Mount Fuji Climbing Guide
Mt. Fuji is the soul of Japan. It is its premiere emblem for tourists and residents alike. It has been used to encourage nationalism, surrender, and religious transcendence and is a central unifying symbol of the Japanese nation. Much of this is because it is a sacred site for Japan’s oldest religion, Shintoism. Despite all this symbolism, however, Mt Fuji is also the highest mountain in Japan – an active volcano sitting atop three tectonic plates!
Only 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Tokyo, the 3,776-meter snow-capped mountain towers over the gorgeous Fuji five lakes and surrounds. While it’s a spectacular sight to admire from afar, it’s even more rewarding to take in the World Heritage Site on foot. Staying in Hakone can help you see both Mt Fuji and experience an onsen.
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A challenging trek no doubt, full of switchbacks and wide steps, but this spiritual landmark should be on any adventurer’s bucket list. Not just for mountaineers, in fact over 300,000 hikers summit Mt Fuji every year, including beginners. With many flocking to climb Mount Fuji in time for sunrise, said to be an auspicious experience. It’s particularly satisfying climbing Mt. Fuji as a woman, as this has only been allowed since 1868!
Why is Mt Fuji important to Japanese people?
Shintoism is an East Asian religion based on polytheism, or worship of many deities. The oldest form of Shintoism is Folk Shinto, which worships deities through small shrines placed in nature. In Japan, Shinto deities are called kami. Mt Fuji has been a central site for Shinto worship since the seventh century. Princess Konohanasakuya is the kami of Mt. Fuji. The symbol of Princess Konohanasakuya is the cherry blossom.
Princess Konohanasakuya has a particular shrine dedicated to her worship. The shrines to the Shinto goddess are called Sengen and there are over 1,000 of her Sengen shrines in Japan. The main Sengen shrines, however, are at the base and the summit of Mt. Fuji.
There are some wonderful small shrines dedicated to this intricate Eastern religion that you will spy along the trails and in the forests around the sacred mountain. The image below is a nature Sengen Fuji shrine.
Every year pilgrims, known as Fujikoh, have been coming since at least the Edo period to worship the kami on Mt Fuji and witness the sunrise from the summit. The natural beauty and enormous cultural significance of Mt. Fuji was recognized in its listing in 2013 as a World Heritage Site. And now it’s your turn to make the pilgrimage to the summit of Mt Fuji!
What’s at the top? The Summit of Mt. Fuji
The summit of Mt. Fuji is called O-hachi-meguri (hachi means ‘bowl’). The rim of the crater is 600 meters in diameter and the crater is 200 meters deep. The temperature here in summer will be between 5 and 8 degrees Celcius.
There are eight peaks at the summit and there is a trail between them. This is my favorite part of Mt Fuji because this trail is believed to trace the shape of the lotus flower seated Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha. (It also provides phenomenal 360-degree views across Japan if the day is clear).
In 90 minutes you can trace the figure of the Buddha between the 8 peaks on this 4-kilometer sacred path. On the trails map below you can see the outline of the trail – it looks a lot like the circumference of a big crater! On a more mundane level, you can also send a postcard home from the post office on the trail which is the highest point on Mt. Fuji and therefore the highest point of Japan.
When to go?
The official climbing season is between July and September. At this time of year, you will have the warmest temperatures with all amenities open for business. However, even in summer weather conditions change rapidly on the mountain with temperatures on the summit being between five and eight degrees Celsius.
Trails can be closed due to poor weather conditions, so be prepared and check the forecast before you set out. Regardless of the forecast, however, it is still possible for a bright and sunny day to suddenly change as strong winds and rain engulf the mountain. Be prepared for every kind of weather!
It’s worth mentioning that trails are most crowded between July 20 to the end of August when the weather is optimum and it is school holidays. Also try to avoid the Obon holiday period, from Aug 13-15 to sidestep heavy crowds. August 13-17 is the long holiday week and the busiest days of the year for climbing Mt. Fuji.
Sometimes the crowds mean that you need to wait as if in a traffic jam before the trail clears a little and you can continue your hike. The problem with crowds is not so much that there are many people on the trail – it’s that the huts along the route become very packed.
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One Day or Two?
Whilst it’s possible to hike Mt Fuji in one day if you start early and have good mobility, many hikers opt for a two-day journey. This means staying in the mountain huts for several hours or overnight, before starting early the next day to catch the sunrise.
If this option suits you better, remember that you will need to pre-book a mountain hut in advance. If you’re a less experienced hiker, this might be the best option for you to rest your legs and acclimatize to the change in altitude.
There is a tour from Tokyo that arrives at a mountain hut at 6 p.m. and leaves there at 2 a.m and reaches the summit in time for sunrise. The tour includes overnight accommodation in the mountain hut and so it is a hassle-free way of ensuring you can climb Mt. Fuji in peak season for an overnight stay. See the Tours section below for the best Mt. Fuji climb tours or check out this particular tour ” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>here.
There are more huts on the most popular trails but sleeping in one during peak season can be difficult due to the sheer number of people with the same idea! You will usually get a very narrow space for a sleeping bag that is provided as part of the cost. If you’re climbing the mountain without a tour, just remember to book as early as possible.
Goraiko is a Japanese word that means sunrise at Mt. Fuji! It is a significant spiritual moment for followers of the Shinto religion. Japanese people (along with hoards of foreign tourists) climb Mt. Fuji through the night to watch Goraiko from the summit.
Which trail should you choose?
There are four different trails to choose from when deciding to hike Mt Fuji, they differ in both difficulty and estimated hiking time. They also differ in the number of amenities and, hence, hikers, that you’ll encounter.
The mountain has 10 rest stations staggered along the way and most trails begin at their respective fifth station. There are four 5th stations, one on each side of the mountain and so each trail generally begins at its 5th station.
The mountain huts are located at stations 7 and 8. While the ascent distance and time required are different for each trail, the descent is generally between 2 to 6 hours.
The map below shows you the four main trails, the starting point, and the location of each of the huts along the way.
The closest trail to Tokyo is the Yoshida Trail, on the northern side of Mt. Fuji. The Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine marks the entrance to this trail.
This is the most popular and best-equipped trail with facilities all along the way, making it perfect for all fitness levels. If you’re planning on sleeping at the mountain huts, this is the best trail for you. The ascent will take anywhere from 5 to 7 hours, depending on how many breaks you take and if you stay overnight.
For a more challenging or quieter climb, you might want to consider trying one of these other routes.
This is the second most popular trail up to the peak of Mt Fuji. Many opt for this route for a day trip because it is the shortest one – not necessarily the easiest – it’s also the steepest. If you’re up for the challenge, this route takes up to 4 to 6 hours to ascend.
While most trails begin at station 5, this trail starts a little lower and provides for more varied views as the walk begins in the forest. It connects with the Yoshida trail at station 8, so you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to meet other hikers and purchase provisions if you need it. Another good option for beginners, the ascent is approximately 5 to 7 hours.
For longer trails such as this, you’ll need to book a night in one of the mountain huts.
If you aren’t too concerned about the time it takes and would prefer a little more solitude, this trail would be perfect for you. This is the longest and least crowded trail and can take anywhere from 7 to 10 hours to get to the top. Inexperienced hikers should avoid this route.
How to get there
If you’re coming from Tokyo, the most convenient way to reach Mt Fuji is by bus. This direct service runs from Shinjuku Station, direct to 5th station, where most trails begin. The bus takes around two and a half hours from Tokyo.
If you’re taking the bullet train from other destinations, during peak season there are regular shuttle buses that run from nearby train stations between 6:30 am to 8 pm. When you are returning to Tokyo, buses typically run between 8:30 am to 8:30 pm.
If you are going to reach the summit and return on the same day, you need to ensure you arrive in time to make the last train or bus.
Other things to note
A contribution of 1000 yen per person is requested at the trailhead of each trail at dedicated collection stations.
Given you will start this hike at 2300m elevation, it’s a good idea to take precautions on this hike. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness including dizziness, headaches, labored breathing, and nausea.
If you’ve never been to such a high altitude before it’s a good idea to have a chat with your doctor beforehand to check you’re in good health for the climb.
The best way to avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness is to take plenty of rest at each of the stations along the way and sleep at one of the mountain huts overnight to acclimatize. The longer you stay at each altitude, the more you become acclimatized, so stopping along the route is important if you begin to feel the effects of altitude.
Having the right equipment for any hike is the key difference between a fun and not so fun experience. Make sure you have the correct gear required before you set out to enable the best experience possible. The weather is extremely changeable and wind, rain, snow, and storms are possible during your hike.
- First of all, you will need proper hiking shoes due to the uneven and rocky terrain (sneakers/running shoes are not a good idea.)
- When you start the walk, you’ll be feeling the heat so definitely bring your hat, but as you start to increase in altitude, you’ll begin to feel the wrath of the cold mountain air.
- Layers are a good idea to combat winds as well as a windproof jacket, gloves, and neck buff. A good quality jacket will see you through most of the conditions and you will be extremely glad of it if it gets cold, wet, and windy.
- Other essentials include a headlamp, cash, and at least two liters of water. The headlamp is indispensable if you’ll be walking at night.
- You can also buy a walking stick along the way, which can be stamped as you climb, making for a pretty unique souvenir.
Provisions along the way
Mountain huts along the trail (mostly on the Yoshida trail) are well-stocked with water and snacks. (You can even buy oxygen in canisters!)
If you are staying the night at one of these huts, note that there is no running water, and restrooms are pretty basic. Also, the use of the toilets along the trail incur a small fee, so make sure you bring a few coins with you (200 yen per visit).
The costs of using or staying in the Mountain Huts are approximately 7,000 yen per person to stay the night and have two meals. It is about 2,000 yen per person cheaper without meals.
Best Tours of Mt Fuji
Best Tours for Guided Climb of Mt. Fuji
One of the very few guided climbing tours of Mt. Fuji. Not having to worry about getting to the right hut, succeeding in booking a mountain hut in peak season, and getting to the summit for sunrise are all guaranteed with this tour!
Best Helicopter Tours of Mt. Fuji
If climbing Mount Fuji is not something you want or can do, or if you simply can’t fit two days into your schedule, there are still ways to experience this magnificent sight for the first time. One way is a helicopter ride.
For 100 minutes you get spectacular views of Tokyo on your way to and from Mt. Fuji. There’s 24-hour free cancellation if it looks like the weather will not be clear.
Best Chartered Flight over Mt. Fuji
Astonishingly reasonably priced – this hi-tech Quest Kodiak 100 aircraft private fight or shared tour includes hotel transfers and meals and beverages. The 60-minute flight over Mt. Fuji leaves from Honda airport. Check out the video on the tour site!
Frequently Asked Questions about Climbing Mt Fuji
Is climbing Mt Fuji hard?
Climbing the mountain involves a few steep sections with uneven ground and so a sturdy pair of hiking boots is important.
The air is, of course, thinner the higher up the mountain you hike, and this makes the climb a little more strenuous than a hike at lower altitudes.
If the weather is clear and you are in reasonable shape, then this is not a difficult hike. Choose a day that is clear with little wind and it will be a much easier climb!
Is climbing Mt. Fuji dangerous?
Absolutely not – if, like thousands of people every year, you climb the mountain during the official open season.
If you climb it during the peak of winter, it can be dangerous (see below).
What about climbing Mt. Fuji at night?
During summer, many people hike Mt. Fuji through the night to arrive at the summit in time for sunrise. It can get very crowded and a headlamp is essential.
Or climbing Mt Fuji in winter?
Unfortunately, no. There is a risk of avalanches in winter and the conditions are dangerous with ice, snow and strong winds on the mountain.
When is the Mt Fuji climbing season 2020?
In recent years the Yoshida Trail has been open from July 1 until September 10. The other three trails have not opened until July 10 but then also remained open until September 10.
Some of the huts on the mountain will be open for a week or two on either side of the official climbing season.
How tall is Mt Fuji?
Further Links and Information
- Get Your Guide Mt. Fuji travel activities are here
- When in Japan, you must visit Yamanashi Prefecture, an easy day trip from Tokyo. See my Walking Around Yamanashi Prefecture – Breathtaking Lakes and Ancient Shrines
- Visiting Myanmar? Check out my Myanmar itineraries, history, culture, accommodation and tour guides here
- Visiting Indonesia? Check out my Indonesia itineraries, history, culture, accommodation and tour guides here
- More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation, and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page
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