During my Japan holiday, I also set out to climb Mount Fuji. It’s one of those things that are on the bucket list and should be done once in your life.
Like the Japanse say:
“Your are wise to climb Fuji once and a fool to climb it twice.”
It’s somewhat a pilgrimage (3000 people climb it every day while it’s open) and at the same time a cultural experience. On our way up and down the mountain we encountered everyone from 3 years old to ninety years old and it was once again astonishing to see how serious the Japanese approach everything.
It’s a true fashion parade up and down the mountain, the best the Outdoor industry has to offer transform your average Japanese white collar worker into a lookalike Reinhold Messner. Mountaineering is a serious business.
I was lucky enough to have a Japanese friend who connected me with a Japanese group of guys that were planning the ascend and invited me to join their group. Thus I had an incredible experience. We took the train in the early morning, followed by a shuttle bus connection to the 5th station. From there we started our 4 hour ascend to the 8th station, where we would spend the night in a little hut squeezed together with around 100 other climbers.
Upon arrival were handed brooms to brush off our hiking shoes, we hung out to admire the view and watch Mount Fuji cast its shadow over the clouds under the setting sun. There was a delicious curry for dinner and at 7pm it was time to catch some sleep.
Segregated by gender everyone had a little sleeping space and shoulder to should with random Japanese ladies I slept like a baby on 3.300m. We woke early to witness the sunrise over Mt. Fuji and only started to make our way up to the summit at around 5am, when most of the nightclimbers were already descending again.
Once you reach the top of Mt Fuji you get to stare down at that still active volcano, which I have to admit slightly disappoints. Thinking back at other active volcanoes I’ve climbed, such as in Bali or Guatemala, this one seems rather tame. No hot Lava flowing, nothing to see. Yet, the top of the mountain still has a lot to offer. There is an active shrine with many monks who would pray for each climbers safety, the view is spectacular and it’s great to imagine how those men who used to inhabit the weather station must have felt, being alone in the clouds for a full year without any visitors.
The descend is when the fun part starts. Due to Mount Fuji being a volcano it’s less rocky than “proper” mountains and there’s a side that’s covered by fine ashes. You can actually run down in an hour or so. All you need is to duct-tape your shoes and get ready to run. It’s so fun!!
I couldn’t walk right for days to come – the running down the mountain activated muscles I didn’t even know I had. I highly recommend doing it. Get your cross-country-skiing moves ready, that’s all it is.