Climbing Mount Fuji
Japan is home to the most serene Mt. Fuji, and this is how to climb it.
When people talk of “climbing Mt. Fuji,” what they always mean is taking a bus halfway up and climbing the mountain the rest of the way. It is possible to climb it from the bottom, but people who do that make a point of saying that they are “climbing Mt. Fuji from the bottom.”
There are four main routes to the top of Mt. Fuji, starting halfway up: the Yoshida trail, the Subashiri trail, the Gotemba trail and the Fujinomiya trail. All of these are on the east side of Mt. Fuji. By far, the most popular route is the Yoshida trail, but it is not necessarily the best one to take.
With the exception of the Fujinomiya trail, each of the four upper routes actually comprises two trails: one for ascent and one for descent.
How to pick a trail
There is no one set way to climb Mt. Fuji. There are a number of trails to take, depending on your choices:
- Where are you coming from?
- How long do you want the hike?
- What kind of trails do you prefer?
- When do you want to reach the top?
- Where are you trying to go?
Where are you coming from? Many people take buses directly from Shinjuku station. You can also take a train into one of the local stations around Mt. Fuji and then take a local bus or even walk to the mountain. In all cases, the bus hours are limited and vary from trailhead to trailhead.
How long do you want the hike? Most people start and finish “halfway” up the mountain rather than at the bottom, but “halfway” is a very rough approximation. From trail to trail, the distance from “halfway” to the top can vary by a factor of two. You might not know that there are multiple peaks on Mt. Fuji. For an even shorter hike you might choose to reach one of the lesser peaks instead of the summit.
What kind of trails do you prefer? The main (Yoshida) trail is famous for the huts along the way. These huts sell food and water, have toilets and even offer a place to sleep. Not all of the trails have huts, which means you need to carry much more weight for water and food. Some trails are more crowded and some are almost empty. Some trails are physically harder to climb and some trails are dustier.
When do you want to reach the top? Many people like to see the sunrise from the summit, which means they climb the mountain all night.
Where are you trying to go? The mountain is a volcano, which means the summit is actually a crater. The trails come up at different points around the crater. It may take quite a while to reach the post office, shops and/or highest point of the mountain if that’s where you’re trying to go.
Each trail is marked with waypoints called “stations” which are numbered 1 to 9. These stations represent the historic locations of huts selling food and water to climbers. Today any one station may have zero huts or it may have many huts, depending on how popular the trail is. On all four trails, the bus stop “halfway up the mountain” is located at the 5th station.
The bus stops have the following names: Fuji-Subaru 5th Station, or Kawaguchiko (Yoshida trail), Subashiri 5th Station (Subashiri trail), Gotemba 5th Station (Gotemba trail) and Fujinomiya 5th Station (Fujinomiya trail).
You will note that the bus station to access the Yoshida trail is not named the Yoshida 5th station. This is because the Fuji Subaru bus station was built just a few decades ago, somewhat off to the side of the Yoshida trail. After arriving at the Fuji Subaru bus station, it is necessary to hike a mile or so laterally along the side of the mountain along a broad gravel path to reach the Yoshida trail at the 6th station. (There is actually a Yoshida 5th station, but it is an abandoned hut in the middle of the woods, on the lower half of the Yoshida trail which is infrequently hiked.)
Here are a few basic options, and you can read more below in response to the specific points above.
- Kawaguchiko (Fuji-Subaru) 5th Station to summit via Yoshida route, down to Kawaguchiko (Fuji-Subaru) 5th Station. By far the most common choice. Many people take a bus from Shinjuku station and disembark in the late evening about halfway up the mountain at Kawaguchiko (Fuji-Subaru) 5th Station. They walk all night, in the cold, dark, rain and wind and arrive at the summit at sunrise. The early part of the trail is an interminable slog of a gentle slope that goes on forever; the later part is scrabbling over a mess of rocks using all four limbs. These climbers view the beautiful sunrise, suffer the gale-force winds at the summit (which is on the far side of the crater from the true highest point and the post office), and descend via a painful, gravel path which is too loose to afford traction and but not loose enough to allow running down the mountain. Huts are plentiful on the way up; only a few pay toilets are on the way down. It is also possible to make this a two-day trip: ascend to one of the highest huts during the day, sleep overnight, wake up early to ascend to the summit to see the sunrise, then descend. This avoids the cold and rain of hiking at night, though the summit is still chilly and windy at dawn.
- Fujinomiya 5th Station to summit, down to Fujinomiya 5th Station. The Fujinomiya 5th Station is quite near the summit, making this a pleasant day hike. This choice is the most accessible route by public transit from western Japan. (It is also accessible from eastern Japan.) Reaching the summit in the early afternoon means the weather will be balmy and mild. This route comes to the side of the summit at the post office, and near the highest point. The ascent is vigorous, skipping the boring early part of the Kawaguchiko (Fuji-Subaru) ascent. The descent is somewhat tough on the knees (but if time allows the Gotemba descent can be taken instead). Huts are plentiful up and down (because the ascent and descent trails are the same). During the peak season when the buses are more frequent, it is possible to take a shinkansen from Tokyo to Mishima, take local trains to Fujinomiya station, take a bus up, and then take a bus back to either Shin Fuji or Mishima to return by shinkansen. This route gets crowded late in the season. I noticed significantly heavier crowds the last weekend of July than the weekend before.
- Gotemba 5th Station to wherever, down to Gotemba 5th Station. It is popular for athletes to jog up the loose gravel of the Gotemba trail and then cross over to the descent trail whenever they like. Gaiters are highly recommended due to the dust.
- Fujinomiya 5th Station to Mt. Hoei, down to either Fujinomiya 5th Station or Gotemba 5th Station. This short day hike is much easier on the feet and knees than taking the Fujinomiya trail to the summit, takes less time and affords a tour of the historic craters of the eruption 300 years ago. Returning to Fujinomiya 5th station takes even less time than ending at Gotemba 5th station.
- Fuji Sengen Jinga to summit via Yoshida route, down to Kawaguchiko (Fuji-Subaru) 5th station or Fuji Sengen Jinga. Dedicated hikers sometimes hike from the bottom, and this is the most popular way to do it.
Upper route trail information
Yoshida trail (from Fuji Subaru 5th station to summit)
The Yoshida trail is the most popular route, because the huts are plentiful, the buses are frequent and you can see the sunrise from any part of the route. Although the huts are not all open 24/7, on this trail you run the least risk of suffering a lack of food or water or shelter. Likewise, the chance you will miss the last bus and be forced to hike to the base of the mountain or call an expensive taxi to pick you up is lowest.
The trail has a range of terrain types. The bottom is a hike through a forest. A long middle section is a series of switchbacks, with dirt and rock steps that are slightly too big and uneven to climb over easily. Towards the top there is a seemingly endless series of frozen lava flows which may require crawling up with gloves or hauling oneself up on the heavy chains provided.
The last manned station before the summit is the “8.5th Station”; the 9th Station is abandoned. You arrive at the side of the summit with the huts, shrine and vending machines, but the opposite side of the crater from the post office and the highest point of the mountain. It takes about an hour to walk around the crater. The weather at the summit is windier and colder than just a short ways down the mountain, during the night intolerably so. If you arrive at the summit at night, particularly when it is raining, it is unlikely you will be in condition to stay very long.
The descent trail is a gravel path used by tracked vehicles to take supplies to the huts. The gravel is not as loose and deep as the sandslide on Gotemba (or Subashiri, I imagine) and is a universal source of complaints due to its length, steepness and lack of traction.
I have climbed the Yoshida trail twice.
- July 31 and August 1 2009: Fuji-Subaru 5th station to summit, down to the same station
- July 3 and 4 2010: Fuji Sengen Jinga to summit, down to Fuji-Subaru 5th station
The first was from Fuji Subaru 5th station to the summit, then back to Fuji Subaru 5th station. The second was from the train station to Fuji Sengen Jinga (i.e., the bottom) to the summit, then back to Fuji Subaru 5th station. The second time, only the ascent trail was open (the government had actually sent people up with shovels to clear the ascent trail), so I descended by the ascent trail. I had difficulty descending the frozen lava flows because I used my hands on the ascent and that was not really an option on the descent, though more nimble people had less trouble walking down.
The Gotemba trail is by far the longest of the four. It is essentially designed to take advantage of the largest sandslide part of Mt. Fuji. Although Mt. Fuji is covered in the kind of sand and pea gravel which comprises the sandslide, there are not many parts which are loose and uniformly small enough to run down. The length of the descent trail is not a problem, because you can basically run down most of the trail, or if you are tired, you can shuffle down with little effort. Either way, the depth and looseness of the gravel keep you from losing your balance. Provided you have a way to keep the sand and gravel out of your shoes, the descent trail is fun. Folding over the tops of hiking socks works reasonably well. With gaiters, you are invincible to sand and gravel in your shoes.
The ascent trail is long and tiring, but no surefootedness is required. The trail is the same sandslide material as the descent trail, only with zig-zags up the mountain to lessen the slope. The ascent trail seems arbitrarily marked. When I climbed, it was on the opposite side of the descent trail marked on my map, and it seemed the government had recently moved it, perhaps to minimize erosion. You will encounter numerous athletes jogging up and down the mountain for the intense workout. Some people ascend the descent trail (at least part of the way), and some people descend the ascent trail.
Huts are practically non-existent (though the remains of former huts are visible everywhere), so you need to carry your own water, food and plan ahead for shelter. Use the restroom before heading to this trail. (Urinating onto lesser used trails is tolerated, but defecating is scandalous. Pack out your feces if an emergency arises.) Buses are less frequent. Take a voice-capable mobile phone and the number of a Gotemba taxi company to call a cab if necessary.
If you simply desire to experience the sandslide, the easiest way is to start at Fujinomiya 5th station, cut across via Mt. Hoei and then descend to Gotemba 5th station. This means, however, that you will need to take different buses to and from the mountain. Despite its length, I think this is the easiest trail to descend. Even near the summit, the trail is essentially gravel (though with some large rocks) and it takes little effort to descend. The gravel gets progressively finer and deeper as the trail descends. The last hour of the trail has gravel at a mild slope, not like the steep sloped shallow gravel on the Yoshida descent trail which is so annoying.
The Gotemba 5th station is also access for climbing Futatsuzuka (二ツ塚), which is a pair of short peaks easily reachable by a separate trail.
I took this trail three times.
- July 10 2010: Gotemba 5th station to Hoei-san, down to the 7-Eleven in Gotemba City
- July 31 2010: Fujinomiya 5th station to Hoei-san, down to Gotemba 5th station
- July 17 and 18 2012: Murayama Sengen Jinga to summit, down to the 7-Eleven in Gotemba City
The first time, I went from Gotemba 5th station to Mt. Hoei, down to the same station, then down to the base of the mountain along the access road, to a 7-Eleven where I called a taxi to pick me up. The second time, I ascended from Fujinomiya 5th station to the second and first Hoei craters, to Mt. Hoei, then descended to Gotemba 5th station. The third time I ascended from Murayama Sengen Jinga to the summit, then down to Gotemba 5th station.
The sandslide on the Gotemba trail is sometimes called “osunabashiri” (大砂走り) which means “big sandslide,” to contrast with the “sunabashiri” sandslide on the Subashiri trail.
By far this is the shortest route to the top. If you look at a map, the lateral distance from Gotemba 5th Station is twice as far from the summit as Fujinomiya 5th Station. Additionally, this trail (and the Gotemba trail) will take you to the side of the summit with the highest point of the summit and the post office, if those are important to you.
You can reach Mt. Hoei from the Fujinomiya trailhead. Mt. Hoei is the second highest peak on the mountain, named for the eruption which occurred in 1707-08. It consists of a peak and three craters and lies between the Fujinomiya and Gotemba trails. It is significantly easier to reach Mt. Hoei than the summit of the entire mountain. Because it is lower in elevation, from its vantage point, it is more likely that you can see the valleys below without obscuration by cloud cover. I felt self-actualized walking down into the valleys after seeing them from far above.
There are two choices for visiting Mt. Hoei from the Fujinomiya trail. The first is to start at a separate trail which departs from the Fujinomiya access road slightly down from the Fujinomiya trailhead, marked 五合目宝永入口 (which means, “5th station Hoei entrance”). This separate trail visits the second crater, then the first crater. Afterwards, you reach the “Prince Route” and can turn left or right. Turning left joins the Fujinomiya trail and turning right takes you to the Gotemba trail with a stop at the summit of Mt. Hoei along the way. The Prince Route is called such because Crown Prince Naruhito climbed Mt. Fuji in 2008 by starting at Fujinomiya 5th Station, going to the first hut, heading to the Mt. Hoei summit cutting through the large first Mt. Hoei crater, summiting Mt. Hoei, cutting across to the Gotemba trail, summiting Mt. Fuji and then descending the Gotemba trail. The second way to visit Mt. Hoei from the Fujinomiya trail is to head up the Fujinomiya trail for a short ways and then turn right along the Prince Route to see the first crater, from which point you can continue to your left along the Prince Route to reach the Mt. Hoei peak or turn right to reach the second crater.
Of course, the Mt. Hoei peak can be easily reached from the Gotemba trailhead, but if one’s mission is simply to get to Mt. Hoei it makes more sense to start from the Fujinomiya trailhead because Mt. Hoei is close to it but several hours up from the Gotemba trailhead.
I took this trail twice and once I took the trail from 五合目宝永入口, mentioned above.
- July 25 2010: Fujinomiya 5th station to summit, down to the same station
- July 31 2010: Fujinomiya 5th station to Hoei-san, down to Gotemba 5th station
- July 17 and 18 2012: Murayama Sengen Jinga to summit, down to the 7-Eleven in Gotemba City
I took the 6:33 a.m. shinkansen from Tokyo station to Mishima station, two local trains and then the 8:30 bus to Fujinomiya 5th Station. I summited, spent about an hour at the summit (a balmy 17 degrees C), descended and caught the 18:00 bus to Shin Fuji station where I caught the shinkansen home. On my ascent I passed numerous parents with small children (some not old enough to talk) and even a golden retriever. Another time I ascended from Fujinomiya 5th station to Mt. Hoei but I walked the second trail from 五合目宝永入口, not the Fujinomiya trail. The second time I climbed this trail, I started at Murayama Sengen Jinga, climbed a combination of trails and access roads to Fujinomiya 5th station, climbed to the summit, descended to Gotemba 5th station, then walked via access road to a 7-Eleven in Gotemba.
I have not climbed this route. The ascent joins the Yoshida trail at the 8th station. The descent trail has a sandslide, though not as big as the Gotemba sandslide. The word for “sandslide” in Japanese is sunabashiri (砂場尻) which means “sand-run.” This trail’s name is subashiri (須走), which sounds very similar but means something completely different in Japanese. I think it means “necessary to run” or “by all means, run.”
Other Routes to the Top
Between the Gotemba and Fujinomiya trails are some lesser-used trails. For example, you can climb for several hours from Mitsugaoka Park (水ヶ塚公園) via the Suyamaguchi trail (須山口) to the Hoei second and first craters, which leaves you five minutes away from the Fujinomiya trailhead. This and this are the best maps I’ve found online of these trails.
Lower route trail information
To my knowledge there are four trails from the base of the mountain to the 5th station. Additionally, there are access roads leading to the 5th stations mentioned above. Altogether, therefore, your theoretical options for walking from the base are: the Yoshida trail (for the Yoshida trail), the Shoji trail (for the Yoshida trail), the Suyama trail (for the Gotemba trail), the Murayama trail (for the Fujinomiya trail), the access road from Gotemba, Route 23 to 152 (for the Gotemba trail), the access road from Fujinomiya (for the Fujinomiya trail) and other access roads I have not tried and cannot speak to the practicality of.
Yoshida Trail (from Fuji Sengen Jinga)
This is one of the three traditional ways to climb Mt. Fuji. In ancient times, people would climb from the shrine to the summit. However, the shrine is at an elevation of 850 meters, so in a literal sense you are not starting from the bottom, only from an arbitrary place where the ground was level enough to build on in ancient times. You can also walk from Fujisan Station to the shrine, a distance of 1.8 km.
Although far less popular than the top half of the Yoshida route, you will still encounter fellow hikers. The route is not especially well marked. Above the shrine, you will need to walk up a road for a short while until you come to a large sign that indicates the start of the trail. You will go down that path and then you will see a small sign indicating the trail: a cross piece on two members. Remember one important thing about the sign, because you will see many of them on the trail. Although an American might interpret the sign as blocking your way (i.e., telling you to tell you to walk parallel to the sign), you are supposed to walk beyond the sign, as if the sign were a tori. You will walk for about three hours, past at least one tea house, and then you reach Uma Gaeshi (馬返し), or “horse turn-around.” In the old days, people would start their climb of Mt. Fuji by riding a horse from the shrine to the horse-turnaround. There is a parking lot at Uma Gaeshi, so it is possible to drive there and hike to the summit. After the horse-turnaround you will pass the first five stations of the Yoshida trail. Although on the upper half of the Yoshida trail there are numerous huts for most of the stations, on the lower half each station has only one hut and all of these huts are abandoned, destroyed or vanished.
I ascended this beautiful trail once. In my experience, it took about three hours to climb from Fuji Sengen Jinja to Uma Gaeshi and then another three hours to get to 6-gome on the Yoshida trail where the trail from Fuji-Subaru 5th station meets up.
Shoji Trail (from Akaike)
I have not climbed this route. It is fairly long, not one of the traditional routes and ends at Fuji Subaru 5th Station. It begins somewhere in Akaike. From my experience with the Murayama trail I do not expect this trail to be in good condition.
Suyama Trail (from Suyama Sengen Jinja)
I have not climbed this route. It goes from Suyama Sengen Jinja (in the town of Susono) to Mitsugatsuka Park (水ヶ塚公園). From there, I think the two options would be to hike along a road to Gotemba 5th Station or to ascend the mountain directly on a secondary trail and meet up with the Fujinomiya Trail. From my experience with the Murayama trail I do not expect this trail to be in good condition.
Murayama Trail (from Murayama Sengen Jinja)
This is the oldest trail for climbing Mt. Fuji. It goes from Murayama Sengen Jinja (which is about a 2000 yen taxi ride from Fujinomiya train station) to Fujinomiya 6th Station. Because Fujinomiya starts so close to the summit, this trail is significantly longer than the other trails which start from the base.
I found that this trail was not well maintained or well marked and do not recommend it. The Murayama Sengen Jinja did not appear to be in good repair, unlike the Fuji Sengen Jinja. After climbing this trail for a few hours I reached a point where it appeared that I needed to traverse a hill which which was covered in thorny plants -- it was essentially impassable without a machete or a willingness to lacerate myself. I instead used my GPS to follow secondary trails until I reached access roads (some of which were half-washed out and impassable to vehicles) and eventually reached the main access road, Skyline, and then followed the roads to Fujinomiya 5th station.
Access road from Gotemba (Route 23 to 152)
When I ascended to Mt. Hoei from Gotemba 5th station, I descended too late to catch the last bus. So I walked down the access road to Gotemba.
The advantages of walking down a road are: it is paved, so it is possible to walk quickly (it took me two hours to descend) and it’s impossible to get lost. The disadvantages are that it’s not as pretty, it is necessary to watch for oncoming traffic, and the road is graded to about a 10% slope which means you waste some time walking switchbacks that could easily be descended directly on foot. As it can be foggy, I view a headlight as a necessity for visibility to traffic.
After descending from the 5th Station parking lot, you will come to a fork in the road, with a short tunnel heading to your right and an open road to the left. The tunnel heads for Mizugatsuka Park and the open road heads to Gotemba. After a series of switchbacks, the road is straight for a while. Then you come to a U.S. Marine Corps base, called Camp Fuji. After the military base you will see a 7-Eleven on your left. You can ask a clerk to call a taxi there and the fare will be about 2000 yen to the train station. (For that matter, you can call a taxi directly from Gotemba 5th station at some additional cost; I passed two taxis as I was walking down.)
Accessing the mountain
To the 5th station
As a general rule, coming from Tokyo it is advantageous in terms of cost and time to take a bus instead of taking the trains. You can catch a Yoshida trail bus from Shinjuku. Alternatively you can take the train to a station near the base of the mountain and then catch a bus: Yoshida trail (from Kawaguchiko station), Subashiri trail (from Gotemba station or Shin-Matsuda station), Gotemba trail (from Gotemba station) or Fujinomiya trail (from Fujiyomiya station, Fuji station, Shin-Fuji station or Mishima station).
For the Fujinomiya trailhead, during peak climbing season, all but the first two ascent buses will start at Shin-Fuji station, then go to Fujinomiya station, and all but the last descent bus will go to Shin-Fuji station after Fujinomiya station. (A handful of the buses will go to Fuji station in-between.) Almost all of the Mishima ascent and descent buses also stop at Fuji Safari Park and Grinpa (two amusement parks), two stops that seem to add about half an hour to the bus ride, making the bus ride about two hours total. During the peak season, if the goal is to get to/from the Fujinomiya trailhead as early and late as possible, it is best to take the direct buses which only go from/to Fujinomiya station. Shin-Fuji and Mishima are shinkansen stations.
To the bottom
When I climbed the Yoshida trail from the base, I took the train to Fujiyoshida and walked to Fuji Sengen Jinja. When I climbed from Murayama Sengen Jinja, I took the train to Fujinomiya and took a taxi to the shrine at a cost of about 2000 yen. For the trails I have not climbed, I think as a general matter that a train to the nearest station followed by a taxi is the right approach. Try asking at the train station if a bus is available.
Before climbing season in 2010, I spent the month of June training by carrying a pair of 40-lb dumbbells up the stairs to my apartment on the 24th floor, walking the steps two at a time, on a daily basis. This seemed to prepare me well for climbing Mt. Fuji.
On the day of the climb, it is important to use the restroom before departing for the trail. You know how Japan is famous for those robot toilets? Well, they don’t have those on the trail. Instead the options at the huts range from chemical toilets to flush toilets using brown recycled septic tank water, and these are sometimes spaced hours apart. (And of course some trails don’t have huts, so you’ll need to pack out your feces if nature calls.) You’ll be eating a lot to keep up your energy and you’ll be moving constantly. So, better to go now then need to go later. Also, consider shaving down under to make cleaning yourself easier.
You must have clothing to protect from the cold, wind, sun, rain and rocks, even if you are not going to the summit.
- Light shorts and shirt (plastic)
- Hiking socks (wool or plastic)
- Hiking boots
- Rain hat with chinstrap and jacket (e.g., Goretex). These provide warmth, wind resistance and sun and rain protection
- Rain gloves (e.g., Goretex)
- Leather gloves, if you will need to scramble on rocks
- Gaiters. Not strictly necessary, but very nice to keep gravel out of shoes
There is a tendency for foreigners to underestimate the conditions on the mountain. After all, hundreds of thousands of people walk up to the summit every year. But there is a reason hikers say “cotton kills”; please do not wear blue jeans and tennis shoes on your ascent.
At night the weather is more extreme, so add the following gear:
- Thermals top and bottom (plastic or silk). These should be worn over your shorts so that you can take them off during the day
- Heavyweight fleece top Scarf (wool or plastic)
- Warm hat (wool or plastic), for under rain hat, as necessary
- Rain pants (e.g., Goretex). If you climb in thick fog and find the wind is blowing water vapor into your rain suit, you might want to buy a plastic poncho at one of the huts
Note that hiking gear is generally expensive in Japan, so it is better to buy in America. In Japan the big outdoor store is called “L Breath,” and a big branch is located next to Shinjuku station. They however don’t carry winter gear during the summer, which is when the mountain is open. So for example if you didn’t bring a wool hat to Japan, L Breath won’t have it, but you might try buying a U.S. military watch cap from Amazon.co.jp.
As far as equipment goes, I have found the following to be very useful:
- Taxi phone number. If you miss the last bus off the mountain, your options are to spend $100 on a cab ride or to walk down. Make sure the phone number is for a cab from a town local to the route you are going to descend.
- Cell phone. Docomo has coverage on the mountain, so you can tweet your ascent. More importantly, you can call a taxi if you miss the last bus.
- Sunscreen. Above the clouds where the air is thin, there is nothing between you and the sun.
- Trekking pole (one or two). I found that with two trekking poles I never had to scramble on rocks or pull myself up on chains. You can buy wooden walking sticks at the 5th station and get them branded at the huts as a fun souvenir, but modern trekking poles are more practical.
- Frame backpack. If you are carrying several liters of water or otherwise have a lot of weight, this will be much easier than using a school backpack. Make sure to use the raincover.
- Money. When it comes to money, it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. The pay toilets are generally 200 yen or so, so be sure to carry several 100-yen coins. Bring paper money too. Stuff is expensive on the mountain, and so are taxi rides off the mountain. Because water gets everywhere, keep the money in a zip-lock bag, not a leather wallet.
- LED headlamp. A waterproof, regulated headlamp that can produce light for the required length of time. Use fresh batteries. You need this for night hikes and for fog visibility to traffic if for any reason you need to walk on roads.
- Zip-lock bags. Enclose everything important in a zip-lock: wallet, phone, camera, toilet paper, etc. Be sure to get a good brand without the zipper slide, which would keep the bag from fully closing. “Freezer bags” seal better than regular bags. Carry an extra zip-lock or two for trash and/or extra protection if necessary.
- Toilet paper. Aside from the obvious use and blowing your nose, this is good for things like fixing a boot that is chafing your ankle, or keeping your electronics from being ruined when you discover that your zip-lock bag leaks.
- Handwipes. On the Yoshida trail, some of the huts have bathrooms with running water, but the water is just a trickle. Other bathrooms have no place to wash your hands. So you need something to clean your hands before eating.
- Camera. Spare your back and avoid damaging expensive equipment with rain and fine sand by carrying a point and shoot, not a full-size DSLR. Keep in a ziplock bag.
- GPS. For example, the Gaia GPS program for the iPhone. This is completely unnecessary for the upper trails but for the lower half of the mountain is quite nice. Be sure to download the maps in advance, and follow these instructions to conserve power.
- ipod Nano (with headphones). Podcasts and music cure monotony on longer hikes. The battery lasts an amazingly long time; mine has gone over 25 hours before I stopped it.
- Tupperware-type containers. For keeping food in edible condition. Recommend bagging the contents separately for ease of eating and keeping the flavors from mingling too much.
- Stamped and addressed postcards. For mailing from the post office at the summit. Recommend pencil or waterproof ink, and keep these in a zip-lock bag.
- Items of general usefulness, such as a small pocketknife (e.g., for tightening a screw on your trekking pole), twine, duct tape, etc.
You’ll see some people with little cans of oxygen. Feel free to laugh at them.
Depending on the trail, food and water can be scarce. And even when food and water are available, they are expensive and not nutritionally complete. I recommend bringing the following:
- Water. The Japanese guides always say to bring one liter of water which is an astoundingly small amount of water to me. I bring Evian 1.5L bottles. The amount necessary will depend on the weather (temperature, humidity and whether you are climbing in the day versus at night) and the length of the trek. To give you some data points, this is how much I drank on my hikes:
- Two and a half bottles: Fuji Sengen Jinga to summit, down to Kawaguchiko (Fuji-Subaru) 5th station One and a half bottles: Gotemba 5th station to Hoei-san, down to the 7-Eleven in Gotemba City
- One and a third bottles: Fujinomiya 5th station to summit, down to the same station
- One third of a bottle: Fujinomiya 5th station to Hoei-san, down to Gotemba 5th station
- 9 liters: Murayama Sengen Jinga to summit, down to the 7-Eleven in Gotemba City. I did not carry this all with me from the beginning. I brought 4.5 liters, drank them on the lower ascent, bought 3 liters at Fujinomiya 5th station, bought half a liter at Gotemba Oishi Chaya (approximately 5th station) and bought/drank a liter at the 7-Eleven.
- Salami or cheese. You may be surprised to learn that salami and hard cheese are pretty much equivalent in macronutrients. These have protein and fat which are important for keeping up your muscle strength and long-term energy and are shelf stable for a few days provided the weather does not get unreasonably hot. I ate about a pound of salami and cheddar on my ascent from the bottom and descent to 5th station.
- Bread. Complex carbohydrates are important for keeping up your energy. Although I personally can’t stand the taste of bagels as a general matter, their toughness and inedibility keeps them from getting squished in a backpack. Japanese bagels are lighter than American bagels, so I think about six Japanese bagels in a variety of flavors would be sufficient for a long trip. I had four on my ascent from the bottom and descent to 5th station and wished I had a few more.
- Dried fruit. Expensive, but necessary for energy. A variety alleviates boredom. Alternatively you can get those sports gel products that come in the little foil pouches. I buy about six or eight pouches of dried fruit and empty the pouches into baggies to take up less space.