While we are definitely not traveling and not making travel plans since we don’t know exactly what the next few months will have in store, I’ve found comfort looking back at some of my favorite memories. While you may not be planning trips now, I hope this gives you inspiration for the future.
I keep going back to Japan in my mind, so I wanted to reflect on one of the many highlights: hiking Japan’s tallest mountain and enjoying a couple comfy nights in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) style hotel.
There is something so captivating about Mt. Fuji. Perhaps it’s how its reputation precedes itself. I’ve seen various artwork featuring Fuji before I ever saw a photograph, and then finally, the real thing. It’s the picture-book mountain – one lone peak with a perfectly sloped outline high into the sky. When I found out the trek to the top wasn’t technical and could be done in one day, I knew I wanted to experience the top of Japan!
I spent quite a bit of time researching how to get there and what to plan for, so wanted to share my experience!
Timing: We climbed Fuji via Yoshida trail at the very end of September. We chose this timing because it was off-season, so less crowded, but well before the first snow fall. The season is July 1-Sept. 10, so huts were closed but we still felt very safe on the mountain and saw a few other hikers. We completed this as a day hike over nine hours, though many chose to stay in one of the huts and complete the trek over two days.
Travel from Tokyo to Fuji: We flew into Tokyo from the U.S. and then immediately began the journey to a town called Fujikawaguchiko at the base of Fuji. We purchased Japan Rail passes in advance and found them to be well worth it throughout our travels in Japan. Here you can find details on getting to the Fuji area from Tokyo. For me, this journey was a jet-lagged blur! I was so grateful that our hotel picked us up from the Kawaguchiko train station even though we arrived after the usual shuttle time.
To get to the trail head (5th Station) of Fuji, our hotel helped us schedule a taxi, and it was about an hour ride. There is also a bus available which is more cost effective, but we wanted to leave early for a head start on the trail. We chose to do this during our first full day in Japan, so we were completely jet-lagged with a strange eating schedule. I would definitely not recommend doing that, but we were trying to squeeze the most out of the time we had in Japan.
As you can see above, this hike from 5th Station to the peak via Yoshida trail is quite the elevation gain over almost nine miles. In fact, this was the steepest hike in terms of elevation gain per mile that I’ve ever done. This hike was no joke.
The trails are nicely maintained and very clear. Yet, somehow we did manage to hike up the trail meant for vehicles which was incredibly steep. I’m blaming it on the jet lag and lack of breakfast. So please pay attention to the trail. If you are an experienced hiker in good shape and start early, you can definitely get this done in a one day without staying in the hut. The attitude got to me as we got closer to the peak, so please take your time, breath, eat and stay hydrated! I’ve been fine in higher altitudes, so I keep wondering if it’s related to how I was treating my body that day (jet-lagged, tired, eating snacks and not meals). Don’t do what i did!
We were lucky to hike on a clear day with amazing views of the blue sky and surrounding terrain. I’m glad we started early because clouds rolled in and erased that view on the descent. There is a separate ascending trail and descending trail which is great for hiker traffic (though the trail was not crowded at this time).
When we returned to the 5th Station, the shops and restaurants were now open and it was quite busy with tourists waiting for the clouds to show the view of Fuji’s perfect flat peak. We grabbed a bus ticket to return to Kawaguchiko station and then a shuttle back to our comfy hotel!
What to bring on the hike:
- Day pack (mine is 30L, perfect size)
- Hiking poles (these were SO helpful coming down the steep descent trail)
- Plenty of water, I had three liters
- Snacks for energy (trail mix, protein bars, packed lunch, etc.)
- Rain jacket, rain cover for pack
- Warm gear (jacket, gloves, hat)
- Good hiking boots and hiking socks
Mizno Hotel: Knowing we’d go for affordable Airbnbs or hotels the rest of our trip, I really wanted to splurge for a nice, but reasonable, place with a view of Fuji, and I was so thrilled by Mizno Hotel. The hotel itself is beautiful, service was lovely and we had so much fun trying fancy Japanese food at their restaurant for both dinner and breakfast. The Japanese breakfast with views of Fuji on the patio were extra special. We also took advantage of the private onsen (hot bath) which came with a bottle of sparkling wine. A very special treat!