Mastering Mount Fuji: Your Expert Route to the Top

by Nana Young
Accompanied by the stunning scenery of Mount Fuji, Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine, the cherry blossoms in spring are amazingly beautifu

Climbing the highest mountain in the world is a feat that you can brag about for the rest of your life. But ample knowledge of the mountain and its trails could be the difference between success and failure. Read our guide to give yourself the most rewarding experience while hiking Mount Fuji.

Introduction to Mount Fuji: Japan's Majestic Icon

Panoramic plane view of beautiful sunset in the sky over clouds and Mount Fuji, Japan

Mount Fuji is a volcanic mountain on Honshu Island, Japan. It is what is termed a stratovolcano, a type of volcano composed of several strata (layers) of lava and tephra. Standing at a dizzying height of over 3,770 meters, Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan. It’s still an active volcano and is known among people in Japan by various names, including Fuji-san or Fujiyama.

Besides being Japan's tallest peak, Mt. Fuji is also an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, and a Japanese Historic Site. All of these accolades and titles were given to the mountain in attempts to preserve and promote its cultural heritage. Mt. Fuji is also one of the Three Holy Mountains in Japan, alongside Mt. Tate and Mt. Haku.

The view of Mount Fuji from Tokyo or any other nearby city is simply stunning, especially on days with clear weather. The lush forest surrounding the mountain only adds to its beauty from afar.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people climb Mount Fuji, making it Japan’s most climbed mountain. The mountain has several climbing routes, many of which can challenge non-mountaineers without overwhelming them. However, you still need to prepare mentally and physically before you make your first attempt.

Planning Your Hike: Essential Tips and Considerations

Hikers gather during sunrise on the Mt. Fuji summit .

Planning your hike well is the first and most important step in climbing Mt.Fuji. Below, we offer practical advice to help you prepare better for the challenge ahead.

Train your mind and body

You can start training weeks before you go on the hike by performing a series of simple exercises. These activities help prepare you physically and mentally by putting you in situations similar to those you’ll face on Mt. Fuji. Start with long walks or jogs combined with aerobic workouts like jumping rope, swimming, etc. You can then hike some of the smaller mountains in the area or climb long stairs to build stamina and strengthen leg muscles. Feel free to include some mindful breathing exercises and meditation. Those help a lot!

Choose the right season

Decide whether you would like to hike the mountain during the regular climbing season or not. If you choose to do so, you’ll enjoy all of the Mt. Fuji facilities, mild weather, and easier access. If you choose to go off-season, you need to go with a guide and take additional precautions.

Obtain all the necessary documentation (if applicable)

You don’t need a permit to hike the mountain in its official climbing season or off-season. However, you need to fill out a climbing form if you plan to hike the mountain in the off-season.

Choose the right hiking route

There are several hiking routes on Mt. Fuji, and choosing any of them will have a great impact on the scenery, difficulty level, and cost of your journey. Take a look at our detailed overview of the various hiking routes available and make an informed decision.

Hiking Routes: Exploring the Trails to the Summit

Mt. Fuji climbing, Yoshida Trail , Japan

There are 4 main hiking trails leading to Mt. Fuji’s famous summit at 3,776 meters. Each of them starts from a different side at the base of the mountain and includes 10 stations, with the first station located at the base and the 10th at the summit. The 5th station of each trail is the point at which cars can no longer pass due to a lack of pavement. The majority of the climbers prefer to start their journey from one of the four 5th stations. Join us as we explore the color-coded Mt. Fuji hiking trails.

Yoshida Trail (Yellow)

This trail starts at the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station from the north and is at an altitude of 2300 meters. It’s the most popular trail among all the others due to its easy accessibility from central Tokyo and low difficulty. The trail is littered with lots of accommodation options and other facilities. Perfect for beginners, it will take you about 6 hours to ascend and 4 hours to descend via a separate trail. Only choose this trail if you’re comfortable hiking behind a large crowd.

Fujinomiya Trail (Blue)

This is the second-most-climbed Mt. Fuji trail. It’s by far the quickest, taking around 5 hours to ascend and 3 hours to descend, but it’s also one of the most difficult to navigate due to its steepness and rocky terrain. The trail begins at the Fujinomiya Trail 5th Station, which sits at an altitude of 2400 meters. It’s located south of the mountain and is easily accessible via Shin-Fuji Station. The entire route has about a dozen mountain huts. Use this trail if you want more of a challenge.

Subashiri Trail (Red)

The Subashiri 5th Station is easier to access than all the others except that of Yoshida. The trail remains independent until its 8th station, where it joins the Yoshida Trail. It takes about 6 hours to ascend from the 2000-meter altitude station and 3 hours to descend. The Subashiri Trail is ideal if you want to get more unique views. However, it has fewer mountain huts and amenities. 

Gotemba Trail (Green)

Beginning at the Gotemba 5th Station (1400 meters altitude), this route is the most difficult. Going up might take you about 7 hours and coming down around 3 hours. You won’t find any toilets or huts until you reach the 7th station. The Gotemba Trail is a great route for experienced hikers who prefer more quiet and fewer crowds during the journey.

Climbing Season: Best Times to Tackle Mount Fuji

First time of Japan's Mountain Day, national crowd on the top of Fuji Mountain

As with many other mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji has an optimal climbing season, where most of the mountain huts are active and there’s easy transportation to the various hiking trails. The official climbing season on Mt. Fuji starts in early July and ends in mid-September. Summer is in full swing during this period, so there is no snow on the mountain and the weather is mostly mild, making it easier and safer for people to climb to the top of the mountain.

The climbing season for the Yoshida Trail starts earlier than the other routes. Recently, it began on the first day of July, while that of the other trails began on the 10th day of July. However, the official climbing seasons for all trails end on the same day, which typically falls on September 10.

Any period outside of the official climbing season is called the off-season. At this time, most of the huts and amenities are closed and the trails are less accessible by public transport. The weather conditions are also unfavorable, and in winter they get quite dangerous. Despite these obstacles, a few people still attempt to climb Mt. Fuji in the off-season, especially between mid-April and early June. If you’re an inexperienced hiker, we don’t recommend that you attempt an off-season climb, especially without an expert guide.

Mount Fuji Stations: Rest Stops Along the Ascent

Hinode-kan Hut at 7th station on Mt Fuji, Yamanashi, Japan.

Earlier, we discussed how each hiking route is divided into 10 stations, with the 5th station being the starting point for most hikers. But these stations are a lot more than landmarks. They serve as places where climbers can rest, refuel, and acclimatize to the altitude. This is especially true for the 5th station, which tends to contain parking lots, toilets, rest rooms, and small shops. One of the most important amenities of hiking trail stations is the mountain hut or cabin. These facilities offer basic lodging for hikers and climbers. Many of them don’t have bathing amenities, but they provide toilets, meals, and snacks. You can stay there overnight in the middle of your climb and continue the journey the next day.

Preparing for Altitude: Tips for Climbing Mount Fuji

Terrain on climbing route on Mount Fuji

Climbing Mt. Fuji is not as difficult as some people might think. Even though the mountain is gigantic, its terrain mostly consists of gentle slopes with a few patches of steepness. However, the main obstacle is the risk of altitude sickness, which can occur as a result of the thinner air and lower oxygen levels towards the summit. You can mitigate this risk by hiking during the day and not at night. But what if you want to catch the sunrise in the early morning? We recommend that you at least reach the 7th station in the evening and then sleep at a hut through the night. You can continue your journey early the next morning and arrive at peak sunrise period (4:30am-5:00am).

Throughout your journey, remember to stay hydrated by drinking water and pace yourself by taking some time at stations to acclimate to the high altitude conditions. Take an extended break or return to a lower elevation if you feel dizzy, have headaches, nausea, or fatigue, as this could be a symptom of altitude sickness. Our final, and perhaps most important, recommendation is to ensure you have the correct gear and equipment for the climb.

Climbing Essentials: Gear and Equipment for the Ascent

Crowds of climbers at the summit in Mt Fuji

To ensure your safety and optimize your experience during the climb, there are certain items you should bring on your journey. Hence, we’ve provided a packing list of essential gear and equipment for climbing Mount Fuji. Check it out!

  1. Clothing: Wear thick protective clothes with extra layers, gloves, and rain gear, as it can get very windy and cold higher up the mountain.

  2. Shoes: Only use proper hiking shoes or boots that offer protection for your ankles.

  3. Food and water: Bring enough food and water to sustain you on the journey, especially if you plan to follow a route with few mountain huts, such as the Subashiri Trail.

  4. Money: Take some cash with you for shopping at the stations. These places sell everything, from water to canned oxygen.

  5. Additional hiking items: Carry a pair of hiking sticks with you or buy some on the trail. You can also get a headlamp for the pre-dawn ascent and sunscreen for a midday journey.

Sunrise Summit: Witnessing the Spectacular Views

Hikers at the summit of Mt. Fuji during sunrise

All of these preparations, considerations, and precautions are done with one goal in mind: reaching the summit of Mount Fuji. And when you eventually achieve this goal, you’ll see that it has all been worth it. You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the iconic sunrise over Japan. This awe-inspiring experience is even better when you make it there just in time for sunrise.

Descending Mount Fuji: Tips for a Safe Descent

Yoshida Trail for hikers to descend in Mt Fuji

Don’t be deceived; the descent from the summit of Mount Fuji is just as hard, if not harder, than the initial climb. You have less energy and motivation. You may even be feeling some heaviness in your knees. To avoid potential injuries or accidents, be sure to take regular breaks and stay hydrated. Also, take an easier trail while going down, preferably one with volcanic gravel. Many people claim that the Gotemba Trail is the best for descending.

Post-Climb Recovery: Rest and Relaxation

Beautiful woman enjoy onsen (mineral hot bath) in morning and seeing view of Fuji mountain in Japan

So, you’ve reached the summit and completed the tasking journey back down to the rest of Japan. What next? We recommend that you focus on recovery, rest, and relaxation. The most common way to do this is to visit one of the nearby restaurants for a hearty meal. Another way to relax is to soak in a hot spring while you reflect on the accomplishment of summiting Mount Fuji. These hot springs are located in onsen (Japanese hot spring facilities). To learn more about these hot springs and their health benefits, read our recent post about onsen in Japan.

Legends of Mount Fuji: Ancient Tales and Folklore

Painting of Mt. Fuji from Tagonoura Japan with standing Japanese woman in balcony

As a traditional and cultural landmark in Japan, Mt. Fuji is the centerpiece of dozens of folktales, including the story of its birth. According to ancient Japanese legend, the Ainu fire goddess called Fuchi created the mountain from barren land in one day. Visu, a common woodsman, bore witness to this creation and named it Fuji-yama. In Shinto religion, Sengen or Konohanasakuya-hime is the goddess of the mountain. There are also several fictional prose narratives that mention mountains, including the 8th-century tale of the bamboo cutter. The Edo period (1603–1868) saw even more tales appear in the form of legends, songs, and poems.

Conclusion: Embracing the Majesty of Mount Fuji

Colorful Autumn Season and Mountain Fuji with morning fog and red leaves at lake Kawaguchiko is one of the best places in Japan

If you’re planning to visit Tokyo anytime soon, you should consider an adventurous climb to the summit of Mount Fuji. Remember to prepare physically and mentally before the hike, get your gear ready, and take all of the precautions during the journey. While you navigate the interesting challenges, don’t forget to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty and look forward to the rewards of scaling Japan’s iconic peak.

Seeing that snacking is a big part of the climb up the mountain, you may want to explore the different gourmet snacking options from the country before your trip. Bokksu can help with that. All you need is a Snack Box Subscription, and we’ll send you a box full of authentic Japanese snacks and sweets every week. 

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