Fuji season is upon us again! The official climbing season for Fujisan, as it is known locally, is in July and August. While it is possible to climb during other months, it is a much riskier proposition that should be attempted only by experienced, physically fit, and well prepared climbers. In season however, climbing Fujisan is a goal attainable by most anyone.
You should note that Fujisan is on the verge of attaining UNESCO World Heritage status, which is expected to increase the number of climbers, and place an additional strain on the environment.
Climbing Mount Fuji is a quintessential “Japan experience” for both residents and visitors. Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, 35th tallest in the world, and a volcano that last erupted in 1707. Its nearly perfect conical shape rises 3,776 m, or 12,388 ft, above vast amounts of Japan, dominating the skyline with its iconic shape all the way to Tokyo.
In many ways Mount Fuji IS Japan in the minds of of people world wide, like images of geisha, kimono, castles, and tea houses. Inside and out of Japan, the mountain has featured prominently in works of art like the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji , a series of traditional woodblock prints made by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.
The first foreigner to conquer the volcano was Sir Rutherford Alcock in September of 1868, a full 1205 years from the first Japanese climber, reportedly an unnamed monk who saw the summit in the year 663. Since then climbing the mountain has become VERY popular. During peak season you can expect to stand in line, not to begin the climb, but while you climb!
You will journey up the mountain a few steps behind and in front of, hundreds or thousands of other climbers making their own attempt. Since Sir Alcock’s successful attempt, the popularity of climbing Fuji has increased overseas as well, with many people adding the climb to their itineraries when visiting Japan. On any given day you can expect that about 30% of Fujisan’s climbers will be from overseas. So while standing in line all the way to the top might sound less than ideal, it is an experience in and of itself.
Instead of what one might expect from a mountain climbing expedition (e.g. individual effort, slogging your way to the summit in silence), you may find yourself commiserating, or celebrating, with climbers from all over the world who are focused for a brief moment on the same goal: conquering Fujisan! While not exactly a naturalist’s dream, it is a unique experience distinct to Japan.
If you are looking for something to do in the area besides climb Fujisan, you are in luck! The area actually has plenty of really interesting things to see and do. At Fuji Safari Park, for example, you can get your Japan jungle experience on and see lions and tigers up close. For more information, see Mt. Fuji Is Not Just A Mountain To Be Climbed!
There are many routes to the top of Fujisan. From Tokyo, the most common route starts from the Kawaguchi 5th station. This route is the most convenient to access from Tokyo, whether by car or public transportation, but it is harder than other routes. Five routes are commonly used: Kawaguchi, Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya, and Yoshida routes.
If starting from Tokyo, the Kawaguchi Route is closest to you.
If coming from Nagoya or Osaka, the Shiribushi Route is closest.
The Yoshida and Subashiri routes meet and join the Kawaguchi route further up the mountain, from the 6th station on the Yoshida route, and the 8th on the Subashiri route. This funnel effect towards the top is what gets people lost on the way down. Remember to learn the kanji for your route or you could be in for a long trip home; unless you want to climb back up the mountain…
There are plenty of great reference sites available if you are interested in making the trek up Mount Fuji. I will link to a few at the bottom of this article to get you started. The main thing you need to know about climbing Fujisan is that you CAN do it. It is not THAT hard, but you should respect it because you can be seriously injured or killed. Mount Fuji is the 35th highest mountain in the world, and as with any alpine environment, you should take care and take sensible precautions.
You may be interested in reading this article on How NOT to climb Fuji!
This, alternatively, is the Fujiyoshida City Guide to Climbing Fuji for 2012: Mt. Fuji: The Iconic Journey. A bit dated, but largely accurate.