from Mount Fuji?
The view from the top is nothing short of majestic: clouds gathering on mountains thousands of feet below appear like waves crashing against rocks, but the hike up is sometimes not spectacular and is heavily dependent on the weather. If clear, you’ll be able to see mountain ranges and fields of lush green, but if it is cloudy, it may seem you’re walking in a desolate volcanic landscape for the majority of the journey.
Toilets: Where to go?
You’ll have to pay for toilets on Mount Fuji — disposing of waste on Japan’s highest mountain doesn’t come cheap. Most cost ¥200, except for ¥300 at the summit (for those who want to say they did their business on the top of Mount Fuji). It’s an honor system, so make sure to be honorable.
It’s also worth noting that on the way down there won’t be any toilets from the Original 8th Station (also known as the 9th Station) to the 7th Station. That’s around two hours of crossing your legs, so make sure to go before then. If you are staying at a lodge, after paying once, you can use the toilet an unlimited amount of times. Check out the map of where they will be.
Length: How long does it take to hike Mount Fuji?
Our team took around six hours to ascend and around three hours on the way down the Yoshida Trail — this is also the official estimated time. Of course, this depends on how busy it is and how many breaks you take.
The most popular way to climb Mount Fuji is to start mid-afternoon, stay in a lodge, and climb to the summit for sunrise. Because of this, it could take up to eight hours if you get stuck on the way up, but only five hours if you skip sunrise and are an experienced hiker. Go towards the higher end of the scale if you consider yourself unfit or you’re going at the weekend and the lower end if you’re an athlete/half-man half-gazelle.
Remember that you can relax triumphantly at the top ready for sunrise if you’re early, but it can ruin the trip if you’re late.
Note: Keep in mind that the hike from the 5th Station to the 8th will seem far quicker than from the 8th Station to the summit. It gets pretty grueling if you’re continuously expecting to reach the top soon.
Crowds: How busy does it get?
Even if you go at a “quiet time”, i.e. a regular weekday, climbing Fuji is still a crowded hike compared to other mountains. If you go at the weekend, during school holidays — from mid-July to the end of August — or during the Obon holidays — mid-August — then it can get extremely busy. To reduce the risk of being stuck in an uphill queue, consider hiking at a different time and way from everyone else.
How to avoid the crowds
If you don’t care about watching the sunrise at the peak, then you’re in luck, as the 8th Station still boasts a majestic view. Book a hut near either the 7th or 8th Station and wake up a couple of hours later than those aiming for the summit. This means you won’t get stuck in an inevitable queue near the top and you’ll get a reasonable lie-in (for a person climbing Mt. Fuji anyway).
How to hike Mount Fuji: Bullet climbing or staying over
We here at Cheapo want to keep things safe for our readers, and while staying on the mountain in a hut is not the cheapest, it is what we recommend to have a fun and enjoyable hike up this iconic mountain. An added benefit of sleeping on the way up is the ability to more accurately predict when you’ll reach the peak.
The alternative — bullet climbing — would mean starting in the evening and hiking through the night to see sunrise or the other option of hiking up through the day to see sunset and going down in the dark. This is heavily discouraged by local authorities as it not only doesn’t give you time to properly acclimatize to the altitude but so much time hiking in the dark can lead to accidents, especially if you don’t have the proper equipment.
Sleeping on Mount Fuji: Is there overnight accommodation?
As previously mentioned, climbing Mount Fuji is not the casual ramble that the gentle slopes suggest when viewed from a distance. If a more than nine-hour round-trip hike sounds excessive, you may need a long lie-down somewhere inbetween. Luckily, it’s possible to book an overnight stay in one of the lodges part of the way up the Yoshida Trail, but be warned, you’ll need to book way in advance to grab yourself a spot.
Note: For accommodation near Mount Fuji, for the night(s) before or after your climb, see what your options are.
How much does a hut cost?
This won’t be a luxurious hotel experience — despite the price — and the cheaper you go, the less glamorous the rooms will become. The most budget option is a poor man’s capsule hotel — think rooms crammed with 20 to 40 other people. This will cost you around ¥11,000 per person. If you don’t feel like joining the huddle, then there are also semi-private rooms and private rooms for around ¥14,000 per person with dinner. You’ll pay more for lodges higher up — everyone wants to be first to the top for sunrise — and also extra for meals and high season/weekends.
Which lodge to choose?
There are quite a few places to choose from and your decision may be based on the location just as much as the price. For general hut and toliet information, this is the place to go. Although note that many of the reservation sites are in Japanese.
Goraikoukan is a lodge fairly close to the summit (roughly 300 meters away) — a good bet for ensuring your arrival to the mountaintop in time for sunrise. But that does mean you pay for the pleasure. One night’s stay with two meals can be yours for ¥13,500, or without meals for ¥11,000. The rooms are all dormitory-style, so expect things to be a little tight. The site has an English info page, but to reserve you must switch to the Japanese version. Reserving online shouldn’t be too difficult with the help of Google Translate.
Another option is Kamaiwa-kan at the 7th Station. There are more room types available and cheaper options compared to Goraikoukan, however, you aren’t as close to the summit. Dormitory rooms start at ¥10,400 per person with dinner and private rooms start at around ¥44,200 per room. You can even book in English.
What you’ll need to climb Mount Fuji
You don’t need to have an endless list of hiking gear for Mount Fuji — you will be clambering over rocks but this is a far cry from actual rock climbing — but you will need to be prepared. Here is the main equipment and clothes you’ll need.
Top tip: Here’s where you can find hiking gear in Tokyo.
Even in the middle of summer, it gets really cold near the top, especially at night, so you’ll need to bust out something like a down jacket and maybe even a woolly hat. We recommend taking at least three layers of clothing, plus some waterproofs in case it starts to rain. You’ll also need a hat and sunscreen to protect you from the sun.
Tip: Don’t buy a cheap thermal blanket from a convenience store — they’re basically tin foil and you won’t realize until you open it halfway up and have to watch a crinkled reflection of yourself shivering and crying in it.
Hiking or trekking shoes
Please, please, do not attempt the climb in sneakers or — God forbid — sandals. There is rough terrain along the trail, so you’ll need reliable, broken-in shoes that won’t give you blisters.
You’ll most likely be hiking in the dark at some points so a headlamp is essential. Also, it makes the whole climbing Fuji thing feel like a right old adventure. Don’t rely on your phone torch to do the job — you’ll need both hands to grab onto support when you inevitably slip at some point.
You will need a sturdy bag for your snacks, water, and backup layers of clothing. Around a 20L-30L backpack will do, but before you buy, remember you’ll be carrying it for more than eight hours, so make sure it’s comfortable, does not chafe, and is robust enough.
While these aren’t a necessity, hiking poles can help you brave the volcanic gravel found on the mountain and are especially useful if you tend to be a bit wobbly by nature. You can even purchase a souvenir walking stick (¥1,300) with an attached flag and stamp it at each unique station till the top.
Food, drink, and other items
Take something light with high calorific content. Snack bars or dried fruit work well, but you can also take the opportunity to stuff your face with chocolate and claim it’s purely for survival (either in a low, comforting mumble to yourself, or yelled panickily at a companion). Jokes aside, you can also invest in energy gels, salt tablets, and your very own rice ball.
Water, lots of it
We repeat: lots of water. Take at least 2 litres of water with you to start. There will be a couple of places to pick up more on the way, although the price is around ¥500 to ¥800 for a small bottle — as with snacks, the key is to find a balance between how much you’re willing to spend and how much you’re willing to carry. But staying hydrated is the top priority.
Cash and coins
There aren’t many places with credit card machines on the mountain, so you’ll need yen notes for food and water and plenty of 100-yen coins for the bathrooms. Although some do accept QR-code payments.
At the 5th and 6th stations, you might be asked to make a small ¥1,000 donation to cover the upkeep of the trails. This isn’t obligatory, but you will receive a cool token in return.
Restaurants, shops, and vending machines on Mount Fuji
There are a couple of shops on the way up and a small restaurant at the summit (as well as the highest vending machine in Japan, possibly the world), but everything is at least twice the regular price, and it’s safer to have some of your own supplies just in case.
Climbing Mount Fuji with a guide
If you’re not too sure about doing the hike on your own, a number of climbing tour packages are available through Willer Travel, a bus ticket and tour provider.
How to get to Mount Fuji
We have a whole list of options on how to get to Mount Fuji in another article — including fancy limited express trains — so check that out if you want an in-depth look. For those who want a quick bite, here’s an overview of your transport options.
Getting the bus to Fuji2 to 2.5 hours
About ¥3,800 each way
Traveling by bus is the most painless method as you can take a bus directly from Tokyo to the mountain. You can book bus tickets from Tokyo to Fuji here, and book your return trip online too. Note that buses to the Yoshida Trail’s 5th Station only operate in climbing season — confirm before you book. If you don’t have any luck with those sites, you can also make ticket reservations here.
Getting the train to Fuji2 to 3 hours
About ¥5,530 each way
Traveling by train is not the cheapest way to get to the 5th Station, unless you have a Japan Rail Pass. For all trains, you’ll either need to change at Kawaguchiko Station or Mt. Fuji Station for a bus.
From JR Shinjuku Station, the fastest option is the direct Limited Express Fuji Excursion service to Kawaguchiko Station, which takes 1.5 hours and costs ¥4,130. If you have a JR Pass, part of this journey (Shinjuku to Otsuki) is covered for free, but you’ll need to get a separate ticket to cover the remaining stations and the Limited Express fee.
Once you arrive at your chosen station, you’ll need to get a bus. You can purchase return bus tickets from Kawaguchiko Station or Mt. Fuji Station to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station for ¥2,800 here.
Driving to Fuji2 to 2.5 hours
Tolls roughly ¥3,000–¥5,000, depending on if you have an ETC card or not.
Along the Chuo Expressway, the tolls alone will cost around ¥3,000 (ETC), so factoring in the cost of renting a car, gas, and parking, driving is only worth considering if you have a group of four or five people.
And if you’d rather skip the crowds and climb a nearby mountain for a view of Mt. Fuji, check out our Alternatives to Climbing Mount Fuji guide.
This article was a collaborative effort across the Tokyo Cheapo team. The post was first published in 2015 by Cal Widdall but has since been updated by several editors. We also thank hikers Aimee Gardner and Victor (Frame of Travel) for providing insight into climbing Mount Fuji. Last updated in August 2023.