Mt. Fuji is located in Shizuoka prefecture, and stands at a grandiose 3776m. It is arguably the most respected active volcano in Japan, and draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually. The view of Mt. Fuji is picturesque, but the view from its summit would be even more spectacular.
And hence our team of 5 like-minded gaijins set off on a quest to scale the highest peak in Japan, and walk along its lotus rim. But of course, we had to do some a priori research, mainly on schedule, clothing, food, transport, and the unpredictable altitude sickness, and make a list of “Packing Essentials” for climbing Mt. Fuji!
Climbing season for Mt. Fuji spans from July to September, the summer period in Japan. Though it is still possible to climb in late September through October, climbers have to be well aware of the risks and duly prepared for the trip. Otherwise, going in July-August is an absolute breeze! Being all pumped up about one of the 3 Holy Mountains, we decided to go the weekend after climbing season was officially announced to be open on 1st of July. And as luck had it, that weekend was also when the post office at the summit opened! The average time taken by others to reach the summit was 5-6 hours; we decided to do an overnight climb and reach the summit to catch the sunrise.
I was decked out in tennis shoes, 3 layers of clothes on top and 1 below, a knit cap, a headlamp for the ascent and sunglasses for the descent, and was armed with a backpack of trail food and a homemade bamboo hiking pole. I met 2 of our teammates in Shinjuku, and we boarded the Super Azusa at 12:30pm, switched to the incredibly adorable Fujisan Express, and reached the 5th station (2305m) at 4pm by bus. The other 2 members left way earlier in the morning to hike up from the bottom of Mt. Fuji at Yoshidaguchi, a good 2-3 hour hike to the 5th station where we would meet up.
It was such a surprise. There were tour buses, o-miyage stores, restaurants, ice cream stands, and even a horse stable; it was very crowded and 2 seconds can’t pass without seeing someone take a selfie or photobombing one. There were, however, zero trash disposal areas. We would have to carry trash with us up the mountain and back down. The 2 hobbits who rejoined the team finished their hike much faster than expected and were already waiting for a couple of hours. We got some postcards, signed and stamped them for posting at the summit. What an awesome postmark it would be! We then rested at a restaurant (bathrooms cost ￥100) and got used to the altitude, even though 2300m wasn’t high enough to actually feel anything, before setting off at 7ish pm.