A personal guide from my experience climbing Mount Fuji, along with some nice pictures, including sunrise from Mount Fuji, and helpful information for anyone planning to climb.

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Climbing Mount Fuji: Guide for Getting Lost in Japan

I wanted to climb Mount Fuji during our first year in Japan.  Most people climb during an official season during July and August, so that became my plan. I quickly learned that if you get any five people together in Japan and mention climbing Mount Fuji, someone will probably quote: "Your are wise to climb Fuji once and a fool to climb it twice." 

It's not a very inspiring proverb, if you think about it.  But most people who says quote these words have ever climbed the mountain themselves.  That's because fewer than one percent of Japanese people ever climb Mount Fuji.   

It's too high and difficult, they say (or hint strongly).  It's perfect on a postcard, wonderful when the clouds part and you can see it, but far removed from everyday life.  Mention that you're climbing Mount Fuji and someone is sure to ask whether you'll be using oxygen.  Mount Fuji stands 3776 meters (12,285 feet).  People run marathons above that elevation in Colorado.  It's high, but...and then I feel apologetic for thinking disparaging thoughts.  Oxygen or no oxygen, I can't imagine why someone would grow up next to such a magnificent mountain and never go to the top.

When August came, I was ready.  A friend visiting from America provided the perfect opportunity.  I recruited him as a climbing buddy.  He arrived at Narita on a Thursday night, and we were on our way the next morning...

Mount Fuji in October from Mount Kintoki, a small mountain in Odawara, Kanagawa

Choosing a Trail

There is more than one way to the top of Mount Fuji.  Of course, people can be snobby about which route is best, but I didn't spend much time worrying about this.  That's because a group of Japanese friends were already planning to hike up the Kawaguchi route, so my friend and I decided to go that way and hopefully meet them on the mountain. 

Of the five main routes up Mount Fuji, the Kawaguchi trail is the most popular. I can't say much about the other options, but I've provided some links at the bottom of this article that should help.  In my non-expert opinion, this is a good route for first time climbers starting from the Tokyo-Kanagawa area (you should choose another trail if you are starting from the other side of the mountain). 

When to Go

As I mentioned above, we climbed in August.  During July and August the weather on Fuji is quite moderate, and the snow that caps the mountain for most of the year melts.  People of all ages climb during these months in relative safety.  You can climb Mount Fuji in other months, too.  In fact, the best time to climb may be just before or after the climbing season, when there are no crowds. That means there are also no services, though, and you'll miss out on quite a human spectacle (which I think is worth seeing at least once).  The further you get from the July/August window, the more dangerous it becomes.  Once you add wind, snow, ice and falling rocks to the picture, Mount Fuji can be deadly. 

My Japanese friends were hiking on the same day, but they started in the early afternoon.  The plan was to take it really easy and sleep for a few hours at one of the huts along the trail.  Then they would wake up and finish climbing in time for sunrise.  This is a popular and traditional way to climb the mountain.  My parents climbed Mount Fuji more than 30 years ago and stayed in one of the same huts along the way.  By all appearances, little has changed since then. 

We followed another popular strategy.  We started around 9pm, well after dark, and hiked all night. Our plan was also to arrive at the top in time for sunrise.  Many climbers start at 11pm or later, but we were playing it safe so we started early.

What to Bring

As a first timer, I was concerned about this question.  Some websites recommend bringing enough gear for a minor expedition, but I read another guy's story of climbing up with sandals, a cheap windbreaker and his kid's backpack.  Given the host culture's propensity to over-prepare, I decided not stress too much about gear and clothing.  I had read on another website about a guy who climbed in basketball shoes and a t-shirt, so I figured it couldn't be too bad.  Given the extreme August heat, I decided to risk short pants and short sleeves.  I stuffed a long sleeve shirt and a decent, shell-type jacket for insurance into my (large sized) fanny pack.  Just before heading out, I bought a new flashlight (see below) and some Onigiri from a convenience store.  I also bought a couple of liters of water.  You can buy water at the trail head for an exorbitant sum, but there is no running water to fill canteens there. 

I spent way too much time thinking about what flashlight to get.  Why?  Well, it's the only thing I needed to buy, so I made the most of it, I guess.  Lots of websites recommend getting a head lamp.  I've always chuckled at people who wear headlamps, because I can't imagine many activities (other than spelunking) that really need one.  But I was enticed a bit.  Such is the power of consumerism in Japan.  All the camping and electronics stores I visited featured lots of very modern, high tech headlamps, starting from 3000 yen, along with a few cheap, plastic flashlights (the kind that take huge batteries and go dim after 20 minutes).  They looked pretty sad by comparison.  I started to imagine myself crawling up sharp lava rocks in the dark, with a micro halogen bulb beaming from my forehead.  Maybe I really needed a headlamp!  But in the end I settled for a hand held flashlight, which  I bought at the last minute before getting on the bus in Shinjuku, at the Yodobashi Camera store next to the bus terminal.  I paid a little extra, about 1000 yen, for an LED model.  These aren't as bright as the plastic yellow flashlights mentioned above, but the batteries last forever (it's still working well with the same batteries today). In the end, it didn't matter that much, and I'm glad I didn't buy a headlamp.  I didn't need my flashlight nearly as much as I'd expected.  In fact, my friend lost his flashlight part way up.  After that we shared one flashlight, and it was no problem.

Finally, as I walked out the door, I reached into the shoe closet for my hiking boots.  But they weren't there.  It turned out they were a few thousand miles away, because I hadn't packed them when we moved to Japan.  So I grabbed the ONLY pair of shoes that would work -- my brand new running shoes (my running shoes tend to stay brand new for a long time).  Let me just say, the shoes were never the same again.  I recommend that you hike in tough leather boots that can handle the wear or something expendable.  Mount Fuji is a huge pile of crumbling lava rock, and when you walk/slide down your footwear will pay a price.

A sample list of items to bring for climbing Mt. Fuji (in August)
  1. Flashlight and extra batteries
  2. Hiking boots or shoes (tough leather and/or expendable)
  3. Warm jacket or shell (something light enough to pack when it's too hot to wear it)
  4. Long pants (or shorts along with some shell pants that you can pull out of your pack)
  5. Stocking hat and gloves (depending on how susceptible you are to cold these may optional or needed)
  6. Water (at least a couple of liters, unless you plan to buy drinks for high prices along the way)
  7. Money (for items on the way, staying in a hut, and also for emergency expenses)
  8. Food (for your meals and/or snacks, although plenty of food is available along the way at high prices)
  9. Daypack or large fanny pack (comfortable and big enough for the stuff you need to carry)
  10. Camera(s) to capture an incredible sunrise and outstanding view

This list isn't comprehensive. Use your common sense, and check the links at the bottom of this page for more ideas.

Getting to the Kawaguchi 5th Station (Gogome)

First, be sure you know WHICH of the 5th Stations you are going to.  I climbed via the Kawaguchi Route, so I started at the Kawaguchi 5th Station.  Each of the routes has its own 5th station, so don't go to the wrong one. 

You can get to the Kawaguchi 5th Station by taking local trains to the Kawaguchi-ko Station, then taking a bus to the Kawaguchi 5th Station ("Gogome").  If you are starting from the Tokyo area, then I recommend catching a bus from Shinjuku all the way to the Kawaguchi 5th Station.  In fact, here is a tip.  For trips outside the city (longer trips), taking a bus is usually cheaper than taking a bunch of local trains, and the bus is much more enjoyable. 

We took a direct bus from Shinjuku all the way to the Kawaguchi 5th Station.  The bus is called the Fuji Kyuko.  The bus station is located in front of the Yodobashi Camera store.  Take either the West or South exit from Shinjuku Station (easier said than done) and make your way there.  For a nice map showing where the bus station is located, click here.  It's best to call ahead for a reservation, but read the details in the paragraph below before you call.  Here are two phone numbers (one of them should be for English speakers): 03-5376-2222 and 03-3376-1111. I never got through on the English line, but my wife was able to connect easily by calling the Japanese line (you may want to keep this in mind).  You can find more information in Japanese at the Fujikyuko website here.  She reserved our bus tickets over the phone, and then we paid for them at the bus station. 

If you take the bus, I recommend buy a round trip ticket that takes you directly to and from the 5th Station (ask for a round trip ticket direct to Kawaguchi Gogome).  The bus company runs a set schedule during the July-August climbing season.  You can choose from a number of departure and return times depending on your schedule and what's available (some buses may be fully booked by the time you call). I can't remember when our bus left, but we ate dinner before boarding.  If you are planning to hike all night, then you should plan to be at the Kawaguchi 5th Station sometime between 9pm and midnight (we started around 9pm).  I think our return ticket was for some time around noon.  Most all night hikers people start down the mountain around 8am or so, and you should be able to hike down in half the time it takes to climb up (I think we made it down in about 2 hours, but that was pretty fast).  Don't be late for the bus, because it will depart on schedule with or without you.

Kawaguchi 5th Station and Starting Out

Getting off the bus at the 5th Station was slightly surreal.  The bus pulled into a large parking lot surrounded by tourist shops.  It was dark, and most of them had closed.  Many people drive to the Kawaguchi 5th Station for day trips.  They'll take a short hike, buy a souvenir -- and that's the closest they come to actually climbing the mountain.  It gets very crowded on weekends and holidays in August, but at night it was quiet.  About ten people were grabbing a bowl of noodles at an inside food counter, others were using the restroom, shopping or just wasting time.  From the 5th Station it's only a 5 or 6 hour hike to the top, so no one was in a hurry yet.  Actually, it shouldn't be to hard to hike to the top in 4 hours or less, if you keep moving fast and don't run into gridlock, but you'll have to start early to beat the crowds (which sort of defeats the point).  More on that later.

The stores at the 5th Station have the usual assortment of key chains, carvings and boxed food for gifts.  Two liter bottles of water, for those who forgot, were going for about 500 yen each.  I bought two, because my only other choice was to fill my water bottles in an unsavory restroom sink.  I didn't buy much else, but I paid 100 yen to use the restroom and another few hundred yen for a locker.  Here's a tip.  When you finish hiking Mount Fuji you'll be tired, sweaty and dusty, and you may still have several hours of travel to get home by bus and trains.  I suggest you bring a change of clothes, some toiletries and food to tide you over until you get to Shinjuku.  Put all of this in one of the many lockers at the 5th Station, and you'll be patting yourself on the back at the end of the day.

The only other thing I bought was a hiking stick.  You've got to have one of these.  Well, more than half the people climbing the mountain think so. Every shop has a big bin out front filled with simple, wooden hiking sticks.  My parents hiked Mount Fuji 30 years ago, and their sticks are identical to the ones they sell today.  The sticks are actually pretty cheap (about 500 yen, I think).  As you climb the mountain, you'll run into a person at each station with a barbecue grill and a kind of branding iron who will, for a price, burn an insignia into your stick.  This is to prove that you reached that station.  You can collect a row of stamps as you ascend Fuji, or save your money and just get the one at the top.  At the top, you can choose from 2 or 3 different stamps.  My favorite is an extra large one that says, "Sunrise on Mount Fuji" and includes the date.  I'd love to climb Mount Fuji every year with the same stick and collect a row these. 

After awhile we decided it was time to get started.  We took a couple of pictures, gathered up our stuff and went looking for the trail.  It was dark.  We didn't have a map or any idea where to go, but that was no problem.  We just looked for a group of people who seemed to know what they were doing and followed them.  Once we got started, we were in the midst of fellow hikers all the way to the top.  At the bottom, we enjoyed the company (particularly because they kept us from being lost). From the start we found that our flashlights were not that necessary.  The moon was bright.  We were following a clear line up the trail.  Finally, hikers tend to congest at the steeper spots, and all their flashlights come together at the same time.  Of course, you should carry a flashlight, but don't get stressed out about getting lost or falling in the dark (unless you have night vision problems or difficulty keeping your balance in general). 

Posing at the Kawaguchi 5th Station before starting out
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A display of Fuji hiking sticks in front of a tourist shop
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Stations, Huts, Toilets and the Line

The first half of our climb was fun and easy.  The trail was wide and didn't seem that steep.  Other than pausing for drinks of water, we didn't rest at all until the 7th Station.  We were passing people constantly along the way.  For the most part, I enjoyed hiking with other people.  But at some points we had to slow down because the trail was so crowded.  At one point, when we were moving slowly up a "steep" section, I passed a man with two boys who were less than ten years old.  He had laid a plastic mat beside the trail, and one boy had fallen asleep.

I don't remember the 6th Station at all.  By the time we came to the 7th Station, we were winding our way more or less straight up the mountain side.  We saw the lights first, and then there was an old cabin carving out a level spot on the trail.  The trail widened and there were places to sit. Some people were resting there, and others were getting started again. The front of the cabin had a window facing the trail, and they were vending out hot cocoa, cup of noodles, and cans of oxygen for any takers.  It was all ridiculously expensive, and we weren't tired enough to be tempted.  Inside the cabin was a large, open Tatami room with a warm fire, and further back a room where (I presume) people were trying to sleep.  I say "trying" because there was constant chatter outside, despite their efforts to keep the hikers quiet.  There was a charge to go inside the Tatami room, and a higher charge (about 7000 yen if I remember right) for those who wanted a place to sleep.

We rested a bit, and I visited a restroom by the side of the trail with a door that wouldn't stay closed.  Outside was a bucket and a note that said, "100 Yen."  Maintenance must be expensive on the side of a mountain, because all the coins didn't seem to be paying for much.

We set out from the 7th Station, turned a corner or two and arrived at the 7th Station again.  Apparently, stations are not precise spots but sections on the trail.  We passed yet another 7th Station, and then we found ourselves once more rising slowly through the semi-darkness.  But there was a significant change from about this point onwards. The further we ascended, the more crowded the trail became.  For the first time, we noticed large tour groups climbing together.  These groups were large (perhaps 50 people each), and they were usually led by guides carrying bullhorns.  We were grateful when these groups would move to the side of the trail for a rest break, because then we could quickly move past them.  But further up the mountain, the trail was so congested that they could hardly move over.  Sometimes one tour group would pass another, which compounded the problems.  These groups were a real nuisance.     

Front of a climbing hut at the 7th Station
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The line is hard to capture in a picture, but here's a shot
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A restroom at the 7th or 8th Station with 100 yen sign
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The 8th Station

We reached the 8th Station sometime around 1:30am.  We were supposed to meet a group of Japanese friends who were sleeping in the third cabin.  When we got to the cabin, there was no way to know if our friends were sleeping inside.  Well, there was one way...  I took out my cell phone and dialed a number.  It was a bad connection and cut off after a ring or two, but it had the desired effect.  A couple of minutes later the leader of the group came stumbling out.  They all needed to sleep some more, and there was little point in continuing up to the top so early, so we settled down to wait.  Up until this point, I was wearing short pants and a long sleeved t-shirt, and I was perfectly warm as long as we kept moving.  But as we waited the cold sunk in.  I put on a coat and my friend and I eventually ended up huddled together and shivering next to the cabin wall.  We ate onigiri and candy bars for the next hour and a half.   

At some point I went to the restroom.  That's when I learned the restrooms along the trail are co-ed.  The restroom at the 8th Station had two urinals next to the door (with a close-up view of the trail when the door opened), and a couple of stalls with squat toilets inside.  Co-ed restrooms are still common in various parts of Japan (older parts mainly), and urinals are routinely exposed.  Personally, I wanted to finish quickly before a group of young girls -- or worse, a female friend -- came walking in.  As for women, they have a different dilemma.  A woman may walk into an empty restroom, use a private stall, but later emerge just behind a row of busy urinals.  That can be quite a shock (or so I've heard) if you're not used to this set up.  At any rate, be aware.

As we waited, at least two tour groups caught up with us, along with lots of individuals and small groups.  The area in front of the cabin became completely packed.  The poor people inside who had paid 7000 yen for a few hours of sleep faced a huge challenge.  First of all, on a normal night in these cabins, you have to share a futon with at least one other person (it may be a friend or a stranger).  People are constantly coming in and going out.  I would assume several are snoring.  On top of all that, you have a growing mass of people outside, with tour guides trying to regain control by shouting and using bullhorns.  Maybe I'm being too negative.  My friend sure was asleep before I called her. 

A small crowd gathered for a break at the 7th Station
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A huge crowd at the 8th Station before we left
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From the 8th Station to the Top

Our friends woke up, ate some noodles, drank some hot cocoa and slowly dragged themselves outside.  It was a madhouse by then, and it got worse.  Within 30 minutes after leaving the 8th Station, the trail was packed 3 people wide and moving slowly.  Occasionally we would move to one side and pass large masses of people, but often the trail was too narrow for that.  After an hour of hiking the sky started to lighten.  I realized suddenly that some people would still be stuck on the trail at sunrise.  That was a horrifying thought for me, and all the more so because at that point we were moving like a line at Disneyland. 

The problem is not simply the number of people on the trail.  Every year 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji, and most of them climb during July and August.  That's just an average of 3000 people per day.  Not bad, except...almost everyone wants to reach the top at the same time, which is just in time for sunrise.  As a result, it took us over 2 hours to get from the 8th Station to the top of Fuji, even though it's a relatively short distance.  For future reference, I realized, it's better to arrive at the top early (e.g., an hour before sunrise) then to hike in gridlock and get there just on time.

The final steps

A woman uses her cell

A quick pose

My friend takes a picture of the pre-dawn sky

The Shinto temple at the summit

A crowd watches the sky in the pre-dawn light ->

Sunrise On Mount Fuji

As we neared the top of the mountain, the sky slowly filled with light.  There was a time when I was sure the sun must be about to rise, but we still had a long way to go.  Actually, we were probably within 200 meters of the summit, but the trail was packed three people wide.  I think everyone on the trail shared a brief panic, because the line stopped moving and I saw several people taking out their cameras.  But all was well.  Still, I would have rather been finishing up right at first light.

Sunrise on Mount Fuji was earlier than I expected.  You should know the time in advance.  I didn't.  We were just climbing with the herd.  At some point, though, someone said sunrise would be at about 4:30 am (I think; I actually can't remember now).  I hiked as aggressively as possible up the final section of trail and arrived with about 15 minutes to spare.  Speaking of "hiking aggressively,"  what I mean is that I was passing people.  It seemed perfectly natural except that I was about the only one doing it.  I felt some justification due to the fact that most of the people climbing seemed to barely be making it (due to age, inertia, lack of exercise, etc.).  But I couldn't deny that passing others on the trail (masses of people, like 50 at a time) was probably considered rude.  I believe in learning and following rules of my host culture.  All I can say is that I was compelled by a higher cause (specifically the highest cause in Japan).   

We came around around a last curve and the summit was suddenly right ahead -- just a short set of stairs and a Torii gate.  Then the trail turned with the ridge on the left and a row of low buildings on the right.  The entire left side was lined with people holding cameras, except for a woman I noticed talking on her cell phone.  It was a Docomo phone (my AU phone had no reception, but who needs to talk to someone from the top of Mount Fuji anyway).  To the right, more people were huddled inside large, open rooms in the buildings eating noodles and drinking from Styrofoam cups.  Vendors were lined up selling a huge collection of souvenirs, including oodles of key chains and other small, lightweight items.

I met up with my friends again (we had been separated in the rush to the top).  We took a few pictures and then all went to stake out a place to wait for sunrise.  I walked a short distance past the stores, pulled out my digital camera and pointed it in the same direction that hundreds of other people were pointing their cameras.  We all waited as the sky became brighter, and then finally a tiny prick of orange light appeared. Click (actually, digital cameras are silent).  Click. Click. Etc.

You can see the pictures below, but they don't do any justice to the scene.  Quite simply, the sunrise from Mount Fuji (on a nice day like ours) is spectacular.  It was the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen, and it's the reason I'd like to climb again and again.  The view is unobstructed from Mount Fuji all the way to the ocean, which isn't that far away.  You see the gentle slop, rolling green hills and clouds rising from below.  The land recedes to the ocean, and the two blend together in a hazy blur.  I don't know how to explain scientifically, but the sun appeared from within this transitional area.  Anyway, you should climb up there and see for yourself.

Waiting for the Sun

First Sliver of Light

Brightening Glow

Half Circle of Light

Rising Sun

Photographer Rising
(Note: Click each picture for a larger version)

After Sunrise

The sky was bright, but it was still early.  I turned to the vendors.  Having brought little extra cash, I couldn't afford even a small can of coffee (going at 400 yen).  Some of my friends were eating bowls of ramen and instant noodles, which didn't look very good but tempted me nonetheless.  I was very happy when someone shared a few bites.  After that, I wandered through the hordes of climbers and vendors looking for someone to stamp my hiking stick. Speaking of the vendors, I marveled at how they had brought so much merchandise up the mountain.  I had learned on the way up that most of them live at their stations for weeks at a time during the climbing season.  I doubt they get much rest. 

At any rate, I eventually ended up in the Shinto temple of all places.  There was an assembly line process inside.  Visitors slide their hiking sticks onto a counter, then workers slid them past a man who was applying some sort of henna tattoo (on the stick).  After getting my stick back, I was disappointed.  The henna marking seemed destined to fade, unlike the burned in stamps that were common at the stations below.  Awhile later I came across someone whose stick sported a very large, burned in stamp stating, "Sunrise on Mount Fuji 2002."  After more searching, I finally found the guy burning sunrise stamps.  He was in the back of a long room with a barbecue grill and surrounded by a huge pile of sticks.  He took care of me, and so I joined an elite crowd who can prove we were at the top of Mount Fuji for a sunrise in 2002.

There was only one thing left to do after that.  Mount Fuji is shaped like a cone with a huge crater at the top, center.  There is a trail that goes all the way around the crater.  On the way, it passes by the tops of all the other climbing routes.  There are a few more shops (although most of the business is concentrated at the Kawaguchi route).  More importantly, you must go to the opposite side of the crater to reach the highest spot on Mount Fuji (and thus, the highest spot in Japan).  The place itself is not all that interesting, but how can you climb Mount Fuji and miss the highest piece of dirt? 

As a bonus, on your way around the crater you'll pass a post office (the highest post office in Japan, and -- despite the density of post offices everywhere else -- the only one on Mount Fuji).  This incongruous little building had a long line of people outside waiting to mailing postcards and letters that would be postmarked from Mount Fuji.  I didn't know about the post office, so I hadn't come prepared.  But several of my friends had brought postcards to mail.

It takes about 30 minutes (more or less depending on your pace) to reach the little monument that marks the high point, and about 2 minutes to snap a picture and move on.  There isn't much to see, although I for one thoroughly enjoyed walking in the morning sun around the side of the crater.  When we returned to the Kawaguchi area, it was still early (about 7:30am).  There wasn't much more to do, so my friend and I started down the mountain around 8:00am.

Looking down on the Kawaguchi trail summit
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A vendor sells a table load of merchandise
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Two friends eating noodles and hanging out inside
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The post office on the top of Mount Fuji
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Looking at the crater walls as we leave the post office area
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A group picture at the highest spot on Mount Fuji
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Getting Down The Mountain

Actually, I had noticed people pouring down the mountain well before 7:00am.  We weren't in such a hurry, because our bus wasn't leaving until 11:30am.  I had heard stories about running (or shuffling very fast) down Mount Fuji, so I was confident we would descend quickly.  Indeed, we started out walking fast and soon picked it up to a sustained jog -- aided by gravity and the soft, dusty trail. 

One of the reasons people complain about climbing Mount Fuji is the dust on the way down.  You don't want to be behind someone at this point, and regardless you will be well coated (unless you sweat heavily, in which case you may be dripping mud).  But I'm exaggerating.  It didn't bother me, and besides I had an extra change of clothes, soap and a toothbrush waiting in a locker below.

At one point, my friend stopped and asked whether to go this way or that way on the trail.  One interesting feature of the Kawaguchi trail is that you come down by a slightly different route than you go up.  Both directions pointed down though.  The question was settled when another hiker came by.  I asked, in my limited Japanese, something like, "5th Station, this way???"  He said something I didn't understand, but eventually he agreed that the 5th Station was the way I was pointing.  Then we were off again.

We increased out pace and hardly rested.  We were put to shame by a few young guys who were literally running down the mountain.  I was confident that I was pushing my 30+ year old knees to the limit, so I didn't try to keep up.  A couple of times, my friend asked if I recognized the trail.  I was feeling a bit uneasy myself, but I knew that we were coming down by a different way and so we shouldn't worry.  Finally, the trail leveled out and we entered the woods.  Once you're in the trees, it's shady and there is no more dust.  On the down side, it's hard to run in the woods, because the earth is packed hard and there are more obstacles. 

After what seemed like a long time, we turned a corner and saw the first stores.  We had made it down in just 2 hours!  But we didn't celebrate, because -- with a terrible, sinking feeling -- we realized that the parking lot and stores were all different than the place we had started from.  The weight of dust and sweat all over my body doubled in an instant.  As the hot sun bore down, I talked in halting Japanese with a sympathetic store owner, who helped me understand that we had come down the wrong trail.  Another sympathetic man wandered over.  Actually, maybe he wasn't sympathetic.  He was a taxi driver.  After hearing that our stuff was all in a locker at the Kawaguchi 5th Station, he offered to take up back there by taxi for about 20,000 yen ($160US). 

We didn't have the money for that.  I pulled out my cell phone to call for help, but the battery was to weak to connect.  I bought a phone card for 1000 yen,  but when I opened up the address book in my cell phone the battery completely died.  So we bought a couple of drinks and started figuring out how to rescue ourselves.

Looking down at hikers descending below
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Passing by a station on the way down
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Someone jogging ahead of us down the trail
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Going Home

If everything had gone well, we would have cleaned up a ridden in luxury back to Shinjuku.  The thought of that tortured me for the rest of the day.  Instead, we walked to a gravel parking lot and caught an uncomfortable bus that drove remarkably slowly down the mountain.  We got off in a parking lot, where we waited for another even slower bus.  This took us to the slowest train I've ever ridden in Japan.  We eventually made it home in the even, having expended at least as much energy as we had climbing the mountain the night before. 

NOTE: Read my follow-up story about my SECOND time up Mount Fuji on my photoblog here!

See my current photos and blog at Photosensibility.com

Other Helpful Websites

Fuji Climbing Guide - A simple, thorough  and practical guide for climbing Mount Fuji with lots of logistical and practical stuff that I didn't cover here.

Fuji Fanatic - A true Fuji fanatic provides LOADS of information (too much at times).  It's not as well organized as the first website above, but it's based on lots of experience.  This guy climbs Mount Fuji several times a year, and he seems to know what he's talking about. 

Climbing Fools - I appreciated this humorous, light-hearted account of climbing Mount Fuji when I was preparing to climb. It's well written and has some good information, too. 

Happy Trails!


2003 Andy Gray