Mount Fuji is another hike I hadn’t really planned, but it’s hard to avoid the allure of climbing Japan’s highest mountain when we’re visiting the area on a family holiday. As this wasn’t really part of our itinerary, I choose the “easiest” Mount Fuji route, which is the Yoshida Trail starting at the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station. The Yoshida trail actually begins at Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine at the base of Mt. Fuji, which would add a few hours to the hiking time. The Subari Line, a scenic toll road up Mount Fuji’s lower northern slopes, takes you up to the 5th Station. (There are four different trails to the Mt Fuji summit – the Yoshida Trail is the most popular as well as being arguably the easiest.)
I’m near the end of the “climbing season” and starting fairly late, having been dropped off around 11am – many people opt to ascend well before dawn to catch sunrise (or goraiko, the “arrival of light”) from the summit. The wide path initially ascends fairly gently through the forest.
The route gets much steeper and rockier from the Sixth Station, with the first mountain hut (Hanagoya) being reached near the Seventh Station.
The landscape gets more barren as the trail ascends, and there’s no mistaking that you’re on a volcano (Mount Fuji is an active volcano that last erupted in 1707). It’s also not the most scenic landscape – the barren terrain is not helped by concrete embankments and many other man-made signs and intrusions.
The path continues to ascend relentlessly up the scree slope – although (unlike Mount Rinjani) there’s aways a well-formed path that make progress relatively easy.
Finally, the trail passes the gate to the Kusushi Shrine as it reaches the summit. It’s now about 4pm, and it’s taken me just under three hours to reach Mount Fuji’s summit.
Mount Fuji’s highest point is on the other side of the wide crater: there is a path that follows the edge of the crater all the way around. While Mount Fuji’s cone is considered exceptionally symmetrical, from the summit it seems quite the opposite! The crater spans about 500m (in surface diameter) and has a depth of about 250m.
The path around the crater is mostly a wide trail, although occasionally it narrows to walking track. The jagged crater has eight peaks: Oshaidake, Izudake, Jojudake, Komagatake, Mushimatake, Kengamine, Hukusandake, and Kusushidake.
Kengamine is the highest point, where a plaque marks the official height of Mount Fuji: 3775.63m.
Unfortunately, my late start means there’s a lot of cloud, and the views from the summit are not particularly inspiring. (Arriving at dawn would give you a better chance of good views.)
After completing the circuit around the crater, I’m soon back at the Yoshida Trail. The trail for the ascent is different from the descent trail, and the Yoshida Trail down is the same as Subashiri Trail up to the Eight Station. The Yoshida “descent trail” rejoins the “ascent trail” at the Sixth Station.
It’s important not to take the wrong trail – although the various trails and junctions are all well marked in Japanese and English.
The descent is much quicker than the climb up… and it’s great to have “summited” Japan’s tallest mountain. But it’s not the most pleasant walk, and I’d recommend an early start to get sunrise and hopefully some clearer views from the top!
When to climb Mount Fuji
The climbing season for Mount Fuji is from early July to early September, and the peak season is during the school vacations which go from late July to the end of August. The busiest time within this period is Obon Week in mid August. There’s an argument that walking with thousands of other people making the pilgrimage to the top is part of the experience; personally I would try and avoid the peak times. Climbing is allowed during the “off season” but discouraged, especially in winter when there have been fatalities. Although it’s not a technical climb, the top is extremely icy and subject to extreme winds. Some companies offer guided spring climbs from April to June, when there is still snow on the mountain.