It might not be the tallest or most challenging mountain in the world, but few peaks are more iconic or more entrenched in the culture of its home country than Mount Fuji. Fuji, or Fuji-San, as it’s known in Japan, rises majestically from the rural Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures, its black volcanic base gradually giving way to a snow-capped peak at 12,388 feet (3,773 meters). With its near perfect volcanic shape and geographic prominence, Japan’s tallest mountain has attracted climbers, tourists, artists, and religious pilgrims for centuries. Situated just a two-hour bus ride from the country’s capital, hiking Fuji makes for the perfect weekend-long excursion from Tokyo.
When to Go
Anyone thinking of hiking Mount Fuji should keep in mind that the official climbing season lasts just over two months, from early July to mid-September. During these warm summer months, the mountain weather remains mild and there is little snow impeding your ascension. Climbers can make summit attempts during the off-season, though the mountain can be very dangerous, posing risks such as sub-zero temperatures, extreme wind, snow, ice, and avalanches. During these periods, the mountain huts along the trails are closed, and mountaineering equipment such as crampons and ice axes may be required. Unless you have ample hiking and climbing experience, we recommend sticking to the official climbing season.
If you’re planning on mountain-gazing as opposed to hiking Fuji, your best chance to get a clear view of the peak is during the winter, when it is often free of cloud cover. However, the mountain is often most stunning in the fall and spring, when it is framed by colorful foliage and cherry blossoms, respectively.
Getting There/Where to Stay
The easiest ways to reach Mount Fuji from Japan’s capital are by bus or by train. Both will take between two and two-and-a-half hours, though the buses tend to be slightly cheaper.
If you prefer to travel via bus, you can depart from Shinjuku Station, Tokyo Station, or Shibuya Station. Each offer one to two direct buses per hour and cost roughly 1,800 yen ($16 USD). Keep in mind that none of these accept the Japan Rail Pass.
If you’d like to take a train, depart from the Shinjuku Station on the JR Chuo Line to Otsuki Station. From there, transfer to the Fujikyu Railway Line to Kawaguchiko Station. The entire trip will take just over two hours and cost you 3,650 yen ($32.45). The JR Tokyo Wide Pass will cover the journey.
Though Fuji is possible as a day-trip, if you’re planning to summit, we recommend staying overnight. There are plenty of accommodation options in the surrounding area, including the luxurious Highland Resort Hotel and Spa, K’s House Mount Fuji (a more affordable backpacker hostel), and Kawaguchiko Station Inn (a conveniently priced hotel across the street from the Kawaguchiko Station).
What to Bring
While you don’t need any technical climbing experience to summit Fuji, the trail to the top does present a long and strenuous climb, so be sure to bring the proper equipment. This includes sturdy hiking shoes that provide ankle support, plenty of water and snacks, lots of clothing layers (summit temperatures can dip below zero with the wind chill), a rain jacket, hat and gloves, and a headlamp or flashlight. If you wish to, you can bring hiking poles or a hiking stick to aid your climb. Make sure to bring cash as well. Not only is there a 1,000 yen ($8.89) admission fee, but the mountain huts dotting the trail offer toilets, provisions, and emergency shelter — for a low price.
And don’t forget your camera! Whether you plan to stand atop the summit or simply relax in the calm shadow of the mountain, you’re going to be presented with fantastic photo opportunities throughout this beautiful region.
The trail to the summit of Mount Fuji is less of a technical ascent and more of a gradual, yet difficult, trek. Depending on which route you choose, the hike to the top can take anywhere from four to 10 hours and cover one to two thousand meters in elevation. You’ll face some steep sections, difficult winds, and rocky paths, but your biggest obstacle will be the altitude. As you rise above 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), you’ll notice the air getting progressively thinner which will make it more difficult to breathe. To avoid altitude sickness, tackle the mountain at a slow pace and drink lots of water to remain hydrated. If you start experiencing nausea or a headache, take a break.
Most climbers prefer to plan their trek so they reach the summit for the sunrise. Not only will this provide majestic views from the top, but the mountain is often free of cloud cover during the early morning. There are two ways to approach a sunrise climb. The most popular is to climb to a mountain hut around the 7th or 8th station (there are 10 “stations” to the top), sleep for a few hours, and then rise early to reach the summit around 4:30 or 5 a.m. You can also begin your climb the night before and climb through the night, although this is generally discouraged because it poses a higher risk of altitude sickness.
Mount Fuji is divided into 10 sets of stations, the first being at the foot of the mountain and the 10th being at the top. Because there are different routes to the summit, there are multiple stations of the same number. Paved roads provide access to all four of the “fifth” stations, so most climbers choose to take a bus to one of those and begin their hike there. Those four stations include the Fuji Subaru Line, Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya fifth stations.
The most popular trail begins from the Fuji Subaru Line station. This trail is easily accessible, offers plenty of mountain huts, and provides separate paths for the ascent and descent. It begins at 7,546 feet (2,300 meters) and takes five to seven hours to climb, and then three to five hours to get back down.
The climb from the Subashiri station begins at 6,562 feet (2,000 meters) and takes five to eight hours to climb and three to five hours to descend. The climb from the Gotemba station begins at 4,593 feet (1,400 meters) and takes seven to ten hours to climb and three to six hours to descend. The climb from the Fujinomiya station begins at 7,874 feet (2,400 meters) and takes four to seven hours to climb and two to four to descend.
When you finally reach the summit, make sure to take some time to congratulate yourself and bask in the glory of standing atop the highest point in Japan. Hopefully the clouds will disperse so you can grab some photos and capture the beauty of the experience. If you have the time and the energy, take a walk around the crater (this will take approximately one hour) and check out the weather station situated directly at the mountain’s highest point. Whether you’ve been blessed with clear skies or not, take a moment to breathe in the mountain air and enjoy this brilliant moment.
Not everyone has the desire to beat their body up on a multi-hour, strenuous climb to the summit, but just because you’re not planning on climbing Japan’s sacred peak doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy it. There’s a reason that Fuji-San’s summit has become such an icon — it’s incredibly photogenic. As long as you’re fortunate enough to get clear views, there are plenty of spots from which you can admire the volcanic peak at a distance and snap some photos that will capture its inspiring glory.
The most popular spot to photograph the mountain is from the Fuji Five Lakes Region on the northern side of the mountain. Because it is so close to Fuji, the area offers astounding perspectives of the summit. Within the region, popular photo spots include the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchiko, the Chureito Pagoda, and Lake Yamanakako.
Also popular is the Hakone region to the east of the mountain. However, because it is farther away, you will need to be slightly luckier in order to snag clear views of the peak. While in Hakone, you can spot the mountain from Moto Hakone along the southern shores of Lake Ashinoko, the volcanic hot springs of Owakudani, and the shopping complex of Gotemba Premium Outlets.
Even if you’d prefer to stay put in the capital city, you can still grab some shots of the mountain. The peak is often visible from Mount Takao in western Tokyo and from the observation deck at the Bunkyo Civic Center.
Looking for more outdoor adventures in and around Tokyo? Check out our city guide to the most populous metropolis!
Cover Photo by @ytksato