The beautiful Mount Fuji has long been one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. But where exactly is it?
Many people outside of Japan don’t realize that Mount Fuji (also abbreviated as Mt. Fuji)is just 60 miles (100km) away from the capital city of Tokyo, nestled in the southwest between the prefectures of Shizuoka and Yamanashi. On a beautiful sunny day, you can see Mount Fuji from the Tokyo Tower. But we recommend visiting the highest mountain in Japan in person and exploring the town. There are four cities at the base of the mountain – Gotemba, Fujiyoshida, Fujinomiya, and the aptly named Fuji – along with five picturesque lakes. And from all these locations, you can see the unforgettable sight of Mount Fuji rising into the clouds.
The first time I visited Mount Fuji I was eight years old. On a stunningly blue-skied summer day, I ate spaghetti bolognese from a Japanese vending machine and stared off into the distance with my parents, gazing up at the snow-capped peak of the famous mountain. What I didn’t know back then was the fascinating history of Mount Fuji; the spiritual myths that accompany it, and the mountain’s international fame.
History of Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji’s most obvious claim to fame is its height: with a summit elevation of 3,776 meters, Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, and is a gracefully beautiful one to boot. Its stratovolcanic structure also makes it rather impressive, being three volcanoes in one – though it’s been dormant since its last eruption in 1707.
But the more special side of Mount Fuji lies in its cultural significance and symbolism, which is tied inextricably to Japan’s national identity too.
It’s long been believed that gods reside at, or even within, Mount Fuji (also called Fuji-san out of respect). In the Shinto religion, the mountain itself is worshiped, as Shinto people see natural objects as gods or spiritual powers, which means climbing the slopes has long been an act of pilgrimage.
There are hundreds of shrines dedicated to Mount Fuji across Japan, with many of them congregated around the base of the mountain itself. There’s even a shrine at the mountain’s summit, where a shrine priest resides throughout the summer months each year.
And it’s just as popular as an activity center too. Over 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year in the late summer months when there’s no snow on the ground and trails are open.
The majority of Japanese climbers make the journey thanks to its status as a rite of passage that’s been around since the seventh century, which states that everyone should climb Mount Fuji once in their lifetime.
Top Things You Should Do When You Visit Mount Fuji
Though Mount Fuji attracts more than a million tourists every year, the towns are surprisingly free of crowds, and the surrounding area is a beautiful place to explore. It’s actually recommended that you visit Mount Fuji in the wintertime, around December or January. In these months, there’s the most chance that the mountain’s peak won’t be obscured by clouds.
Climb Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is a beginner-friendly mountain, which can be climbed in a single day for those who are fit and healthy. That said, visitors can also spend a night in one of the mountain huts on the slopes which provide food and drink along with beds. These huts do need a reservation for overnight stays, but you can still pay an entry fee and rest for a few hours.
There are four trails of varying difficulties up the mountain (the easiest is the Yoshida Trail, then Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya), which can take between 5-10 hours to complete. These trails are all marked by ten ‘stations’ that divide up the route, with many climbers beginning at the 5th Station on each trail. If they spend the night at the 7th or 8th Station, it allows for a summit climb at sunrise, with unforgettable views of the Summit Crater and the landscape below.
There are public eco-toilets along the marked trail routes, though they’re only open in the summer.
Visit Local Shrines and Temples
There are various shrines that visitors use as the starting point for their Mount Fuji hikes, but it’s also a common outing to simply visit these stunning buildings for their own beauty. For instance,
The Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine is on the north side of the mountain and is the area’s main Sengen Shrine, also acting as the trailhead for the Yoshida trail. On the opposite side of the mountain is the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha, seen as the head shrine overall. Then there’s the Chureito Pagoda, part of Arakura Sengen Shrine, which can only be reached by climbing up 400 steps of a stone staircase – though you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the mountain and surrounding town as a result.
Walk the Fuji Five Lakes
When Mount Fuji’s snow melts, it reaches the Fuji Five Lakes of Lake Yamanaka, Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Sai, Lake Shoji, and Lake Motosu - also known collectively as Fujigoko. These five lakes offer plenty of activities, from kayaking, camping, and fishing excursions to boat trips and swimming, and you can happily lose yourself with a camera and a pair of hiking boots on one of the many trails. There are many hotels around the lakes, and you can also visit Saiko Iyashino-Sato Nenba, a traditional Japanese village famous for its healing.
Enjoy the Local Flora
Visitors to Mount Fuji in springtime will be greeted by the unforgettable sight of Shiba-sakura, a type of moss phlox that flowers across the ground and looks much like Japan’s famous cherry blossom. The sight of thousands of pink, purple, red, and white blooms – eight different types, no less – looks like an endless outdoor carpet! In fall, the momiji maple leaves appear, creating stunning autumnal scenes that bring plenty of tourists out too.
See Local Wildlife
Mount Fuji forms part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and there are more than thirty different species of animals in the area, including squirrels, foxes, black bears, and the Japanese serow (a type of goat-antelope), and over a hundred bird species too.
Relax in the Onsen
The volcanic activity of Mount Fuji means hundreds of hot springs in the area at hotels and traditional ryokans. The mountainous town of Hakone is one of the country’s most famous spots for hot springs, and enjoying an onsen with a view of the stunning mountain is a perfect way to spend the afternoon!
How To Get To Mount Fuji
It’s extremely easy to get to Mount Fuji on public transportation from Tokyo, with direct train and bus connections running all day. You can do the journey there and back in a day, though many choose to overnight in the area surrounding the mountain.
If you’d like to begin climbing Mount Fuji on arrival, aim for the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. Otherwise, you can disembark from a bus or train at Kawaguchiko Station, Fuji-Q Highland, Lake Yamanakako, and others to explore the surrounding area.
On The Bus
During the climbing season (July-Sept) there are direct buses from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. The bus journey takes about 2.5 hours depending on traffic conditions.
Throughout the year, you can take buses from the same Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station, which usually run once an hour. This bus lands you in the general Fuji area, where you can either explore the region or take a second bus to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station.
The bus is the cheapest and easiest option from Tokyo, but the downside is you’ll miss some of the views available by train.
On The Train
You can take the bullet train (Tokaido Shinkansen) from Tokyo to Mishima station, which takes two hours.
You can also take the Fuji Excursion Limited Express train, which runs a limited service direct from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station. The journey takes just under two hours and all seats are reserved, meaning you’ll need to purchase a ticket beforehand. If this train is inconvenient, taking the Limited Express Kaiji train to Otsuki Station and then transferring to the Fujikyu Line is your best option.
As we’ve mentioned, there are onward buses from Kawaguchiko Station to Subaru Line 5th Station, which you’ll take for any climbing excursions.
Trains are more expensive than the bus, but it’s a quicker journey time overall. Plus if you sit on the right-hand side of the train from Tokyo, you should get your first glimpse of Mount Fuji about 40 minutes into the journey (in the summer months, at least!).
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