Most people climb Mount Fuji from the “5th Station” which is located about 2300m in altitude. However, every year a very small percentage of the 300,000 annual Fuji hikers decide that they must hike all of the mountain and start from 0m in elevation at the ocean.
I had never heard of this route, nor have most Japanese people, but as soon as I learned it was an option, I knew I had to try.
Climbing Mount Fuji Japan
When my ultra-fitness friend Andy came to visit Japan, it was the perfect chance. And so, at 11PM on Friday night, Andy and I, together with our friend Axel, went to Tagonoura Beach with no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.
Our plan was to hike the entire day. We reached the summit of Fuji to see the sunrise. Our plan after that was to somehow walk down the other side to a bus that would take us to a hotel.
Per tradition when climbing Mount Fuji sea to summit, we filled our water bottles with sea water before heading out so we could dump them out at the top. In the process, Axel managed to completely soak both of his sneakers meaning every step of his hike would be slightly less comfortable. This wasn’t a good omen for the beginning of our trek.
We followed a route map created by another sea to summit hiker from which started us out walking on town roads.
At 2AM, we reached our final opportunity to stock up on supplies until reaching the 5th station, 7-11. Past this convenience store we would be dipping into the woods for another 10 hours. Needless to say, we bought all the chocolate bars our packs could hold.
Mizugazuka Park – the halfway mark
At noon, we came out of the forest into a big parking lot. We had arrived at Mizugazuka Park. This marked the halfway point of our journey. Thirteen hours down, and only halfway… we were a bit behind schedule. Hopefully we wouldn’t be too late to catch the sunrise.
There were picnic tables under an awning and a gift shop. While we sat there munching happily on our chocolate bars, we heard a distinct and far-off sound that caught our attention.
Somewhere off in the distance thunder boomed ominously. Ten minutes later we were in the middle of a heavy downpour. Thankfully, under the protection of the snack shop’s awning, we ended up waiting an hour before the rain let up. Hopefully it hadn’t made trails too muddy or slick.
Fujinomiya Trail – typical starting place
The afternoon turned to dusk as we hiked through the enchanted forest trails of Gotenniwa Nature Park. Finally, we left the tree line behind and arrived at the 5th Station of the Fujinomiya Trail. This is where most people start their Fuji hike, but we had already been walking for about 20 hours.
With spirits low and motivation waning, we bought more chocolate bars at the 5th Station Lodge and ate a very welcome instant noodle dinner. By this point it was now dark, and at this altitude the temperature had dropped to around 12 degrees Celsius.
After changing into our cold weather gear and saying several desperate prayers for strength, we set out to climb Mt. Fuji like everyone else.
Ours was a typical Fuji night hike experience, if not slightly slower. We would step uphill in the dark for about an hour until we reached one of the many mountain huts where we would take a break and eat more chocolate. However, things got really difficult around 3000m in elevation.
It was midnight and Andy was complaining of a headache, nausea, and dizziness, all classic signs of altitude sickness. All our energy levels were dangerously low having not slept since the morning of the previous day.
Despite our winter jackets, the now 4 degree (Celsius) temperature meant that if we stopped walking for long we would start shaking involuntarily. Most of the final push for the summit is a blur, but I know somehow we made it up the final stretch to the peak. After 27 hours of hiking over 50km up 3776m in elevation, we had done it.
Dumping out my water bottle full of undrinkable sea water at the peak, I felt a slight sense of accomplishment mixed with an overwhelming desire to go to bed. After appropriate tired celebrations, we ambled back down, around the crater, and witnessed the most beautiful sunrise ever before hobbling down the Yoshida Trail to the bus that would take us to our beds. Communing with Nature In a Kimono
I can easily say it was the most physically demanding 27 hours of my life. I would definitely recommend others considering climbing Mount Fuji to train beforehand, hike with friends, and bring a backpack full of chocolate bars and warm clothes.
Andrew Marston is a graphic designer and wannabe YouTuber living in Nagoya, Japan with his wife and several house plants. Checkout Andrew’s Japan Bike Adventure.