Mt. Fuji is truly one of the highlights of Japan. It’s visually stunning just from afar and is humbling if you get the chance to experience it up close. However, climbing Mt. Fuji is no joke. If you are thinking about climbing Mt. Fuji, you need to do your homework before attempting the ascent. Thankfully, I’ve already done the homework for you and put together this complete Mt. Fuji climbing guide.
When I was living in Shizuoka prefecture many years ago, I could see Mt. Fuji every day the weather was clear. I count myself very fortunate to have lived in a place where I could marvel at the perfectly pointed mountain. It was not until several years later that I made the journey to the summit though.
This post is part of my three-part series on climbing Mt. Fuji. Click here to read the other two posts:
- My experience on the Fujinomiya Trail
- Dos and Don’ts of climbing Mt. Fuji (coming soon)
Also, in case you weren’t aware–Mt. Fuji is an active volcano. So that’s something fun to think about when you are 3776 metres above sea level and looking into a rocky crater.
When to climb Mt. Fuji
Mt. Fuji is open for climbing during the months of early/mid-July until late-August orearly/mid September. These are the only two decent months to climb when the weather is not too cold and there is ~hopefully~ not snow on the ground. Any other time of the year is simply too dangerous to climb. You could freeze or be literally blown off the mountain by strong winds. The huts are also closed outside of these two months, so if you do run into trouble there will be no one to help you. Just don’t do it.
Another thing to keep in mind: people die every year climbing Mt. Fuji, even during the climbing months. Main causes of death are hypothermia, heart attacks, or falling. Climb at your own risk.
There are four trails leading up Mt. Fuji and one trail that goes around the rim of the crater. The four trails are the Yoshida Trail, Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya Trail. The Yoshida trail comes from Yamanashi prefecture, and the other three come from Shizuoka. The trails all have different things to offer, so check which one suits you best. My husband and I did the Fujinomiya trail. The trails all start at the 5th station.
How do people climb Mt. Fuji?
Mt. Fuji is big. You should give yourself a full two days to do the entire hike. There are no rules on how to climb, but there seems to be a preferred way; and that is to climb during the night. Here are three possible ways to climb Mt. Fuji:
Option 1 One way to climb Mt. Fuji is start around noon at the trail head, climb for a few hours to a mountain hut (which you should make a reservation beforehand), sleep a few hours, start hiking again around 3 or 4 in the morning, arrive at the top to watch the sunrise, walk around the crater and rest for a couple hours, then begin the descent in the late morning.
As you can imagine, this is exhausting and challenging. In my experience, the altitude is the real clincher. (I don’t have the best luck with high altitudes. Sigh.) This route also means you need to prepare for hiking during the night.
Option 2 Another way to climb is to start climbing in the evening from the trail head. This will also mean you hike through the night and arrive for the sunrise. This method means you can’t sleep in a hut. I like to sleep, so I went with the other option.
Option 3 Another option is to start climbing very early in the morning so you arrive at the top in the afternoon. Then you can walk around the top and make it back to the bottom all in the same day. Of course, you miss out on the sunrise this way, but it’s a more compact way to see the mountain. You should be physically fit enough for an entire day of intense hiking if you chose this option.
What to bring: clothes
It’s imperative that you prepare enough and the right supplies for climbing Mt. Fuji. While summers in Japan are uncomfortably hot and humid, the top of Mt. Fuji will feel like the winter. If you are lucky enough to climb on a sunny and windless day, it will be like a nice winter day. As strange as it may sound, you need to prepare winter clothes for the top and the night time. Here are the proper clothes you need to bring:
- Sturdy hiking boots
- Warm socks plus an extra pair or two
- Long underwear for the night
- Warm, windproof, waterproof pants
- Long undershirt
- Layers of warm shirts
- Warm, windproof, waterproof jacket
- Warm, windproof, waterproof gloves
- Toque (beanie, for all you non-Canadians)
This might already seem like overkill, but trust me. You climb at your own risk if you don’t prepare all these things. I didn’t prepare enough when I climbed, and I’m just lucky I had good weather; otherwise I would have had a very unpleasant climb and maybe even needed to turn around. It’s so cold on top, I honestly thought my toes and fingers were going to get frostbite and fall off.
What to bring: food and water
Now that you’ve got all your warm fuzzy clothes ready, you need to think about keeping yourself hydrated and energized. Keep in mind Mt. Fuji is an extreme landscape. Many places are inaccessible by car, so everything get’s taken there by foot; at least the Fujinomiya trail is like that. Food and water are expensive, and places to get it are few and far between. With that in mind, bring lots of food and water with you:
- At least 2L of water. IMPORTANT! I brought 2L thinking it would be enough. It wasn’t. I suggest 4L.
- Food and snacks: granola bars, energy bars, trail mix, onigiri, sports drinks, etc.
What to bring: for the hike
The hike itself is intense, even for athletic folks who work out regularly. Besides the proper clothes, here are a few other things you will need:
- Comfortable backpack
- Chapstick with SPF in it
- Cap or hat
- Headlamp (if hiking at night)
- Heat packs (if hiking at night)
- Money and lots of Y100 coins
BONUS: buy a wooden walking stick at the start of the trail. It is very useful, and you can get it burn-stamped at each station as a memento. My husband and I still have ours to remind us of our experience.
What to bring: staying in a hut
Hiking overnight usually means staying in a mountain hut. These places are far from glamorous. However, they are warm, and you will only be here for a few hours. You can also have a warm meal after a long day of hiking and stock up on food and water if you didn’t bring enough. There are toilets, but you will need to pay to use them. I recommend bring your own TP, just in case. Here are a few extra things I recommend for having a comfortable hut stay:
- Eye mask
- Oxygen tank*
*A note on oxygen tanks: My husband and I bought a small oxygen tank to be on the safe side. I used it once in the morning when I felt sick from the altitude. My husband used it a few more times in the morning. It’s entirely possible to do the climb without oxygen, and it’s also impossible to know how your own body will react to the thin air. Please do your own research on whether or not you need to bring your own oxygen.
Sleeping in a mountain hut
If you decide to spend a few hours in the mountain hut, here are a few pointers to make it more pleasant. The mountain huts are spaced out throughout the climb. You start at the 5th Station, and the summit is 10th Station, and there are a few stations between those on the way up. The stations are a place to buy a water, quick snack, and some also have bunks for sleeping.
The huts don’t give you private rooms. There little bunk/alcove thingys where they told us several people sleep head-to-toe together. When we went, it was overcrowded, so I think there were seven people in a space meant for four or five. Don’t plan to change into pajamas or anything, just peel off some layers. And don’t plan to have a solid, comfortable, restful sleep. I had a terrible sleep, but I suppose it was better than not sleeping. You also need to pay to use the toilets at the huts.
How to deal with the altitude
Mt. Fuji is 3776 metres above sea level. That’s high, and you will feel the lack of oxygen. I already talked about my experience needing oxygen. To minimize the effects of the altitude, it’s recommended to go slowly up the mountain. I don’t think it’s possible to go fast. Anyway, it’s advised to stop and rest anytime you feel too tired, sick, or lightheaded.
My worst moment of altitude sickness was during the night. I felt terrible, and I was constantly reaching over and checking my husband’s pulse to make sure he was still alive. If you reach this same point as me, you might want to go outside and get some fresh air. It helped a little. And maybe take a swig of oxygen if you have it.
Other things that you can’t control
One thing that will either make or break your experience is the weather. Bad weather is even worse on Mt. Fuji, and trails are closed when the weather is bad. Bad weather means too rainy, too cloudy, too windy, and even snowy. The rain, cold, wind, and poor visibility make trails impassable and increase risk of something terrible happening. You could catch hypothermia or get blown down the rocky side.
While it is very much out of your hands, try and plan a hike when the weather will be sunny and wind will be weak. This means having some flexibility to change your dates if the weather is not cooperating. My husband and I decided to climb only two days before. The weather was going to be good, so we took the chance. And I’m happy to say the weather was absolutely perfect and we couldn’t have asked for anything better. My sincere appreciation to Fuji-san.
Don’t forget to enjoy the experience!
Yes, climbing Mt. Fuji is challenging. Yes, it might almost break you. Yes, the weather might not be favourable. And yes, you need to seriously prepare for it. But if everything goes well, it may one of the best experiences you’ve ever had. It’s right up there for me.
Enjoy the hike. Feel your muscles burning. Examine the volcanic rock. Watch the sunrise. Walk around the crater. Look out over the cities and the lakes and the ocean below you. You will get a completely unique view of Japan and the world. It’s truly a remarkable experience, and you’ll learn so much.
So, what are the takeaways on this Mt. Fuji climbing guide? For a great climbing experience, choose your trail and method of climb. Prepare all the things you will need for a comfortable and successful climb. Remember to savour the experience of being on Japan’s tallest mountain.
To help you prepare for your climb, don’t forget to download the Mt. Fuji climbing guide checklist: