Mt. Fuji has been a subject of many artworks across centuries. Staring at its iconic profile, one has to wonder, how does it feel to stand on top of Japan’s highest point?
While the idea seems very alluring, for the most part of the year, climbing Mt. Fuji’s summit is almost next to impossible. But come summertime (early July to early September), when the temperature rises to tolerable, and its snow-capped summit slowly melts, amateurs get a chance to cross out one their major bucket list item in Japan.
Mt. Fuji is nestled between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefecture. From Tokyo, it’s about 100 kilometers southwest. Hikers can choose from a number of different routes going to its summit, but generally, there are four known trailheads : Yoshida, Subashiri, Fujinomiya and Gotemba. Yoshida trail is the most accessible from central Tokyo, which also tends to be the most crowded especially during the peak of summer.
As a Yokohama resident, Subashiri is the nearest trailhead, so it was our route of choice.
Mt. Fuji Sights and Scenes
The hike starts at Subashiri 5th station, already 2000 meters above sea level. Hikers usually spend an hour or two to acclimatize to the thinner air before proceeding. Sometimes overlooked, but it helps prevent altitude sickness, which could really spoil a major hike like this.
The view from the start of the trail looks pretty similar to most other mountains, with tall trees covering most of the path. Looking at the color of the rocks and soil, one can notice their volcanic nature.
Subashiri trail, just like the others, has 10 stations in total, with the last one at Mt. Fuji’s summit. Wooden staffs are sold on the fifth station which doubles as a trekking pole as well as a souvenir. For every station, hikers can get them stamped, like a unique badge for every milestone.
Although some may find the stamps unnecessary, I would still recommend getting a staff if you forgot to bring a trekking pole. Mt. Fuji is no easy climb, and its slopes can really tax on you.
The views change dramatically as you get near and beyond the tree line. And though your pace would get slower as you reach higher elevation, it makes it a bit more rewarding to see the majestic scenery around you. Also, ascending too quickly can cause altitude sickness.
On a clear day, Yamanakako, one the five lakes around Mt. Fuji, is visible on the east.
The ascent from the fifth station to the summit via Subashiri trail takes about six to eight hours,depending on one’s conditioning. Bullet climbing, or ascending straight without night’s rest, is possible but is highly discouraged. Hikers usually finish the day’s climb at the 8th station, where they rest and recharge.
Starting early in the day is advantageous. You can reach the 8th station before it gets dark, and you have plenty of time to recover. You also have extended time to linger and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings.
Temperature drops fast and frigid as night time comes. It can drop below zero even on a hot summer day. Although it is advised to get an accommodation for the night, some may opt not to (which we did). But make sure to bring some extra warm clothing and insulation.
For us, we rested at the 8th station together with other climbers. And it was a tough cold night. Once you stopped moving, it’s when the cold will strike you.
At this point, the trails are now merging which leads to more traffic. While the summit is no too far away, it may take another two hours to reach the top. Hikers, usually, ascend around 3 AM or even earlier. We resumed at around 2 am just to get some warmth to our bodies again.
Reaching the summit is an overwhelming experience. The sunrise, even better. If the timing is right, you’ll see the sun rise over the vast sea of clouds. Personally, it was one of the best cloud inversion scenery I have seen. You can take breather and enjoy the warmth of the sun on your cheeks.
At the top, you’ll find some more hiking paths to explore. The diameter is about 600 meters long and it takes one more hour to circle Mt. Fuji’s summit. There are more interesting sights to see, like the volcano’s crater and Kengamine Peak, the highest point in Japan.
At 3.7 kilometers above sea level, it’s a different world at Mt. Fuji’s peak. And the strangeness of it makes this experience a very memorable one.
How to Get to Mt. Fuji Subashiri Trailhead
The Subashiri trail (5th station) is located on the east side of Mt. Fuji. The easiest access to it is via Gotemba.
- From Shinjuku, take the Odakyu line going to Shin-Matsuda station (fare : 720 yen). There is already a bus that goes directly to Subashiri 5th station but it is less frequent than in Gotemba.
- Transfer to JR Gotemba line going to Gotemba Station (fare : 500 yen).
- Just outside Gotemba station is the bus center that goes to Subashiri trailhead ().
- Mt Fuji Climbing official website
Describing the beauty of Mt. Fuji in words is quite a tall order, so check this gallery for the rest of the photos during our climb.
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