Mt. Fuji (富士山) is an iconic landmark which draws many tourists traveling in Japan. As a symbol of Japan’s natural beauty, Fuji is often one aspect of Japan that tourists wish to conquer. Sadly, if you are visiting outside of the July to September period, which is the hiking season, Mt. Fuji is too dangerous to climb. So what options are there to get that Fuji fix?
Mt. Mitsutoge is not very well-known among non-Japanese hikers. It is not necessarily Mt. Mitsutoge itself that is well-known, but the stunning view of Mt. Fuji can be achieved from the peak.
Mt. Mitsutoge is climbable all year round, however, do be warned that snow and ice can make the climb very difficult or dangerous in the winter months, so please do be prepared. Outside of the winter months, Mitsutoge is a medium-level hike with no climbing involved. It takes you through pristine Japanese woodland with just a smattering of civilization.
The hike can be started from either end, with the trail running from Mitsutoge Station to Kawaguchiko Lake (河口湖). I would personally recommend starting at Mitsutoge early in the morning. From the station, you can follow signs to the trailhead, and even from there you should spot the top of Fuji peeping at you on a clear day.
Follow the road for around an hour, passing landmarks such as the Daruma Stone (達磨石) until you find the forest path. Keep ascending and you will find two mountain huts offering refreshment and even lodging for those that wish to see the sunrise over Mt. Fuji. To reach the absolute peak, continue for another ten minutes and take in the view. To finish the hike, simply descend towards Kawaguchi-ko, which will be signposted as Kawaguchi Lake, Mt. Tenjo (天上山) or the Kachi Kachi ropeway (カチカチ山ロープウェイ). From here, you can rest your feet for the last 30 minutes on the cable car or continue to the lake’s edge.
If actually stepping foot on Mt. Fuji is what you are looking for, then there are some parts of Fuji you can use your hiking boots on. One of these routes is the ancient route to the summit of Mt. Fuji from Sengen Shrine. These days, climbers tend to start their hike at the 5th station, already over halfway to the summit thanks to the roads built on the mountain. However, in the past, the hike was purely spiritual and religious hikers started from the Shinto Shrine: Sengen Jinja in Fujiyoshida (富士吉田). Here starts a much longer but purely leg powered climb to the summit. Obviously, from the 5th station upwards it is still not recommended to continue to the summit, but you can feel like you’ve been transported back in time on this route. Before cars, buses and roads were built, there were 10 stations from Sengen Jinja to the summit offering respite, food, and water to the weary pilgrims. Now, just the stations from 5 and up are still in full working order catering for tourists.
On this route, you can see the dilapidated and abandoned stations of years gone by. You may have to stop at the 5th station, however, a bus can sweep you home quickly to save the hike back down again. Few people these days can say they hiked from the very start of the trail. The trail is through beautiful dense forest, delicate flora and even the possibility of boars, bears, and deer.
Going to the Mt. Fuji area out of season shouldn’t stop you from getting your boots on and exploring. There are a number of benefits of going out of season, such as seeing Fuji capped in snow, surrounded by cherry blossoms, or flaming in red leaves, and mostly devoid of people. These hikes should do the trick to keep both legs and heart happy in the Mt. Fuji area.
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