Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, and it became a world heritage site in 2013. It is the tallest mountain in Japan, with its peak stretching up to 3,776 meters high, and is one of the most iconic images of Japan, featured in lots of famous pieces of art. The mountain is only open to would-be mountain climbers during the months July and August, as weather conditions make it too difficult to climb the mountain during the rest of the year.
However, even during the climbing season, there are a few things you need to watch out for if you’re going to climb Fuji!
Be aware, even though most of Japan is very warm in the summer, once you’re up the mountain it will be cold! Very cold! You have to make sure to wrap up warmly. The further you get up the mountain, the colder it’s going to get. Even when you’re wearing a good few layers, it can be bitter, so make sure you’re prepared. As you make your way up the mountain you may even need to take a break in one of the toilets positioned at one of the huts where people can sleep if they’ve made reservations ahead of time. The toilets are heated, and a few minutes in the warmth can be a welcome break!
At the summit, there is a vending machine which sells hot drinks, and as it gets closer to dawn the hut at the top opens and you can get warm ramen noodles and hot drinks to warm you up as you wait for the sunrise.
There are two options to choose from when you are figuring out how to time your climb. Some people choose to stay in one of the huts half-way up the mountain, sleeping until it’s nearly dawn and then wake up early to complete the climb before the sun comes up, or, you can simply climb overnight and do it in one go.
When we climbed the mountain we did it all in one climb overnight. Most people start their climb at the 5th station, lots of the buses that come from Tokyo will stop there, and before climbing it’s worth it to make a stop in the store. You can pick up drinks, snacks for the climb, small canisters of oxygen, and also walking sticks for your climb. I definitely recommend picking up some oxygen.
Some people will find they suffer from the altitude as they get further up the mountain, the thinner air and lack of oxygen can give people headaches or dizziness so it’s better to be prepared! In our group we were fine but I did find that I felt really tired a few times until I took a breath or two of oxygen and then I really perked up! So even if you don’t suffer from altitude sickness the oxygen will make the climb easier for you!
When you begin your climb you may notice that you can buy walking sticks to help you with your climb. I definitely recommend getting one for a few reasons: first, it can be helpful for the climb, I especially found it useful on the way down as the path down was pretty steep with lots of small pebbles, and it really helped me keep my balance! Second, it makes a great souvenir. As you climb the mountain, there are lots of little huts at different altitudes, and in each hut, there is a guy who will burn a different stamp into the wood of your stick to mark your progress for a few hundred yen a time. Do make sure to get it done at the top of the mountain as well to mark your achievement!
Finally, one of the lesser known reasons to buy a stick is that they have a pair of bells hanging from them to scare away bears! That’s right, although they are rarely seen by climbers anymore, the reason the walking sticks have the bells hanging from them was originally so the noise would scare away any nearby bears. Better be safe than sorry!
The climb can be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it to do it once, and you get a real sense of achievement. If you time it so that you can see the sunrise it’s a spectacular view too! There’s an old saying “a wise man climbs Mount Fuji and a fool climbs it twice!” Don’t miss the chance to master Japan’s tallest peak if you’re in Japan during the summer time!
Click here for the mountain’s official website and up-to-date information.