Let me stop you right here, if you want the TL;DR version it’s coming.
For a few years, we lived in Okinawa, Japan and since I was 14, climbing a mountain was on my bucket list. Being the overachiever that I am, I set my sights on the tallest mountain in Japan which I began to regret halfway up. After countless of hours of research, I booked everything we would need (huts, hotels, buses, etc) and I started training my fat butt for the climb. So here is my ultimate guide for climbing Mt. Fuji!
Mt. Fuji climbing season is generally from June to early September. If you are planning on hiking Fuji, make sure to take this into account. If it is not climbing season, the huts and stations will not be open. We had started the hike on September 2nd, 2018 and descended on September 3rd. The climbing season was going to end after the next weekend so the Yoshida trail (the most hiked trail) was extremely packed. Also at this time, it is said to be close to the start of the rainy season so most of our hike was in the rain. It did not help that we were unaware of a strong typhoon slowly making it’s way towards us at the time. My suggestion for climbing Mt Fuji would be to go sometime in June before it gets too hot, crowded, and you have a chance at a drier hike!
To take a tour or go solo?
To save on money, we chose to take the hike solo and book everything ourselves. Occasionally on the hike, we would end up merging with a tour just because that was how it worked out and they generally went at a slower pace.
Getting to Mt. Fuji 5th Station
Mt. Fuji has many different trails, but being beginner hikers and on a time constraint we chose to do the Yoshida Trail. This trail is the most hiked and begins at the 5th Station of Mt. Fuji. While you can get there by renting a car, being a part of a tour, and possibly train, we chose to take a straight shot bus from Tokyo. This bus only operates during the summer, and I was only able to reserve our tickets I want to say 6 weeks before (I’m a little fuzzy on the details). We opted for the earliest bus, wanting to start early so we could rest more later at the 8th station. Unsure of when we would finish descending, I had reserved the 10 am bus back to Shinjuku Station. Click here for the site that allows you to reserve your tickets!
Hut Reservations on Mt Fuji
Although we lived in Okinawa, we were unable to speak Japanese fluently. So luckily, I found a site that would make the reservation for you. I HIGHLY suggest making a reservation as soon as you can as there is no guarantee that there will be space available when you arrive and you don’t want to be stuck out in the cold. They charge $10 to make the reservation for you, and make sure to bring enough yen to pay for your hut once you arrive. We stopped at the Taikaishan hut at the 8th station which was at 10,170ft around 3 pm. After checking in, we were shown our sleeping spots and instructed to keep our voices down. We dried off, went straight to sleep, and were woken up when dinner was served. We had a warm rice, miso soup, grilled fish, and other snacks provided. Once finished, we went back to sleeping curled up next to strangers and woke up at 11:30 pm to leave for the rest of the hike. Click here for the company that will make hut reservations for you!
Toilets on Mt. Fuji
For me, nothing is worse than a public restroom in rural Philippines, so the toilets on Mt. Fuji were not that bad in my opinion. Keep in mind there is no running water really, so some toilets just vacuum up your business and send it elsewhere. It is no five star resort, so expect some unpleasant smells and pack hand sanitizer. BRING 100 YEN COINS. I REPEAT BRING SO MANY YEN COINS. The way Mt. Fuji is able to pay the staff that helps maintain the trails is through donations and charging you for the toilets. It is an honor system, so don’t be that asshole who doesn’t pay before using the toilet. Most toilets were 100 Yen, and some 200 Yen, and no you will not be able to just find a bush to pee behind because most of the Yoshida trail is volcanic rock.
We pulled out yen bills at a local family mart ATM, there is an english option so it was easy to do. We reserved the amount we knew we needed for our climbing sticks, huts, and a few other expenses. The rest we went to the closest arcade and broke our 5,000 Yen bills into 100 Yen coins. We felt bad for draining the machines but we didn’t know where else to go and we waited until the night before our hike.
Mt. Fuji Sticks
Before starting the climb you can purchase a wooden climbing stick for 1,500 Yen ($15). These are great souvenirs of your accomplishment, and at every station you can have it branded. Each station will charge you from 100 – 300 Yen to brand your stick, so make sure to to take that into account when prepping for your hike. If I were to climb Mt. Fuji again, I would purchase the smaller stick (about a foot long) and bring regular trekking poles. While the Mt. Fuji hiking stick gave me a little motivation to keep going when things got rough I think real trekking poles would have made the hike a little easier for me, especially when navigating through the rocky parts.
To make things easier for you, click here for a printable version of my gear list! If you’re like me, you have no real hiking gear so I had a lot to purchase. There are companies you can rent gear from, but I enjoy camping and hiking so I went ahead with purchasing all of my stuff. I found a 30L backpack from DaKine at a thrift store that served me well, and I did tons of research into my gear before purchasing. I made sure to find the right boots for my hobbit feet, and broke them in well before our hike. Do not skimp on any of your gear! The price tags of some of the stuff you will need might be steep but trust me, it’s worth it. I decided to save money by buying a cheaper pair of hiking pants that claimed to be waterproof. Unfortunately, while it could wick away the misty clouds my pants did not stand up to the heavy rain we had encountered for half of our hike up and I was freezing. Also, next time I would either buy waterproof gloves or bring a back up pair because my hands were so cold I could barely take any photos, which breaks my heart. My dumb-ass also had left my second pair of hiking socks in my dryer, and I wish I had bit the bullet and bought another pair before the hike. Worried about altitude sickness, we went to the Mont Bell store in Tokyo the day before our hike and purchased oxygen cans (sounds stupid but they did help me), as well as these gel electrolyte snacks, power bars, hand warmers, and some good ol’ calorie mates. Calorie Mates feel like chalk, but they will provide you with the sustenance you need when hiking (I suggest the Banana Nut flavor).
The Climb Itself
We began the hike at the 5th station around 9am I believe and reached our hut at the 8th station by 3pm. The Yoshida trail was for the most part, just one long uphill walk on some volcanic rock. Some portions required climbing over boulders some of which are sharp, which is why I suggest gloves. While I did some training for two months before our trip, it wasn’t enough for my out of shape butt. I had to take the hike very slowly because of my bad knee and let’s be honest here, terrible cardio because I hate running. Stations 5 – 8 were not terrible for us, in fact that was my favorite part. It was cloudy that day, and as a child I had always wanted to be in the clouds so I enjoyed the mist and moments of clarity that revealed such a beautiful view. When we left our hut at the 8th station around 11:30pm, is when things started to take a turn for us. Somewhere in between the 8th station and the top of Mt. Fuji (10th station) the altitude started to take it’s toll on me so I needed help from my oxygen cans. Not only that, but the trail was insanely packed with everyone wanting to reach the top for the sunrise. For the rest of the hike we were all shuffling one foot in front of the other, just a huge line of people making their way to the top. Unable to pass anyone, we embraced the suck and got in line! To make the situation worse, it began down pouring and the wind had picked up. The terrain became very rocky and slippery, but there were guides with flashlights to help you stay on the trail. After hours of misery, we reached the final steps and the Tori gate to the summit around 4am. I was almost so miserable I couldn’t bask in the glory of my accomplishment. We shoved into a hut to escape the rain and get our final stamp. We hiked and waited for a not so great sunrise if I’m being honest. We were so cold we didn’t want to spend any longer on the mountain, so we began our descent at 4:45am. I wish I had two trekking poles because the descent down is kind of fun but also just as dangerous. The trek is volcanic rock, so it is extremely easy to slip and fall when coming down. At some points it was a little fun, as we pretended like we were skiing down a rock mountain. However, my husband hit a rock with his foot and lost a toe nail so that was the end of that. The rain finally let up, we saw some beautiful views on the way down, and we reached the 5th station around 7:30-8am. We grabbed warm tonkatsu, rice, and coffee at the cafe at the 5th station and waited for our bus to arrive at 10am.
Badda-bing, badd-boom just like that an item from my bucket list was crossed off! It was a strenuous and difficult hike for me, but I’d do it again. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would pack extra gloves and socks, buy better pants, and schedule my hike so I saw the sunset instead of climbing for the sunrise. Questions, comments, concerns? Give me a holler!