“If you never climb Mt. Fuji, you’re a fool, and if you climb it more than once, you’re a crazy fool.”
A few friends and I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Fuji. (3,776 meters/12,388 feet) in late September 2013. It’s located about (132 km/80 miles) southwest of Tokyo. It only took a flight, a train, another a train, a third train, a bus, and a taxi to get to the point where we would begin our ascent.
Our goal was to summit at sunrise which would be approximately 5:25 AM on a Sunday morning. We had prepared the day before to make sure that we would be on time considering that it was not easy to get to during the off season where transportation is scarce. However, I highly recommend going during the off season so you don’t get trapped in the crowds during the high season. We planned this without the help of a tour company because we didn’t want to get caught up in all-inclusive fees. Through research we figured it would take about 5-7 hours to summit and then about 3-4 hours to get back.
Saturday evening we arrived in a small town about an hour taxi ride from the Fifth Station. The downfall was that the only way to reach our starting point at the fifth station was to hire a taxi which was about 12,000 YEN (~$100). Luckily there were four of us to split that cost. We didn’t want to arrive too early because we would just wait around in the cold. So we went to a coffee shop and warmed up and played cards while we waited for the time to pass.
At 10:30 PM we were on our way up the mountain. Our adrenaline was rushing and the coffee had kicked in. After just a few minutes of trekking through the trees everything opened up and it was absolutely beautiful. I had never seen so many stars in my life. The beginning of the hike was fairly easy. But we were pacing ourselves so that we could continue through the entire night. Along the way, there were lines of tour groups – which we could easily bypass because there were only four of us. Also, there were different stations where you could purchase overpriced coffee or soup, go to the bathroom, huddle up in a warm corner and try to hide from the wind. It was a pretty luxurious climb considering there were bunks where people could sleep, as well. The climb was challenging, but doable. At some points toward the top we were in the rocks and we would be on all fours to get up the mountain. Closer to the summit, we purchased some hot drinks in a hut and hid from the wind for about 45 minutes. We were going much faster than planned and wanted to make sure we didn’t get to the top too early.
Post cuddle party, we were on our way again. When we saw the white lions we knew we had arrived. Those are the statues right before the summit. We ran to the top, hugged it out and waited for the sunrise. We got there about ten minutes before our goal time and we were absolutely freezing, mentally and physically exhausted, and VERY happy to have conquered the mountain.
At the summit there were at least 100 other climbers. Some had camped overnight. One man we met had made it to the summit the day before. He had camped with the goal of waking up to the sunrise. But he told us he slept through the whole thing. BUMMER.
I had such a good group of people to climb with. They were all friends from my Korean ultimate frisbee team and we were pretty close. It’s a great experience to be able to travel with people who have the same goals, such as reaching the summit a famous mountain.
Post summit we decided we needed to get down as quickly as possible. We had to make sure we were on the first bus back so that we could make our bus, train, another train, a third train, and a flight back to Korea that afternoon. We all had to go back to work the next day and didn’t want to get stuck in Japan. So we (literally) started running down the mountain. I think I only fell about 9 times and kept the bleeding to a minimum. We made it to the base at about 8 AM and found out we had an hour or so before the first bus would even leave. So we napped on a picnic bench and soaked in the sun reminiscing over the experience that we had just had.
- Start- 10:30 PM
- Summit- 5:15 AM
- Sunrise- 5:27 AM
- Arrive back at the fifth station- 8 AM
- Elevation gain- 1,764 meters/4,842 feet
Chuseok is a Korean holiday that happens around the end of September. American expats think of it as “Korean Thanksgiving.” In September 2013 I had a 5 day weekend from my teaching job and went to Tokyo with a few friends. Luckily, it’s only a two hour flight from where we were in Korea – so it was a breeze.
Eating out at the 7 Elevens was our favorite affordable treat.
Golden Gai bars. If you can deal with tiny spaces DO IT.
We got fancy one night and got a drink at the Park Hyatt Hotel bar.
Strolled through Shinjuku Gyoen.
We were in need of nice beers so went to Goodbeer Faucets.
Don’t forget about the Pachinko Parlours.
And vending machines……