Days 12 & 13: Mount Fuji

I signed up for a guided climb tour of Mt. Fuji about a month ago, that took place yesterday and today. I chose to go with an outfitter called Willer Express. Overall they were very good in my opinion.

The tour meets just west of Shinjuku station at a random location in front of a non-descript building–the meeting  location is very well indicated on a map on the Willer Expresss site. Actually, the primary reason I spent two nights in Shinjuku was to be around the corner (literally) from the meeting location for the tour. I didn’t want to have to figure out directions at 7am on the day the tour kicked off and risk missing the bus.

The bus left at 7:30am like clockwork and we were on our way.

We headed to the 5th station, which is where the majority of the folks start their overnight hiking excursion up Mt. Fuji. It took the bus about an hour and a half to get there.  And we had some good views of Fuji on the way.

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View of Mt. Fuji from the bus

We arrived at the 5th station and I went directly to pick up my rental gear, which I requested and paid for when I booked the tour.

The rental gear consisted of rain gear  – pants and jacket – as well ask hiking shoes, head lamp, hiking sticks/poles, and backpack. I brought two sweaters and wore my usual hiking pants. The idea was to layer accordingly as we went up the mountain since it was supposed to get chilly at the top (little did I realize that it was actually be freezing up there).

We started the hike around 11am, once everyone got their gear and rental equipment sorted. We were a group of 25 hikers with a very lovely guide named Billy. He asked us to come up with a name for our climbing group. No one could come up with a name anyone liked, so I did: Fuji Fighters. Everyone unanimously agreed and thus we became the Fuji Fighters. We started the ascent.

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Views just after leaving the 5th station.

And we hiked up past the 6th station and 7th station taking breaks every 20-30 minutes or so for water with a few longer breaks maybe every hour or hour and a half for food and a little more rest. It was tiring but we finally made it to the 8th station, to a particular hut our tour outfitter had previously organized for us to stay at.

The huts are interesting. Downstairs is a communal area where the meals and general hanging out takes place. Then alongside that room and on the floor above, there are these little bunk bed nooks where people sleep. You essentially share a sleeping nook with anywhere between 5-7 people. You are all lying there side by side is a space that is about the size of a king size bed (maybe even queen size bed).  Luckily you’re not sleeping for a particularly long period of time. You arrive at the huts, hang out for about 45 minutes acclimating to the altitude, and then you have a little dinner around 6pm. You hang out a little more, during which time many of us took advantage of photographing an absolutely stunning sunset.

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Sunset from the 8th Station.

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Sunset from the 8th Station.

By 8pm most people turn in because we had to start early the next day (today) to finish the hike to the summit….

And by “early” I mean to say: we started hiking at 2:30am. It was hard core. We arrived at the summit a little after 4am. And since the sun was only just starting to come up, our tour guide took us immediately to see the Fuji crater.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to hike around the crater (something I was really looking forward to) because it doesn’t open officially until July 10th. Something about snow and uncertain conditions. Anyways, we got up close enough to get a sense of it.

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View of the Fuji crater just before sunrise

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Sunrise at Mt. Fuji.

We hung around the summit for a half hour taking photos of the sunrise, the views, the crater,etc. It was exceptional! But also freezing. I was definitely under dressed for this affair. In the future I would highly recommend to anyone that if you’re at all cold at the 8th station, ask to rent more layers. It’s worth it. Also, just buy or bring a pair of gloves. I had little hiking cloth gloves the tour outfitter gave us, which were helpful when scrambling up the rocks (yes there was a lot of intermediate-level rock scrambling between the 6th to 8th stations), but also way too thin to really be effective in the cold.

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Snow on Mt. Fuji near the summit.

We made our way down the mountain back toward the 8th station around 4:45am. Back at the 8th station we had breakfast and gathered the rest of our things. After a certain point in the 8th Station we veered off the path we had ascended and we took a separate path the rest of the way until just before the 5th station.

And we were back! It was almost a full 24 hours since we started climbing (we got back to the main lodge at the 5th Station around 9:am).

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The date I summited Mt. Fuji: July 6th

Once we all returned rental gear and bought souvenirs and things, our bus picked us up and drove us about an hour to these hot springs/baths, where most of the Fuji Fighters enjoyed a nice well-deserved soak.

These baths were really nice. There were various outdoors baths and indoor ones all at different temperatures, as well as dry and wet saunas. Terrific way to spend an hour after the hike.

We were back at Shinjuku by 4pm. I had checked my luggage with the lugggage check of my last hotel, so I picked up my stuff and headed to my next hotel closer to Shibuya and Harajuku.

Despite my exhaustion I somehow still managed to muster the energy after checked by into my new hotel to go shopping around Shibuya and Harajuku, particularly the shopping area called Cat Street.

I saw on my map there was a particularly nice restaurant right but Cat Street called Uketai. I hadn’t had a proper meal in two days so I figured it was worth splurging on a good meal so I got the seasonal tasting menu which was lovely (though so much food even for a ravenous hiker!)

So that concludes my two-day adventure  to Fuji! It was definitely among the highlights of my trip (there have been several) but this one was the one I was most nervous for and excited about. I’m so glad it all worked out and I was able to reach the summit!

Tomorrow is my last day in Tokyo and Japan! I plan to use it to relax and do a little last minute shopping.  I can’t believe how time flies!

 

 

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