How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro

Mt. Fuji in Spring

Mt. Fuji in Spring by David Hsu under CC.

How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro

My first year–only about a month after I packed up my entire life and moved to a completely different country–I decided to complete another, yet much simpler, life experience. I climbed Mt. Fuji.

Now, I know some might say that climbing Mt. Fuji is child’s play compared to other mountain giants like Everest, but I’m certainly not a hiker, and definitely not a mountain climber. So, when the JET group in my prefecture offered the new English teachers (ALTs) a chance to go on a group Fuji adventure, I was apprehensive yet completely down for the new experience. I was just a little short of highly pumped.

A group of over 20 of us hopped on a charter bus in the morning for the long ride to Shizuoka Prefecture. It was a LONG ride, very similar to the journey from Tokyo to Fukui when I first moved to Japan. There were many rest-stop breaks, a lot of talking, and many movie reruns. At around 7:30PM, we arrived at Fuji Subaru Line Station 5 of Mt. Fuji. We were going to climb the beast at night to catch the sunrise the next morning.

Picture this, a bus full of expats from all over the world between the ages of 22-28, most fresh into Japan with still rose-colored glasses and bright outlooks. That’s the before, and the after is much different. Every year, new JET Program “ALTs” or English teachers in Fukui embark on a self-awakening journey to climb Mount Fuji overnight. When I first came to Fukui, I climbed Mt. Fuji as well, and since then, I have sherpa-ed two other groups of young English teachers. I am by no means a pro, but I have climbed Mt. Fuji three times. There’s actually a saying in Japanese for the “foolish” people like me who climb two or more times:

「一度も登らぬ馬鹿、二度登る馬鹿」

“One who has never climbed Mt. Fuji is a fool, but one who has climbed Mt. Fuji twice is an idiot.”

When people hear that I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji three times, the look in their eyes mirror the quote—she’s crazy. The first time I climbed Mount Fuji, I knew I was going to climb it again. The second time, I wasn’t so sure because as soon as I stepped off the bus and in front of the 5th Station, all the memories from the first experience rushed back. After the opportunity for the third time came up, I swore that the third time would be my last. So, if you want to be considered one of the “foolish” ones and climb Mount Fuji like a pro—or at least like a very prepared person—then, here’s the information to get you started.

Climbing Mount Fuji

Looming over the island of Honshu, only one out of over 6,000 islands in Japan, stands the majestic Mt. Fuji. If you take a train anywhere on the eastern side of Honshu, in the Kanto area, you’re bound to see it greeting you from your window. When staying at some of the swankiest and tallest hotels, if you’re lucky, you may even be able to wake up to the mountain. It’s mentioned in all kinds of traditional Japanese art and culture such as traditional music, performing arts, and even in the intricate designs on a kimono or obi. It’s safe to say that Mount Fuji should be one of the stops on your list when planning your trip to Tokyo and beyond. 

Mount Fuji, the symbol of Japan, stands at over 3770 meters (over 3.7km) and is one of Japan’s three “holy mountains.” The UNESCO World Heritage site is actually an active volcano that can be seen from all over the eastern side of honshu and from Tokyo on a clear day–but don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted since 1707! Once you’ve climbed Mount Fuji, conquering the other two holy mountains, Mount Haku and Mount Tateyama, are your logical next steps. While the other two holy mountains are said to be of the scenic variety, Mount Fuji is quite barren and, well, brown. The way down offers much more greenery for the eyes, but of course, the way up is where all the action happens. 

If you want to climb Mount Fuji like a true pro, your first steps are figuring out when is the best time to climb and how to get there.

The Breakdown

Mt. Fuji / 富士山 (pronounced Fuji-san)
Elevation: 3,776 meters
Cost: Entrance is free, but plan to spend at least ¥400 ($4 USD) for bathrooms, ¥3,000 ($30USD) for a walking stick and stamps/brands, and ¥1,000 ($10 USD) for the optional conservation donation.
Wi-Fi: available with pre-registration
Trails: 4 available (Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya)
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate depending on the trail and starting point
Best Place to Start: the 5th Station
Time Required: an average of 6 hours up, and 3 hours down (depending on the trail)

Best Time to Climb Mount Fuji

The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is from July 1 to September 10 as snow begins to form on the top of the mountain from September. During the snow season, climbing is strictly prohibited from the 5th Station up unless you have received special permission to do so. Although the trails are open during this time, the best and most popular time to climb is in August

For all three times that I have climbed, I have not only climbed during the most popular climbing month, August, but I have also climbed overnight. The most popular view for climbing Mount Fuji during that month is the summer sunrise. 

When you’re at the top of Mount Fuji, above all the clouds and there’s only a clear, blue sky between you and space, the sunrise is as if you’re watching heaven open right in front of your eyes. Even if you’re not right on the summit, seeing the sunrise from the side of the mountain (after the last station), still gives you that glimpse of heaven. The sun begins to rise, that cold chill you felt for hours during the climb finally thaws, and your left with full, unadulterated UV rays warming up your face. 

How to Get There

If you’re visiting Japan to climb Mount Fuji, you will most likely come from Tokyo via Narita or Haneda Airports, or from Osaka via Kansai International Airport. After arriving in Japan at those main hub locations, you’ll want to make your way over to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station to climb Mount Fuji’s easiest trail, the Yoshida Trail. 

Tip

If you are renting a car and driving to Mount Fuji, you can plan your route using Google Maps. However, tolls in Japan are very expensive.

Tokyo to Mt. Fuji: By Train

There are a few ways to get to Mount Fuji from Tokyo, but the most common option is by train from Shinjuku Station and Tokyo Station. Below, I have compiled a table of the four train options:

Route

1. Fuji Excursion Limited Express (direct)

2. JR Limited Express Train (Azusa or Kaiji) 

3. JR Chuo Special Rapid Service

4. JR Tokaido Line  (Atami)

Departing Station

Shinjuku Station

Shinjuku Station

Shinjuku Station

Tokyo Station

Time Required

2 hours

2.5 hours

2.5 hours

2 Hours

Cost (one way)

¥4,060

¥4,060 

¥2,460

¥1,940

*All allow the JR Rail Pass and IC cards.

The easiest route you can take from Tokyo is the Fuji Excursion Limited Express train. It is a direct train line to Mount Fuji’s 5th Station, the most common starting point for those climbing Mount Fuji. The journey takes a comfy two hours on this new express train that leaves from Shinjuku Station.

Perhaps the second easiest route is the JR Limited Express Azusa or Kaiji trains. When taking these trains, you must transfer at Otsuki Station to the Fujikyu Railway and get off at Kawaguchiko Station. From there, you can take the Mt. Fuji climber’s bus to the fifth station. The route costs the same as the direct Fuji Excursion Limited Express train, so I would use this option as more of an alternative if the above train is fully booked. 

The JR Chuo Special Rapid Service train follows the same route as the JR Limited Express Azusa and Kaiji trains, but takes about 20 minutes longer for almost ¥2,000 ($20 USD) cheaper. 

The last and cheapest option is the JR Tokaido Line for Atami from Tokyo Station. For this route, you must transfer to the Gotemba Line for Mishima at Kozu Station. From Gotemba Station, you can take a free shuttle bus to Gotemba Premium Outlets mall or take a local bus to the fifth station (only during climbing season). 

All of these trains allow you to use the JR Rail Pass and IC cards

For more information on the JR Rail Pass, check out my post on How to Get Around Japan to help you understand the basics of the pass and your other travel options. 

How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro - Last Torii Gate
How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro - Lion Gaurds

Tokyo to Mt. Fuji: By Bus

The next best and often cheaper option to taking Japan’s ultra-fast trains is going by bus.

During climbing season, the best bus ride from Central Tokyo is from Shinjuku Station to Mt. Fuji Fifth Station by highway bus. The takes about 2.5 hours and costs ¥2,950 ($30 USD) for one way. You can make a bus ticket reservation online on the English website provided by Highwaybus.com. 

If you are trying to get to Mount Fuji from Narita airport, there is a semi-direct bus available for about ¥4,800 ($48 USD) one way. You can call the Fujikyu Bus Center or the Keisei Bus Reservation Center to make a reservation on the phone, or reserve online with Japan Bus Online. The route takes between 3 or 4 hours, you will need to catch a local bus from Kawaguchiko Station to fifth station. 

The buses to Mount Fuji’s fifth station operates daily except when there is heavy snow. The bus schedule changes during climbing season and comes to both Kawaguchiko Station and the 5th Station once an hour. With the local buses, there is a 2-day pass that you can buy for unlimited rides on local buses during the summer climbing season. Although the pass must be bought from Otsuki Station, you can use the pass between the Yoshida trail’s 5th Station and Kawaguchiko Station for ¥3,700 ($37 USD).

During climbing season (from July 1 to September 10), the local summer climber’s bus comes more regularly than the daily climbers bus for ¥2,100 ($21 USD) round-trip. The link above also includes the numbers for all mountain huts along the Yoshida trail. If you do not have a Japanese phone, you can ask your hotel’s front desk, or get a Google number for international calls. 

Also, for both the Narita Airport to Subaru Fifth station and Shinjuku Station to Subaro fifth station routes, consider combining your trip with a visit to Fuji-Q Highland! The amusement park has amazing record-breaking rides for thrill seekers and the world-famous haunted hospital for horror fans.

Choose Your Mt. Fuji Trail

Osaka to Mt. Fuji: By Train

The best way to take a train from Osaka to Mount Fuji is by using the Tokaido Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Mishima Station in Shizuoka Prefecture. From there, you will need to take a bus to Kawaguchiko Station, and then the daily climber bus from Kawaguchiko Station to Subaru 5th Station (Yoshida and Subashiri Trails).

The highway bus from Mishima Station to Kawaguchiko Station, the Mishima Kawaguchiko Liner Express Bus, takes approximately 1.5 hours and costs about ¥2,300 ($23 USD). 

Osaka to Mt. Fuji: Bus

Even easier than taking a train from Osaka is taking a bus. The Fujiyama Liner is a night bus that takes you directly to Kawaguchiko Station. The ride takes about 10.5 hours and has two services, “Normal” and “Discount.” At ¥12,100 ($121 USD) roundtrip, the “discount” service is best for budget travelers, while the “normal” service is best for those who want to splurge a little for better seating comfort at ¥16,100 ($161 USD). Japanese night buses are usually immaculately clean, so I would suggest the budget option unless you are particular about how comfortable your seating is.  

You can also get off at Mt. Fuji Station on this route and take another direct shuttle bus to Subaru 5th Station as an alternative to Kawaguchiko Station; however, Kawaguchiko Station offers best views to see those iconic shots of Mt. Fuji looming over a beautiful picturesque lake. 

Tip

If you are going to Mount Fuji directly before stopping at any booked hotels or accommodations, you can store your luggage in any locker in any major station, Kawaguchiko Station, Mt. Fuji Station, or even at Subaru 5th Station (Yoshida Trail) for ¥600+ ($6+ USD).

Choose Your Mount Fuji Trail

There are four trails you can climb on Mount Fuji: the Yoshida Trail, the Subashiri Trail, the Gotemba Trail, and the Fujinomiya Trail.

Mt. Fuji Summit Map
Mt. Fuji's Yoshida Trail Map

Images taken from the Official Mt. Fuji Climbing website.

The Yoshida Trail, the yellow trail, is the easiest and most popular trail out of the four and is the trail that I have always climbed on. While the Yoshida Trail starts in Yamanashi Prefecture, the other three trails begin and end in Shizuoka Prefecture. Not only is the Yoshida Trail one of the easiest trails to get to, but it also has the most restaurants, shops, and restrooms on the trail as it is the most developed. The ascent to the summit on the Yoshida Trail takes an average of 6 hours with a descent time of roughly 3 hours.

In all the times that I’ve climbed Mount Fuji, it has taken me about 10 hours up and 5 hours down. Granted, the first time I climbed I had never climbed a mountain before in my life, and the second and third times I climbed, I was the guide in the rear.

Tip

Climbing Overnight: If you get to the summit too early at night, then you’ll have to deal with the wind chills and freezing temperatures at the top. Get up to the summit too late and you might be stuck in climbing traffic. The sweet spot would be to get to the summit right around 5AM to catch the sunrise at the summit.

The second most easy-access trail is the Subashiri Trail, or the red trail. Daily buses and trains also allow access to this trail for climbers who have more climbing experience, and/or want to challenge themselves. The trail joins with and splits from the Yoshida Trail around the 8th Station, so if you want to stick to the easier Yoshida Trail, be sure to heed the signs and take the correct turn. The Subashiri Trail also has a natural trail to a smaller peak, “Little Fuji,” on the side of Mount Fuji that is about a 20 minute hike away from the trail’s 5th Station. The Subashiri Trail takes roughly 5.5 hours to ascend and 3 hours to descend.  

Both the Gotemba Trail (green) and the Fujinomiya Trail (blue) are the least developed of the four trails as they lead up through Mount Fuji’s forests and are not taken as often as the other two. While the Fujinomiya Trail takes only 5 hours to ascend, the Gotemba Trail is a little more difficult and 8 hours or more. On average, all trails take the estimated 3 hours to descend, but allow time to take your time, especially if you are a novice or first-time climber. 

How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro - Mt. Fuji Summit
How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro - Mt. Fuji Summit
How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro - Mt. Fuji Summit

What to Wear and Bring

Clothing and Equiptment
When climbing Mount Fuji at nights, it is important to bring layers for the drastic temperature shifts on the Mountain. Once at the 5th Station, the temperature can drop considerably from the typical August summer warmth that Japan is known for.

The key is layers, layers, layers. Depending on the weather (cloudy, just before a typhoon, just after a typhoon, clear), the temperature can vary from bearable cold to freezing windsnaps, especially as you get to the area of Mount Fuji that offers little to know coverage to break the chill or block the wind. 

The first time I climbed, the ascend was chilly but bearable with clear skies that helped the sun warm us up as soon as it rose, but when we began to descend, a heavy fog rolled in and we found ourselves in the beginnings of a typhoon. The third time I climbed, the sky was cloudy and it was insanely windy and chilly at the top with freezing rain and hail. Because of that, all the mountain huts were taken and there was nowhere to take cover, so we huddled together and hoped the rain and hail would stop (eventually it did!). Even worse, because it was cloudy, the sunrise didn’t warm us up until we were well on our descent path. 

For all three times that I climbed, I brought leggings, a UNIQLO heattech undershirt, a long-sleeved sweat-wicking shirtsweat pants, a fluffy hoodie, a short and long pair of socks, a rain jacket with a hood, rain paints (you can buy at any convenience store in Japan), gloves (I bought at 5th Station), a heavy jacket (the second time, I took my snowboarding jacket), a warm cotton hat, a blanket scarf, tennis shoes/sneakers with a grip sole (although broken-in hiking boots are best, especially for the descent), and a backpack/bookbag

All of these layers are easy to take off and store in a bookbag/backpack or climbing pack. Although I still felt a chill with these layers, as long as I kept moving, I was pretty warm. Additionally, if your bookbag or climbing pack is not waterproof, you should buy a rain jacket that can cover not only your body, but also your bookbag or backpack. These are sold on the mountain, but they are pricey for about ¥2,500 each. The large rain jackets can be bought at any convenience store, or even at the dollar store (Daiso or Seria) for under ¥500 ($5 USD).

Tip

UNIQLO’s heattech underwear is great not only for the chilly Mount Fuji climb, but it is also as an addition in your everyday wardrobe routine. I have worn heattech (and the summer ‘cooltech’) every year since I’ve moved to Japan.

Also, if you are sensitive to dust or smells, buy a face mask to shield yourself from Fuji bathroom funk or the occasional dust storm at the peak.

2nd To Last Torii Gate on Mt. Fuji
Yen Coins in Torii Gate on Mt. Fuji

After clothing and layers, next is equipment. I recommend bringing a headlamp or buying one from one of the gear stores at the 5th Station. They generally cost about ¥1,000 ($10 USD) and are battery operated. Once you get past the 7th Station, you will need to use your hands to climb up narrow paths, and nothing is worse than having no hands to see where you’re going. If you are not planning on climbing or descending at night, then a headlamp is not necessary. 

I also recommend bringing or buying a walking stick or climbing poles. At Subaru 5th Station, there are two kinds of climbing sticks you can buy: the long stick (with flags and/or bells for novelty decoration) or the shorter stick for the unique stamps/brands at every mountain hut. Some climbers say they prefer the short stick for the brands or even no stick as they like to have both hands free, but if this is your first climbing experience, or you think you need extra support when hoisting yourself up those steep and narrow paths, the long stick is best. 

On the flip side, getting the long stick back to your home country can be a hassle, so if you want the novelty of the stamps/brands without the shipping headache, you can buy the shorter stick. The long stick costs between ¥1,000 to ¥1,500 ($10-$15 USD) depending on the decoration while the short stick costs under ¥1,000. I bought a long climbing stick with a bell the first time I climbed Mount Fuji, and have brought it back with me each time to get any updated stamps/brands each year or any I missed previously. This can be costly, but Mount Fuji was my first ever mountain, so it holds a lot of sentimental value for me. 

Some additional things to consider are plastic bag/trash bag (there are no trash cans on the mountain), sunscreen, especially when the sun is in full force on a clear day, oxygen/O2 (can be bought at the 5th Station and helps with altitude sickness and shortness of breath), cash (past the 5th Station, Mt. Fuji is only cash-based), and plenty of ¥100 coins for the bathrooms unless you want to buy an expensive snack every time you want to take a tinkle.

Fuel: Drinks and Snacks
Climbing Mount Fuji can often be a grueling and exhausting hike, especially for a beginning climber. It is important to bring drinks and snacks on the climb with you as food and water on the mountain past the 5th Station is more expensive the higher you climb the mountain. What would normally cost you about ¥100 from a convenience store will cost you ¥500 on the mountain. For my climbs, I brought: Calorie Mate, rice balls, at least a liter of water, trail mix or nuts, a candy bar, and a protein jelly pack. These can all be bought at a convenience store before you get to the mountain for under ¥1,000 total. 

I especially recommend Calorie Mate and protein jelly packs that you can buy at convenience stores as they are made for people to recover after strenuous activities such as mountain climbing or exercising.

Mt. Fuji Summit

Important Points

Sunrise
Although my group and I took the challenge of climbing completely overnight to catch the sunrise, most people climb the mountain during the day, rest near the 8th Station and wake up around 4AM to climb the rest of the way before sunrise. This is the best way to stay warm and stave off exhaustion. If you opt to climb overnight without resting, know that it gets more exhausting as the temperature drops and your muscles lock up. That’s when morale is at its lowest. 

An alternative to catching the sunrise, of course, is to just climb during the daylight early hours, reach the summit, and hike down before the sun sets. 

Mountain Huts
Sometimes the mountain huts can be both discouraging and encouraging. Just when you think you’ve finally gotten to the 8th Station, you realize it’s just a mountain hut and you still have over 2 hours to go! When climbing overnight, the huts can fill up quickly as many climbers hike during daylight hours, stay overnight in a hut, and wake up early to finish the climb before sunrise. If you have a Japanese phone or have a Google international number, you can reserve at spot in one of the huts ahead of your climb. 

Toilets/Bathrooms
Toilets on the mountain are, well, toilets on a mountain. They’re outdoor campsite clean, and they smell exactly how one would expect. Because water from the sewage system is recycled the higher you go up, the toilets begin to smell even worse and the water gets browner and browner.

Stamps and Goshuin
If you’re a collector like me, the best and most motivating way to commemorate a hard climb or hike is to collect stamps or brands. Luckily, every station and mountain hut on Fuji has its own unique stamp that costs between ¥300 and ¥500 yen. Also, when you reach the summit, not only does the shrine at the top have its own stamp for your walking stick, it also signs Goshuin. 

Goshuin-cho are special stamp books used for calligraphy signatures from monks at Japanese temples and shrines. It is a book that is highly regarded, so you cannot get the stamp on just any piece of paper. If you don’t have a stamp book or don’t have yours with you, you can buy the goshuin-cho at any temple or shrine or you can get the stamp and calligraphy signature or “goshuin” on a special piece of paper that the temple or shrine provides. When you finally reach the top of Mount Fuji, you can get a walking stick stamp or goshuin at Mount Okumiya Shrine. 

Mount Okumiya Shrine is a detached shrine of Hongu Sengen Taisha, a shrine that was endorsed by the imperial court starting in the early 14th century. Hongu Sengen Taisha is said to hold the gods of the Yamamiya Sengen Shrine (Asama no Ōkami and Konohana no Akuya-hime or the “Blossom Princess”), a shrine located 12 miles away in Shizuoka Prefecture. Goshuin stamps at Mount Okumiya Shrine vary in size and cost from ¥1,000 to ¥3,000. 

During the long climb, I stuck with about 2 to 5 girls while the rest of the group went ahead like mini terminators to the summit. We were definitely taking a more leisurely pace, and by the time we got to around station 6, half the group was experiencing a mutiny. There were tears and there was calls for defeat.

At around 4AM, the sun was beginning to peak under the horizon, and I quickened my pace to catch it at the top. I reached the summit as the sun rose over the horizon at full blast and got the last stamp on my walking stick.

How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro

The Descent
Although the ascent on Mount Fuji is difficult, I found the most difficult was the descent. No matter what you do, your knees, toes, ankles, and every other leg muscle is going to hurt. The slopes are steep and gravely, so it’s really hard for your feet to get a hold of the terrain. Additionally, the descent is just as barren as the ascent until you get down to the lower levels of Fuji where greenery grows. Whether you are climbing in hiking boots or in sneakers, everyone has their own way of getting down the mountain. Some people go backwards, some sideways, and others run. As I climbed in sneakers, I experimented with all three ways and found the sideways was the best to keep a steady speed, backwards was the slowest method, and running was even crazier than just taking your time facing forward! If you are wearing hiking boots, you have a better chance of climbing down with the least amount of stress to your toes and ankles. 

In Case of Emergency

Giving Up: If you decide while in-route to the summit on Mount Fuji, you can get to your nearest station or mountain hut to rest or call for emergency services. Additionally, if you make it to the 8th Station, there is a path that you can take that brings you to the descent side of the Yoshida and Subashiri Trails. Below are the emergency numbers for each trail, but they may not have English assistance available:

Police Department: 110 
→ Fujiyoshida Police (covers Fujiyoshida Trail) Tel: 0555-22-0110
→ Gotemba Police (covers Gotemba Trail) Tel: 0550-84-0110
→ Fujinomiya Police (covers Fujinomiya Trail) Tel: 0544-23-0110

Fire Department: 119

I noticed that the higher you climb, the better service can be (for my Japanese phone, at least), and there is free Wi-Fi on the mountain, but you must get a Wi-Fi card at the 5th Station of any of the four trails before using it.  

Medical Services: There are first aid services offered only on the Yoshida Trail and the Fujinomiya Trail. For the Yoshida Trail, there is first aid available at the 5th, 7th and 8th Stations, but only the first aid at Stations 7 and 8 are open 24 hours. First aid services at the 5th Station is open from 8AM to 8PM. 

First aid on the Fujinomiya Trail is only offered at the trail’s 5th Station and is open 24 hours.

Climbing Mt. Fuji was a magical experience, but definitely not for the faint of heart. The first time I climbed Mt. Fuji, I was a complete and utter mountain-climbing novice. It was the first time I had ever climbed a mountain and I had no idea what gear I needed nor did I even have the proper clothing to wear! I recommend that if you have the chance, take the challenge and climb it. If you climb Mount Fuji overnight or are planning to, be sure to let me know by tagging me on your Instagram pictures or dropping a comment or question below!

For even more information on how to climb Mount Fuji, be sure to check the official Mount Fuji climbing website before you climb.

Want to Read it Again Later? Pin it!

8 thoughts on “How to Climb Mount Fuji Like a Pro”

    1. Sophie, it is definitely a bucket list thing to do, especially if you come to Japan and visit the Kanto area/Honshu! I hope to hear about your experiences when you climb it. 😀

    1. Katy, I don’t regret climbing Mount Fuji three times, but I won’t be doing it again! XD But, it’s worth a climb at least once and the views are spectacular. My photos don’t do justice for what my eyes saw at sunrise!

    1. Mayi, you’re right, it wasn’t easy, but just doing it was an amazing experience and test of strenght–mental and physical, haha! I’d love to hear about your experience when you climb it one day. 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *