Day 3: Mt Fuji

Tuesday, 7 July 2014

After four, three week long trips to Japan, today is finally the day we'll be able to climb Mount Fuji!

Although we have wanted to do it before, we'd were not able to as the climbing season is only open during July, August and September due to the  dangerous snowy conditions at other times.

The most traditional way to climb Mt. Fuji is to start late in the afternoon/at night and climb up to one of the mountain huts. There it's recommended that you rest and acclimatise before waking up before dawn to reach the summit for sunrise.

We decided against this approach as Kate is not a night person (though would be great for the early morning part), and we didn't want to mess up our sleeping patterns too much.

Instead our plan was to climb up and down during the day.

Fuji-Q Highland themepark and Mt. Fuji
In theory we had left things flexible in Tokyo so we could climb on a clear day, but with our other plans somewhat locked in we could really only do it today.

Not that this mattered as the variable conditions made it impossible to predict even the following day.

Anyway this morning we awoke to a clear day in Tokyo, and the Mt. Fuji forecast only predicted one or two millimetres of rain, not too bad.

We skipped hotel breakfast today, but made sure to bring the many snacks we had prepared last night.

You could ride horses for some reason
I was expecting the trains to be reasonably quiet, but Shinjuku station was really quite busy considering the early hour. Thanks to our preparations we were able to find and board our bus without incident before departure at 6:40.

After a long trip, we arrived at the Kawaguchiko 5th station (2300m) at 09:05. 

We'd actually climbed down to the 3rd station from here last year- so everything looked familiar. Oh and the weather was still nice and clear!

Before starting our walk we used the facilities and looked in some of the buildings. We were hoping find a bin for some of the snack packets we'd finished on the bus but were informed that there are no bins on Mt Fuji!

With that determined we headed off to the trailhead but before we could start we got mobbed by an English speaking guide. She asked us where we were from and asked if we wanted to pay the voluntary 1,000 yen climbing fee, which we did. They also insisted that we buy portable toilets (500 yen) and stressed that there were nothing available after the 8th station. We declined.

Not far after their table we started on our walk!

It was pretty sunny so after about half an hour we stopped to apply sunscreen. We witnessed the efficacy of the cream as Kate unfortunately missed her legs and got burnt pretty badly!

In the vicinity of the 6th station
There was a large amount of people around but as it was a weekday early in the season it was by no means crowded. I think the most people in our vicinity at any one time was around 3-4.

We reached the 6th station faster than I was expecting and had a very quick rest before continuing on.

The climb up involved lots of ramps, which were fairly wide, as well as narrower stairs, which could obviously cause bottlenecks during really busy times.

The accent was relentless and I actually struggled quite a lot more than I was expecting. I felt really low on energy and every step was a challenge.

Kate on the other hand was strolling up as if it were nothing.

Apart from being unfit after a semester of gymless university/work, I was also feeling the effects of the high altitude, which only grew worse the higher we climbed. Using my asthma puffer helped as did listening to music to blot out the pain.

Despite my slowness we made pretty good progress and made it to the 7th and then the 8th station at 11:40. At each station we stopped for a short rest and ate some of our snacks.

We were very glad to skip the portable toilet as there were heaps of huts, which seemed to increase in number the higher we climbed.

Having a rest at the 8th station
Each hut had toilets for use, which, while expensive (200yen), were much better than the alternate (I'm not even sure where you would use it).

Also, the 8th station huts continued all the way up to the 9th station, and were all open.

One thing you would want to make sure to bring with you though is plenty of water!

I had bought three 500ml bottles of Aquarius Zero, but even this much was not enough and I had to buy another bottle from one of the huts.

The price of this bottle was even more outrageous than what you would pay from a vending machine or a supermarket in Australia. Five hundred yen it was!

That's over $5, so advise people to make sure to stock up on <150yen bottles in Tokyo.

It depends on how much you drink though; I think Kate got by without finishing her second bottle.

Unfortunately, while it was clear at the start, it became cloudy before long so we not able to see any view for much of the time.

At one point we did emerge from the clouds, and were able to look over them- which was great!

Soon after that though we once again climbed back into thick white fog.

As we rose it steadily became colder, and we started to see some small amounts of snow around.

Towards the top it became extremely windy and very cold. We both had all our jackets on at that point and Kate let me borrow some gloves. I was very glad I bought both my fleece jacket (for warmth) and raincoat (for wind protection).
They did become a bit annoying later though as we only used them for Mt. Fuji.

Eventually we reached the 9th station and then we started seeing signs counting down the metres until the top. I think we saw 800m, then 400m.

At around this point a few people passed us going down, and one group's Guide told Kate to turn around as it was really windy and there was a typhoon coming.

This worried Kate quite a bit, and we nearly did turn around, but the wind died down a little and I pointed out the typhoon was really sill quite a few days away.

Not long after we finally reached some torii gates at the entrance to the summit!


We took some photos here and the continued all the way up to some buildings at the edge of the crater. Here we stopped to have a rest and eat the rest of our food.

Unfortunately the fog had lingered and there was no view to enjoy. In fact it was thick enough that we couldn't see more than one or two hundred metres ahead.

Nevertheless we climbed up right to the very edge of the crater and were able to peer down into it a little bit.

As the wind was very intense up there we did not stay too long.

Originally we were considering continuing all the way around the rim of the mountain, which would take us up to the highest peak. However due to the conditions we decided against this today.

Instead we had another little rest and soon began our decent back down.

Usually there is a separate path for the return trip, but as it was still very early in the season both paths were merged at the top of the mountain.

Going down was alright during this section, though a little hard on the knees.

A bit further down the downwards path was open so we headed down that way.

Although the accent was a mixture of stairs and solid ramps the decent was endless switchback ramps made up of loose rocks.

The rocks were porous (due to volcanic gases during their formation) and not too heavy so we could sort of slide through the top layer.

Although this was a little fun at first it soon became tiring and we grew very weary of the endless ramps.

We were glad that we had our hiking boots as the rocks climbing up were sharp, and they protected us from these loose ones coming down.

Endless slopes back down
Without them our feet would have been pretty bruised- though it was also a pain carrying them around during the rest of the trip.

We were hoping that the down trip would be a lot quicker than the climb up, but unfortunately this was not the case and it took forever.

I think the actual distance was longer due to the ramps.

Also, when we got to the bottom we joined back with the ascending path and climbed back up a little to get to the 5th station.

We knew we were going to regret that bit on the way up.

Anyway, eventually we made it to end at around 5pm and quickly went to check when the next bus was coming. The buses are not that frequent but we were in luck with the next one only 15 minutes away!

I was too exhausted to move so I just sat at the bus stop while Kate went to have a look at the shops and buy some delicious Mt. Fuji Cookies.

Delicious Mt. Fuji Cookies
Oh, while I waiting I also got a drink from a vending machine.

I was so tired that I had a lot of trouble realising it was out of 10yen coins, which meant I had to put in an amount that would not require any returned.

The bus was just a normal city to the nearby Kawaguchiko (Fuji 5 lakes) town as there were no more highway buses to Shinjuku.

I was glad to have lined up early as the bus was very full and quite a few people had to stand for the entire hour long journey down the mountain.

Interestingly we saw a few of the people who had caught the bus with us this morning.

For some reason we were planning to transfer to the train at Kawaguchiko and dutifully bought tickets from the machine upon arrival.

After about ten minutes we realised that everyone from the first bus had quickly transferred to a highway bus to Shinjuku that costs less then and is over one hour quicker than the train! The train didn't leave for quite a while either.

We were resigned to our long journey until I decided to try and explain the situation to the train station attendant and get a refund. This was scary, but successful! Horary!

The next bus left quite soon and got us back at 8pm instead of 9pm.

Kate slept on the way back, and I looked out the window. One interesting thing I saw was that road construction crews lit some fire sticks that they threw on the road to use as markers.

Upon arriving back at the Richmond Hotel in Mejiro we showered and got ready for bed. As I was a bit hungry I went down the hotel's ‘Gusto’ restaurant to order a plate of chips. The restaurant was very crowded, even though it was so late, but the chips were delicious and cheap- so I was happy.

After the chips we both went straight to bed.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Tokyo and we had a visit to the Tsukuba Space Centre booked.

Continue reading: Day 4 - Tsukuba, JAXA and Ikebukuro


  1. Hi Eric,
    your trip journal to Japan is well organised and described details very well!
    I'm taking my boyfriend(we both are from QLD) to introduce my country Japan in December and looking for where to stay and where to go. I'm actually taking notes from your blog and preparing for our trip.
    looking forward to read new episode!


    1. Hi Saho!

      Thank you very much for your kind words and comments, sorry for my late reply but I've been away recently and havn't been able to log in!

      Wow, I'm really flattered that my blog has been useful for you considering you're a native!

      Hopefully I'll be able to write some more soon, sadly I've been so busy with uni I haven't found the time...

      Anyway, thank you very much again for your message :-)