Mount Fuji: How to Climb Japan’s Most Famous Mountain

Cal Widdall

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’ll need to know.

climbing fuji mount fuji japan
Photo by Hajime Nakano used under CC

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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 fifth stations, for anybody who enjoys punishing themselves without much payoff.

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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 most accessible, and faces the sunrise, making it perfect for overnight hikes. It’s also the oldest route, having been used used by pilgrims to climb the sacred mountain for over 500 years.



June 27, 2019 update: Due to rock slides, the actual summit cannot currently be reached via the Yoshida or Subashiri trails. While both trails will open as scheduled, the final sections, above the Goraikoukan hut, will be closed while repairs take place. It is unclear when these will be complete. Check the official Climbing Mount Fuji website for more details.
climbing mount fuji
Photo by Hajime Nakano used under CC

Sleeping on Mount Fuji

An important question you should ask yourself before making any other plans for climbing Fuji-san is: “Can I do this without a long lie-down part of the way up?” As previously mentioned, it’s not the casual ramble that the apparently gentle slopes suggest when viewed from a distance.

How long does it take to climb Mount Fuji?

If the path is relatively quiet and you set a quick pace, it’s possible to get to the top of Fuji in a few hours, but for most people it’ll take between four and eight hours to get to the summit, which depends not only on your own speed, but also on how crowded it is.

Is there overnight accommodation on Mount Fuji?

If eight hours sounds excessive, it’s possible to book an overnight stay in one of the lodges part of the way up the Yoshida Trail, but be aware that you’ll be crammed in a small room with 20 to 40 other people. The inside of a tin of sardines? That’ll be you. Still, if you’ll need a prolonged rest, the huddle is the way to go.

Photo by Cal

Lodges, huts and toilets on Mount Fuji

For general hut and toilet info, this is the place to go. Note that many of the reservation sites are in Japanese. You can also print out:

How to Hike Up and Down The Peak read more
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Pro tip: Goraikoukan is a lodge fairly close to the summit—a good bet for ensuring your arrival to the mountain top in time for sunrise. One night’s stay with two meals can be yours for ¥8,500, or just one night’s stay will set you back ¥6,500. 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, though.

For accommodation near Mount Fuji, for the night(s) before or after your climb, see what your options are.


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Mt. Fuji
Photo by Cal

When to climb Mount Fuji

Trails are typically open between early July and mid-September. For 2019, the following dates for Mount Fuji’s climbing season have been announced:

  • Yoshida Trail: 1 July – 10 September, with the descent open until the morning of 11 September
  • Fujinomiya, Gotemba and Subashiri Trails: 10 July – 10 September
  • Ohachi-meguri Trail (around the rim of the crater): 10 July – 10 September

Pro tip: before making travel plans, it’s a good idea to double-check that the trails will definitely be open on the days you want to do the hike. Just in case.

When is the best time to climb Fuji-san?

The school holidays, from mid-July to the end of August, constitute peak season, and the most crowded time to go is during Obon, in mid-August. Weekends are also much busier than weekdays.

What time of day is best?

If you don’t care about watching the sunset/sunrise, you’re in luck—plan your hike to arrive somewhere in between and the way will be quieter.



Otherwise, check the predicted times and set off approximinately five to ten hours before then (go towards the higher end of the scale if you consider yourself unfit or you’re going at the weekend, lower end if you’re an athlete/half-man half-gazelle), remembering that you can relax triumphantly at the top if you’re early, but it can ruin the trip if you’re late. An added benefit of sleeping on the way up is the ability to more accurately predict when you’ll reach the top.

What you’ll need to climb Mount Fuji

Photo by skyseeker used under CC

Warm clothes

Even in the middle of summer, it gets really cold near the top, especially at night. Take at least three layers of clothing, and some waterproofs in case it starts to rain. Also, 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.

A headlamp

A regular torch (flashlight) will do if you don’t want the extra expenditure, but a headlamp will give you a free hand to carry things or grab onto support when you inevitably slip at some point. Also, it makes the whole climbing Fuji thing feel like a right old adventure.

Snacks

Take something light with a high calorific content. Calorie Mate or dried fruit snacks 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).

Water, lots of it

We repeat: lots of water. I idiotically only took 500ml and ended up getting a severe headache due to dehydration. Again, there will be a couple of places to pick up more on the way, but it’s up 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.

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.

Cash

As well as any food and water you choose to buy while on the trip, you might be asked to make a small [perhaps price amount=1000] donation to cover the upkeep of the trails.

A small backpack

Or be that person with the bum bag/fanny pack if you insist. But you will need some sort of bag for your snacks, water and backup layers of clothing. Before you buy, remember you’ll be carrying it for more than five hours, so make sure it’s comfortable, does not chafe, and is robust enough.

What to expect when you climb Mount Fuji

Crowds

If you go at a “quiet time”, i.e. a regular weekday, climbing Fuji will still be a crowded hike. If you go at the weekend during peak season, then understand that you’re not going to be climbing, hiking, or even walking. Instead, you’ll be queuing, uphill and slowly, for a very long time.

Also keep in mind that the hike from Station 5 to 8 will be far quicker than from Station 8 to the summit. It gets pretty grueling if you’re continuously expecting to reach the top soon.

Some cool scenery

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 not spectacular. Mt Fuji is a volcano, so you’ll be staring at a desolate black landscape for the majority of the journey.

Possible altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is unpleasant. Some people experience dizziness, headaches and nausea during the ascent. To combat this, take a break for a while and allow your body to adjust to the ascent, or buy small tanks of oxygen.

Climbing Mount Fuji with a guide

If you’re not too sure about doing the hike on your own, you can book an overnight hike with an experienced guide, which includes an overnight stop, the chance to see the iconic Fuji sunrise, and a much-needed soak in a hot spring afterwards (as well as a souvenir towel and a certificate of completion).

Mt. Fuji
Photo by Cal

How to get to Mount Fuji

Here’s a quick overview of your transport options.

Getting to Fuji by train

Recommended for Japan Rail Pass holders

Since the JR Fuji Pass was discontinued, traveling by train is no longer the cheapest way to get to the fifth station, unless you have a Japan Rail Pass. Take the Chuo Line to Otsuki (¥1,320 from Shinjuku Station or free for JR Pass holders), then the Fujikyu Railway to Kawaguchiko (¥1,140), at which point you’ll need to transfer to a bus which will take you to the 5th station (¥1,540 one-way, ¥2,100 return).

Price range: From ¥4,200 return
Duration: 2 to 3 hours

The bus to Fuji

Recommended for most people

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 fifth 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.

Price range: About ¥2,700 each way
Duration: 2 to 2.5 hours

Driving to Fuji by car

Recommended for small groups

Along the Chuo Expressway, the tolls alone will cost around ¥3,000, so factoring in the cost of renting a car and gas, driving is only worth it if you have a group of four or five people.

Price range: Tolls roughly ¥3,000¥3,700
Duration: 2 to 2.5 hours

Pro tip: Take a look at our comprehensive guide on transport to Mount Fuji for more information.

Additional resources on climbing Mount Fuji

You might find these handy:

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.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This post was first published in 2015. Last updated in April, 2019. 

Written by:
Filed under: Lifestyle, Outdoors
Tags: Climbing, Fuji, Hiking, Holidays, Mount Fuji, Mountains, Nature, Outdoors, Scenery, Summer, Tourists, Weekend-getaway
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9 Responses to “Mount Fuji: How to Climb Japan’s Most Famous Mountain”

  1. Thank you for the information. Hiking Mt. Fuji is a personal goal of mine so this came in handy.

    • Adriana Mazza
      Adriana Mazza June 16, 2015

      Glad we could help. Good luck on your climb!

  2. Greg Ellis June 16, 2015

    The Subashiri trail is a little bit longer than the most popular Yoshida trail, but this trail has the highest tree line of any of the Fuji trails. In other words, on a hot sunny day, you’ll have some tree cover longer on this trail than on other trails, as well as slightly more varying scenery to look at. This trail joins up with the most popular Yoshida trail around the 8th station or so, so it ends up being the same.

    A big +1 for bringing enough food and water. Don’t rely on picking up extra supplies at the huts along the way. At least on the Subashiri trail, there are separate trails for up and down that are quite a distance apart for much of the way (a half mile, a mile, it was hard to judge distance), and the huts were all on the up trail. And if you’re climbing on a less crowded day and time, you may find some huts closed when you go by.

    There’s a shrine and a post office at the summit, but if you’re planning on sending friends and family post cards from Fuji, know that they’re on the opposite side of the crater rim from where you will reach the summit on the Yoshida or Subashiri trails. The official high point of the mountain is on the far rim as well. Allow yourself at least an hour to get around and back (more, probably, if it’s a weekend with big crowds).

    Other useful information:
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6901.html

    • CheapoGreg June 16, 2015

      Hi Greg, Thanks for the really useful info. By the way, would you mind deleting that second link? It seems to be some site about hacking facebook – maybe the owners forgot to renew their domain.

      • Greg Ellis June 17, 2015

        Sorry, I posted a couple of links I still had from my trip in 2011 (and I thought I checked them first), but that one must be dead now.

  3. Nate Williams June 27, 2015

    Thanks for this! My wife and I were a little concerned we might have trouble making it up in one non-stop hike, and I was afraid it would be a big hassle to book with one of the mountain huts. That Willer Travel deal worked perfectly for us and I had travel credit card rewards points so it only cost ¥9,100 for both of us! I wouldn’t have seen that deal if you hadn’t mentioned it!

  4. トムサ July 17, 2015

    Take lots of money and just a little bit of water- save the weight for calorie dense food. I know the name of the site is Tokyo Cheapo, but yen is MUCH lighter than water. I have not found myself wanting water on this climb this way. Take an extra pair of socks in a plastic bag too. Wet feet will give you blisters or just a miserable time in general. You can climb through two or three differing weather systems on this hike. Wear shoes with good ankle support, and make sure you break in your shoes first if you buy new ones. Most of all, just take your time and enjoy it. It’s not a race. Enjoy the climb. Enjoy the differing views, weather (hearing thunder from a storm that’s underneath you while you’re in the sun is really cool- true story) types of rock as you go up, etc. This is a once in a lifetime thing for most people. Enjoy it.

  5. I’m Aida from Malaysia. I climbed Mount Fuji on 4/8/2015. It was a good climb and suddenly one guy went out of trail and drop the rock and nearly hit me. Luckily will Alllah (God) Help, i was alerted and have time to escape. Our climb started at 7pm and reach the peak around 3.45am. Managed to see the sunrise and i love climbing up. Make sure you have enough water because no water station or water seller on the way down. I hate climbing down because of the sand and rock surface. We didn’t book a hut and just continue hiking and stop for toilet and food. I salute the Japanese who is older and still climbing.. Gambate

  6. Alex V June 28, 2016

    Fuji sucks. Save your money and fly to Oregon and hike Mt Hood. It’s a technical climb to the top so you can’t walk up, but you can hike the Timberline trail round the mountain—amazing views and nature experience.

    Or, you can walk up Fuji in season and experience what it’s like to be in the longest line on earth on the side of a mountain, more likely than not see nothing once you’ve reached the top, wade through shitloads of garbage, retards, and numbskulls and then come back down and swear you’ll never do it again. A once in a lifetime experience!


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