We did it!!
We hiked “The Fuj!”
Josh and I headed out on Labor Day (Monday, Sep 5th 2016) and decided that was the day we were going to conquer Mt Fuji! I honestly have to say that I didn’t think it was going to be as tough as it was. I thought “Meh, I’ve hiked mountains before. No big.” but it really did get strenuous towards the summit. There is nothing “technical” so you don’t have to have rock climbing gear, but there are several steep parts where you climb with your hands and feet.
We did some things well, and we made some mistakes… so let me tell you about this crazy experience!
The day before we left, Josh had an early morning. He was up at 4, so he wanted to sleep in a bit. That being said, we left about 7 am and were hiking by about 10-10:15 am. It is a little over an hour drive, and then you take a bus from the parking lot to the top, which is a 45min-1hour bus ride (plus we got lost which you will learn below).
Here we are at Kawaguchiko Station waiting for our train to Fuji Fifth Station (where most people start hiking from).
Ok, full disclosure time: we drove and drove and drove around looking for the correct parking lot, but couldn’t find it. All of the directions I could find online we really vague and didn’t give gps coordinates. We ended up at a stadium one time, and I had to use their bathroom (which was like one of those unkempt bathrooms you find at national parks). It was a squatty potty and there were about 5 spiders and a live cricket IN the toilet! I get really, really creeped out by crickets… so it didn’t help that he was jumping all around in there! I had to check my pants like 3 times to make sure he didn’t get in them somehow!!
My husband, who is much better at directions than I, figured out that we could catch a bus from Kawaguchiko station, so we drove there, figuring it was our best bet. WARNING: the parking has no set limit for how much you pay, so it will continue to charge you all day, leaving you with a BIG bill you have to pay at the end in EXACT change. Lesson learned. Don’t do what we did. Instead, be smart and park HERE. That is the parking lot we were trying to find. Turns out the bus stops there on its way to the Fifth Station, so Josh dropped a pin for all of you, friends 🙂 It costs way, way less (around 1500 yen to park) and is closer to the top, saving you time and money. It costs about 2100 yen (about $20) per person to take the bus round trip.
Here we are at Fuji Fifth Station! Ready to get our hike on!
It is tradition to buy a wooden hiking stick and have it “stamped” at all the stations on the way to the top. When a station has a stamp, they will hang a poster with the design and price. If you want to get the stamp, you pay between 200 and 500 yen to have them burn the design (or designs, some stations have more than one) into the stick with a hot metal “stamp.” We bought our stick here at Fuji Fifth Station.
Here is Josh at the official start of the Yoshida Trail! There are several different trails that you can take to the top of Fuji. Yoshida is the most popular, and this is the one Josh and I chose to take. We hiked on a Monday, which meant it was a lot less crowded than if we went over the weekend.
When you hike to the trail head from the Fifth Station, you will go up and down… we though it was so weird that we were going down for awhile! But don’t worry, you are on the right path… you will still get to the top eventually!
A Torii Gate along the way! If you look closely at our hiking stick, you will see a stamp with a Torii Gate on it that we got at the station you can see behind this gate!
Lunch break! We had one of my favorite lunches of all time… Whole wheat PB&J sandwiches ❤ Look how excited Josh looks! 😛
Something I want to remember is that we met a guy from Australia on the bus on the way up, and we ended up hiking the same pace all the way to the top. We would pass him, then he would pass us, and back and forth, all the way to the top! Then he disappeared and we didn’t see him the whole way down. We also met a woman from Singapore who was super fun to talk to. She was staying the night at the 8.5 station, so we had to leave her behind at that point. She suggested going to the Singapore Zoo if you ever go visit. It is apparently the “worlds best rainforest zoo.” Josh and I consider ourselves somewhat of Zoo connoisseurs after all these years, so it is on my bucket list for sure! The first time I came to visit him at the Air Force Academy we went to the Denver Zoo! We were so young!
Here is a picture of what some of the terrain looks like for the first 2/3rd ish of the hike. It’s rocky and foggy with tons of switch backs. And it feels like hiking on the moon.
Every time Josh and I hike, we say the phrase “No breaks ’till the top!” at least 50 times. It came about one day while hiking in Arkansas, we passed a family with several young kids. Some of them were sitting down on a rock when this little boy came marching up the trail exclaiming “No breaks ’till the top!” #slavedriver
We immediately cracked up laughing, and it has been our go-to phrase ever since. You can imagine how excited I was when I found this sign at a rest station near the top…
And then here’s Josh…
You can see the fog/cloud in the back ground of this picture. For several miles we were completely damp, with water droplets clinging to all of our little hairs. It was like walking in a mist machine!
Here is Josh at the last “station” before the top! See the Torii Gate stamp?!
This station was tiny and it was all boarded up. But it was a good place for a few pictures. After this tiny station, you break through the clouds and can see a lot farther!
Here is a map of the hike so you can get an idea! Where we are in the above photos is the 3rd from the top of the right side blue line…
The right line above is the ascent and the left line is the descent of Yoshida’s (the yellow) trail. The white hut at the bottom is where we started! You can see that once you get to the top, there is a trial that walks around the crater in a circle. It’s important that if you walk that trial, you come back around to the correct descent trial, or you will end up heading down a different part of the mountain! It could be easy to do since there are Four different climbing routes.
The hardest part of the whole hike was after this station (I believe it is called 8th station Tomoekan Hut). The path gets steeper, more rocky, and the air gets thinner. I could feel my heart pounding like crazy!! It was a weird feeling, so periodically we would stop and take some deep breaths to get the oxygen flowing again and let our hearts calm down.
A little while after the hut, it said we had 600 m left to go. I kept saying to Josh, “This is NOT 600 meters!” It felt like a lot longer!
We made it to the summit!
It was so cold and windy up there, we really didn’t want to stay for more than 10 minutes. So that’s what we did! We walked around a bit, got a stamp, and then headed back down. But the first thing Josh wanted to do once we got up there was this…
See the crater! It is easy to forget that Fuji is a volcano until you see that!
Proud of all our stamps!
Now we keep our stick in our living room. Because I have very little decorating sense, and it make us happy there for now!
Here’s an up-close view. And look! The Torii Gate made it in this shot!
The dragon stamp is Josh’s second favorite (his first is the one we got at the top, of course), but we almost didn’t get it! We couldn’t find the guy to stamp it, but we kept poking our heads in the hut saying, “Sumimasen!” (meaning “excuse me!”) until we found someone to do the stamp.
The hike up took between 4 and 4.5 hours and the hike down took between 2 and 2.5 hours. You just have to remember to make it back before 8:30 pm when the last bus leaves!
The down trail of the Yoshida route was a really steep grade. We had to serpentine most of the way down to keep from sliding in the loose gravel. I was told by Emily over at myemiline to bring gaiters for around our boots to keep the loose gravel from falling in our shoes. I kept mine in my back pack and put them on at the top, and was SO GLAD I did! Thank you Emily!
She also told us to try and get hiking poles for the way down to take some of the pressure off our knees. We couldn’t get any in time, but we wished we did! It would have helped a lot I’m sure. Josh said he was very glad for that wooden hiking pole on the way down!
And just like that, we crossed ‘Hike Fuji’ off the Japan Bucket List!
Any suggestions for what else should be on our Japan Bucket List?! We love adventures!!!
Thanks for hiking with us! ❤ Kaci