There are four trails to choose from when climbing Mt. Fuji. Each trail offers something different and provides a unique experience of Mt. Fuji. When I climbed Mt. Fuji, I did the Fujinomiya Trail. I haven’t done any other trail (because I’m not a fool), so I can’t compare it with any other trail. This post is about what it’s like climbing the Fujinomiya Trail. It’s part of my three-part series on climbing Mt. Fuji. For the other two posts, click here:
Quick intro to all the trails
In addition to the Fujinomiya Trial, there are three other trails on Mt. Fuji: Yoshida, Subashiri, and Gotemba trails. The Yoshida Trail starts in Yamanashi, and the other three start in Shizuoka. Each trail has a different ascent time, distance, level of steepness, and number of mountain huts.
My husband and I chose the Fujinomiya trail because it was the closest to us from Nagoya. It is also the shortest distance; though this also means it is the steepest. The Yoshida Trail is the busiest with over 172,000 people climbing. The Fujinomiya Trail, in contrast, has around 70,000 a year. Read more about each trail here.
About the Fujinomiya Trail
The Fujinomiya trail is on the southeast side of Mt. Fuji and comes from Shizuoka prefecture. It was very nice coming to the trail head, as we transferred trains and buses at Fuji Station on the Tokaido Honsen. As you would expect, Fuji city has wonderful views of Mt. Fuji.
The Fujinomiya Trail has the highest trail head at 2,400 metres, an estimated ascent time of 5 hours, and descent of 3 hours. The trail is quite steep and rocky the whole way up. This trail has sleeping areas in all the mountain huts and first aid station in the 8th station. There are few toilets
The start of the trail has a small gift shop and cafe. When we went, there were a few groups of people hanging around the parking lot. Some people were getting ready to climb, and also some people come to the 5th station without hiking any further.
We walked around for a few minutes and bought a walking stick in the gift shop. I thought a walking stick might be just okay, but it turned out to be extremely useful. I definitely recommend buying a walking stick. You can even have it stamped at each station (for a fee) as a souvenir.
Getting started on the Fujinomiya Trail
My husband and I came to the start of the Fujinomiya Trail from Nagoya. It was a few years ago, and I don’t remember the exact detail about trains, and I’m having a hard time finding it online… but we went to Fuji Station, changed to the Minobu Line until Fujinomiya Station, then took a bus to the Fujinomiya Trail 5th Station. Here is a detailed guide on how to get to the start of Fujinomiya Trail head.
The Fujinomiya Trail is the shortest trail. It is generally steep and rocky all the way to the top. It is quite an interesting feeling to be standing at the bottom of a volcano, looking straight up the side. The scent and descent trails are the same, and the top was very crowded both going up and coming down.
A scary thing happened halfway up the mountain. We suddenly heard several large booms, like explosions. Everybody around us stopped cold. Explosion sounds are not something you want to hear when you on the side of an active volcano. After a few more booms and some chatter, everyone seemed to agree it was the Japanese Self-Defence Force doing some sort of drills. Mt. Fuji did not erupt that day.
Huts and rest areas
The Fujinomiya Trail has rest areas at every station. You can buy water and a few snacks, but it will be a little expensive. This is why I recommend bringing more than 2L of water and plenty of snacks. With both the decreasing oxygen and the hike itself, you won’t want to be getting dehydrated and hungry. Although you can often see the next station up the mountain, it is challenging to get there.
We stayed at one of the huts higher up the mountain. It was either the 9th or the 9.5 station. To stay overnight in the huts, you need to make a reservation before. Here is a list of the huts for all the trails.
The huts are not beautiful, and they’re not very comfortable. But you only stay for a few hours, and after hiking for so long, it would feel good to lay down just about anywhere, I imagine. The “rooms” are little alcoves where people sleep head-to-toe with a bunch of strangers. There is only a curtain separating you from the other alcoves outside, so you will have the lovely sound of snores and the aroma of sweaty hiking shoes.
Sleeping in the hut is where altitude sickness really hit me. It went away after being outside for a few hours, but my husband suffered a little longer than I did. We did bring oxygen, which helped a little.
How long does it take?
When we hiked, we left the fifth station at 1:00 on a Saturday. The weather was cool and the clouds were clearing. Other websites say the Fujinomiya Trail takes 5 hours hours. Whenever I see an estimated hiking time, I take it as a challenge. We finally arrived at our rest hut around 6 or 7 o’clock. It was just starting to get dark, and I think we made pretty good time.
The hike is challenging; there’s no sugar-coating it. It gets steep and rocky with quite big steps at some points. And the rocks are loose and easy to fall. They’re also jagged, and will destroy your shoes. I was very thankful for my walking stick. As you get higher, you can really feel the thinning air. It makes the work even harder, but I didn’t actually feel sick until the middle of the night when i was trying to sleep.
Hiking during the night
After a restless night and sick-feeling morning, we started the final descent around 4:00 in the morning. I needed to get out of the hut and get some fresh air. From our sleep hut, it we expected it to take about an hour.
When we came outside, I was surprised to see the trail was very packed with people. It was a solid street of hikers and headlamps. There were so many people, the last stretch of hike was very slow. Moving slowly only added to the cold. I was so cold, I thought my toes and fingers were going to freeze and turn black. A few times my husband wanted to sit down and rest, but I wouldn’t let him. I was afraid he would fall asleep and die.
You absolutely must have warm clothes and a headlamp if you are planning on hiking through the night.
We finally made it to the top before sunrise. It was such a relief to have level ground. We had about 30 minutes to kill before the sunrise, which felt like a very long time. It was nice to rest. Eventually the sky started to lighten, and the crowd started to “ooh” and “ahh.” My poor husband was too sick to even care about the sunrise, so I watched it by myself. It was cool, but crowds have a way of making things less cool.
Exploring the summit
After everyone watched the sunrise, the crowd scattered to explore the summit. After this point, all the four trails meet on the top, so this is the common area. There’s another short hike up to the absolute highest point of the mountain and highest point in Japan. The extra little hike seemed like a turn off, but you can’t really come this far and no go further.
It’s possible to walk all the way around the crater, which is the Ohachimeguri Trail. My favourite part of the crater walk was when we could see the shadow of Mt. Fuji on the other side of the sunset:
It takes about an hour to walk around the crater, and there are a few food places, a shrine, and a post office. After exploring everything and resting in the sun for a while, it was finally time to start the descent.
Getting down the Fujinomiya Trail
As you would expect, getting down takes a fraction of the time it takes to climb the mountain. We left around mid-morning back down the Fujinomiya Trail. I promptly slipped and fell on my bum. had I not had a big backpack to cushion my fall, I would have hurt my back on the rocks behind me. Thank you, backpack. The walking stick helps a lot going downhill, too.
Going down took us about three hours. It was around noon when we arrived. When we got to the bottom, my shoes had holes straight through the bottom. I could stick my fingers through the heals. My feet were aching from pounding down on volcanic rock in the wrong hiking shoes (I was wearing Converse).
My shoes were trashed, and my legs were shaking, but we made it. We had climbed Mt. Fuji. From bottom to top and back to the bottom in 24 hours. I was proud of myself, to say the least. It was truly a remarkable experience, even with all the challenges and discomfort. We were very fortunate to have had beautiful weather.
My recommendations for the Fujinomiya Trail
I thoroughly enjoyed the Fujinomiya Trail. Again, I don’t have anything to compare it with, though. However, I enjoyed the scenery and ruggedness of the mountain. The little huts were many and like mini oases, and sitting was the sweetest pleasure.
I would recommend the Fujinomiya Trail for anyone who is confident in the athletic abilities and wants to stay away from crowded trails; though it does get more crowded at the top. I also recommend a walking stick and getting it stamped at each station. I would also recommend it for anyone coming from the south side of Mt. Fuji.
This was only my recommendation and experience the Fujinomiya Trail. For a complete guide to climbing Mt. Fuji from any trail, plus how to prepare, check out this post. You can also download this preparation checklist to help get you ready for your Mt. Fuji adventure.