Mt. Fuji: How to Climb Japan’s Most Famous Mountain

Cal Widdall

Gazing down on Japan from atop its symbolic mountain is high on the to-do list for most visitors and residents alike, but at 3,766 m it’s not the effortless stroll that many elderly Japanese people make it seem. So if climbing Fuji is your summer to-do, here’s what you’ll need to know.

Ways To Do It

climbing fuji
Photo by Incanus Japan used under CC

Trails

It’s possible to take four different trails to the summit of Mt Fuji, as well as one that takes an ambling circular route around the fifth stations for anybody that enjoys punishing themselves without any payoff.

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 sun rises, making it perfect for overnight hikes. It’s also the oldest route, having been used used by pilgrims to climb the sacred mountain over 500 years ago.


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Sleep

An important question you should ask yourself 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. If the path is relatively quiet and you set a quick pace it’s possible to get to the top in a few hours, but for most people it’ll take between 4-8 hours (depending not only on your own speed, but how crowded it is).

If that 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 20-40 other people. Those pictures you’ve seen of overcrowded prisons where it’s difficult to actually see the floor for all the bodies huddled together on it? That’ll be you. Still, if you’ll need a prolonged rest, prison huddle is the way to go.

Mt. Fuji
Photo by Cal

To book a hut along the way, we’ve provided a few useful sites:

Do Mt. Fuji in a day on this guided hike. You'll ascend from the base to the 5th station, enjoying awesome views along the way. click here for details
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  • For hut and toilet info, click here. (Note that many of the reservation sites are in Japanese though.)
  • For a list (in English) of huts, telephone numbers (for reservation), station and altitude, click here.
  • Goraikoukan is a lodge fairly close to the summit—a good bet for predicting your arrival to the mountain top for sunrise. One night’s stay with two meals can be yours for 8,500 yen or just one night’s stay will set you back 6,500 yen. 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.
Mt. Fuji
Photo by Cal

Timing

Trails open between early July and mid-September. In 2016 the following dates have been set as follows:

Yoshida Trail: 1 July – 10 September

Fujinomiya, Gotemba and Subashiri Trails: 10 July – 10 September

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.



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 much quieter. Otherwise check the predicted time online and set off about 5-10 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

Mt. Fuji
Photo by Cal

Warm clothes

Even in the middle of summer, it gets really cold near the top, especially at night. Take at least three layers 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 will do if you don’t want the extra expenditure, but a headlamp will give you an extra free hand to carry things or grab onto support when you inevitably slip at some point. Also, it makes the whole thing feel like a right old adventure.



Snacks

Take something light with a high calorific content, Calorie Mate 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 panic-stricken at a companion). 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.

Water

Lots of it. I idiotically only took 500 ml 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 yen 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.

Cash

As well as any food and water you choose to buy while on the trip, you’ll also be asked to make a 1,000 yen donation to cover the upkeep of the trails.

A small backpack

Or be that guy with the bum bag/fanny pack if you insist.

How To Get There

climbing fuji
Photo by Azlan DuPree used under CC

Train

From 4,200 yen return; 2-3hrs – 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 yen from Shinjuku Station or free for pass holders), then the Fujikyu Railway to Kawakuchiko (1,140 yen), at which point you’ll need to transfer to a bus which will take you to the 5th station (1,500 yen one-way, 2,000 yen return).

Bus

2,700 yen each way; 2-2.5hrs – recommended for most people

Travelling by bus is the most painless method, as you won’t have to worry about transferring. Buy your ticket at the Keio office on Shinjuku Station’s west side, then take one bus directly to the Yoshida Trail’s fifth station.

Car

Tolls 2,500 yen; 2-2.5hrs – recommended for small groups

Along the Chuo Expressway the tolls alone will cost around 2,500 yen, 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.

What To Expect

Mt. Fuji
Photo by Cal

Crowds

If you go at a ‘quiet time’, i.e. a regular weekday, it’ll 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—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.

Scenery

The view from the top is nothing short of majestic, clouds gathering on mountains thousands of feet below appearing like waves crashing against rocks, but the hike up is nothing special. Mt Fuji is a volcano so you’ll be staring at a desolate black landscape for the majority of the journey.

Possible altitude sickness

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, or buy small tanks of oxygen.

Mt. Fuji
Photo by Cal

Have you climbed Mt Fuji? If you have we’d appreciate comments with any advice you have for people planning to make the journey.

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 Mt.Fuji guide. 

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9 Responses to “Mt. 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

      Glad we could help. Good luck on your climb!

  2. Greg Ellis

    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

      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

        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

    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

    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

    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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