Take your Japan escape to new heights: Your guide to hiking Mount Fuji

2019-01-21 15:00 - Saara Mowlana
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Fuji mountain reflection on water with sunrise lan

Here's all you need to know about trekking Japan's highest peak... (Photo: iStock)

Looking to take your Japan escape to new heights?

Tired of keeping to the ground while moseying around and need a little bit more adventure on your vacation?

Well, look no further than the epic chance to brave a route trailing up Japan's highest, at 3 776 metres, and most prominent peak: Mount Fuji.

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But before you can put boot to gravel, here are a few things you ought to note:

When to climb: 'Tis the season

Yes, like with all mountain ranges and places - you need to account for when the best time to hike is. You've got to pay close attention to the weather, climate and season of the region. 

The trails and mountain facilities are also only open during its 'official climbing season' which falls between early July to mid September.

During this period the mountain is usually free of snow - allowing for a safer climb, the weather is relatively mild, access by public transportation is easy, and the mountain huts are operating.

If you don't have much hiking experience, this period is advised to help you tackle the mountain during its best and safest seasonal time.

The specific dates depend on the year and trail. In recent years they have been set as follows: 

  • Yoshida Trail: 1 July - 10 September
  • Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomiya Trails: 10 July - 10 September 

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Admission Fee:

There is an admission fee required at a collection station at each trailhead. The fee is ¥1 000 p/p (or about R127 @ R0.13/¥ - Japanese yen).

The fee covers some of the expenditures that arise from the huge number of climbers visiting the mountain each summer.

It also goes toward the protection of the environment and measures to guarantee the safety of climbers. 

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The trails:

Mount Fuji is divided into a decked out ten stations.

The first station sits at the foot of the mountain while the the tenth station is perched at the summit. Paved roads go as far as the fifth station halfway up the mountain.

There are four fifth stations on different sides of the mountain, from where most people start their ascent, these are:

  • Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station (Yamanashi Prefecture) - Yoshida Trail - Altitude: about 2 300 metres - Ascent: 5 - 7 hours - Descent: 3 - 5 hours 
  • Subashiri 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture) - Subashiri Trail - Altitude: about 2 000 metres - Ascent: 5 - 8 hours - Descent: 3 - 5 hours
  • Gotemba 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture) - Gotemba Trail - Altitude: about 1 400 metres  - Ascent: 7 - 10 hours - Descent: 3 - 6 hours  
  • Fujinomiya 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture) - Fujinomiya Trail - Altitude: about 2 400 metres - Ascent: 4 - 7 hours - Descent: 2 - 4 hours  

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What to pack:

Trekking Japan's highest mountain is no small feat, so you ought to pack accordingly. These are some items imperative to your bold task at hand, so be sure to pack in some:

  • Hiking boots - The terrain up Mount Fuji varies as you scale up its incline, however, for the most part it is pretty uneven and rocky. To avoid the blistering humiliation of ending up bottoms up with a twisted ankle, it's best to invest in a pair of sturdy hiking boots and, no, your fresh Jordans or other sneakers won't kick it this time - you need something with a little bit more grit, grip and edge.
  • Warm clothing - While the base of Mount Fuji is seasonably warm during the ideal hiking season, by the time you reach station seven, summer will feel like a long forgotten reality and a myth of a yesteryear. The farther up you climb, the cooler it gets and it gets rather cold at the peak - particularly at night and in the early hours of the morning. Pack in a layer or two or three extra that could help you fend off the cold - this will also allow you to pack on and off heat depending on which station you're at. Heck, packing in a heat pack or two works too if necessary. 
  • Flashlights - If you're hiking in the early morning or towards the night - it's always best and safest to bring along a flashlight. This will not only keep your journey metaphorically lit, as you get to see the routes in a whole new light, but will also be able to help you safely navigate each step on the trek up and down. If you're worried about it inhibiting your ability to climb your best, many tend to opt for flashlight helmets, hats and headbands - allowing them to have free hands for climbing and gripping where needed.

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  • Water - Staying hydrated is key to having a comfortable hike, the recommended standard amount is two litres, but you can pack more should you be able and willing to carry the extra weight. It's pivotal to note that you won't find trashcans dotted along the routes, so it is best to carry reusable plastic bottles with you or to hold on to regular plastic bottles until you can dispose of them post-hike.
  • Snacks - This will, naturally, differ from person to person. Pack in some trailmix, or jerky, or energy bars - basically whatever snack can easily give you an energy boost should you need it.
  • A walking stick (optional) - If need be, or if it will complete your hiker aesthetic, you can bring along a walking stick to assist you along the route. If you're not keen to purchase one and find a solid enough stick lying around that could work - go forth and onward with it in tow. 
  • Compressed oxygen (optional) - If you're known to suffer from altitude sickness or get short of breath quickly, compressed oxygen can really help to alleviate some of  the dizziness or shortness of breath - you can find cans of these available at the fifth station along the route.
  • CashWhile it might seem like a good idea to leave cash behind, there are stalls at several stations that sell water and canned oxygen. You'll also need it for the hiking admission fee required at each trailhead collection station as well as to use the toilets along the route. Having some cash on you will also come in handy should you need to seek emergency shelter from one of the mountain huts.

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Other things to note:

  • The summit secrets allow you to pray at a shrine, eat some ramen and send postcards - As glossed on earlier, the summit has a range of exciting things embellishing its trails. You'll find Kasushi and Okumiya shrines, restaurants, gift shops, huts and more. You'll also find, interestingly enough, an operational post office wherefrom you can send off some travel-envy-worthy postcards to your loved ones and friends and even frenemies back home.
  • Don't pick plants
  • Don't take home any stones
  • Don't camp on the mountain

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