Frostbite on the way up, Sunburn on the way down: Mt. Fuji Night Hike

Hiking Mt. Fuji is one of the main reasons younger tourists come to Japan nowadays. As my husband and I began our research, we found there were a decent number of blogs, youtube videos, and lots of Instagram posts describing each person’s experience.

While my husband had hiked it once before, I had not. And to be honest, he didn’t even remember much of it as he did it with a tour group. We looked up and researched as much as we could. We noticed the average time is 6-7 hours to hike up the Yoshida Trail, with about 3 hours down. We are fairly active people; however, just before our hike, we had a 2 week vacation in the states where we did almost nothing other than eat and drink a lot of horrible things. And by horrible, I mean, horrible for your body. Taking all of this into consideration, we assumed it would probably take us around 7 hours to get up the trail, especially with the altitude difference. Plus, we didn’t really see anybody writing about how “easy” it was to hike.

We decided to hike through the night so that we could see the sunrise when we got to the top. After reading and seeing a few Instagram posts, we noticed that it was dropping to the 30-40s at the top, so we made sure to pack adequately (hat, gloves, scarf, jackets, and I even packed sweatpants to go over my thicker leggings). We bought headlamps off Amazon for about $10 each to wear as we hiked, since it would be dark the entire time.

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Our journey to the mountain started off a bit rocky. We left from Yokosuka around 2 PM with an assumption to get to the mountain around 6-7, according to Google Map and the directions we had screenshotted from my phone. We decided to head to Shinjuku to catch the bus that takes you straight to the 5th station. Of course, after arriving to the station, we realized the bus was completely booked for the rest of the evening. Poor planning on our part for sure. From here, we had to re-screenshot directions and we ended up missing one train and waiting 30 minutes for another, which was the wrong train. Luckily, a super nice Japanese lady wrote everything down for us and told us when to get off so that we could get to the right train station (Otsuki). We ended up waiting another 20-30 minutes for another train, and after hopping on there, then getting off at Otsuki, we hopped on yet another train and made it to Kawaguchiko just before the last bus left for the 5th station. Basically, it was a whirlwind of a day. I, of course, was freaking out but luckily Scott kept it cool the whole time.

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From Kawaguchiko station, the bus ride to the mountain is about 45-50 minutes. We were exhausted, not only from traveling the whole day, but also from jet lag from the day before) and finally were able to catch a short 20-30 minute power nap. The bus left the station at 8:10 PM and arrived around 9 PM, which was definitely later than we were hoping. We were a little nervous we wouldn’t make it to the top for the sunrise (around 5 AM), but we were just happy to at least FINALLY make it to the mountain.

At the 5th station, they are able to lend you a lot of things and you can even buy oxygen for when you reach the higher altitudes. We didn’t end up buying or renting anything, so we can’t really speak to it, but it’s available!

We began our hike around 9:15 PM with hopes to make it by 5 AM, just a little less than 8 hours. The beginning of the trail is all pretty flat and even a little downhill. You actually start above the clouds already – I felt my ears pop on the way up on the bus! We arrived at the 6th station fairly quickly and took a very quick rest/bathroom break along with plenty of other hikers. Determined, we didn’t rest long and kept on our way. Between the 6th and 7th station (if I remember correctly) is basically just a lot of zig-zagging and walking up ash at a steady, slow incline. In our opinion, this was the worst part. I’m not sure if it’s because we like climbing more or if it was just the beginning, but we ended up stopping every 2-3 full zig-zags to catch our breath. We ended up making it to the 7th station by 11 PM…Only 2 hours!

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When we got to the 7th station, we realized we had been passing just about everyone and recognized nobody else around us. We heard others saying that it takes about 2.5 hours to get to the top from the 7th station. At our pace, that was probably accurate.. AKA we needed to slow down, especially as we climbed the altitude. It was starting to get colder at this time, so I put on my sweatpants and another jacket. We ended up taking a 50 minute power-nap/rest, again, with other hikers nearby, at this station. We decided it was only going to get colder at the top and we might as well just relax for a little because we were pretty confident in our ability at this time.

Once we woke up – around 11:50, we decided to begin ascending the trail again. We got to the next little mountain hut and saw they had cup of noodles and hot tea. We didn’t really want to stop again – but hey – what the heck! So we each got some hot, lemon tea. I swear it was the best tea I’ve ever had. That’s probably because I was so cold, but it was so worth it. We sat for about 10-15 minutes finishing our tea and warming up a little before we really began again.

Between the 7th-8th station is where we really “took off.” It’s basically rock climbing/really big rock steps that you have to climb up. We were passing people right and left. It was the booty workout anybody could dream of.. so much hip extension (nerd alert). But seriously, this part was fun. We got a little tired and would take breaks, but it was way better than the first part, in our opinions. We got to the 8th station pretty quickly, but I can’t remember the exact time.

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We took a solid 10 minute rest at the 8th station. Once you get past the 8th station, it’s almost like a combination of part 1 and part 2.. Long zig-zags with slow inclines but smaller rocks that aren’t really climb-able, if you know what I mean. It’s definitely tougher/more annoying, plus you start to hit 9-10,000 feet and your breathing starts to become more shallow. We took a 5+ minute break at each mountain hut, and as we got higher up, we took a break just about every 1-2 minutes.

While we didn’t necessarily feel nauseous, super dizzy, or pass out.. I can definitely say I had a headache when I first started; however, I tend to get headaches when the weather is colder, even in the 50s. Once I put my headband/ear-warmer on, I was fine the rest of the way. Our hearts started pounding with just a few steps when we got to the top, but again, we tended to move faster than others. We really started taking a lot of rest breaks because we knew we still had plenty of time.

We made it to the top just before 3 AM, so it took us a little less than 6 hours to get to the top. Don’t forget our 45-50 minute nap in the middle also! Overall, it was definitely tough, but it’s obviously doable in 5 hours if you’re in shape, especially if you’re more conditioned to higher altitudes (we flew from the east coast of the USA to Yokosuka, which is just above sea level.. then hiked).

Once at the top, we rested for a little. There is a mountain hut; however, it wasn’t open. We thought it may not open until 5, but it actually opened around 3:30 AM for food/drinks. It was kind of confusing and didn’t help because everybody swarmed in. You kind of just sat in a few rows and they took your order for simple things. I got a coffee for me and a corn soup for Scott. In case you haven’t had the corn soup before, it does come in a can. Some people around me were kind of weirded out by this. They actually sell the corn soup at train stations, which is where we first tried it.

Scott and I ended up taking turns getting up and walking around, because since we were up there around 3, we had a front row seat for the sunrise! We obviously didn’t want to lose our spot, but it was so cold that we had to get up and move a little. Once 5 AM rolled around, there were tons of people surrounding us, and the sun began to rise!

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It ended up being a little cloudy, but it was still such a beautiful sight. We were still freezing, but also mesmerized by a sunrise above the clouds. We hung out for about 45 minutes watching it rise until we walked further over to check out the crater.

We probably stayed up on the mountain until about 6:30 AM, then began the trek back down. Our fingers and toes were numb and everything else was just cold. It was a beautiful sight on the way down, though. Especially since we were unable to see the scenery on the way up in the dark. We took breaks walking down also, not because of fatigue, but because it was definitely tough on our knees/ankles (are we that old?).

You’re literally sliding down ash and rock in a zig zag pattern, but lots of people were actually slipping too. I think I would have rather climbed back up, to be honest.

It took us about 3 hours, as predicted, to get back down. There definitely were people who passed us, but again, I guess we just have old and achy bones.. Back at the 5th station, we checked out a few shops and then got in line for the bus to take us back to Kagurachiko station.

We were exhausted, I was legitimately concerned for Scott because he had barely slept on our flight over and the jet lag was pretty crazy. We got back to the station, went to grab some food, and then came back to make sure we got bus tickets for the next day. We were able to get tickets from Kawaguchiko to Yokohama station, which is so much closer to where we live. And way more convenient.

Finally, we headed off to our hotel. Check-in wasn’t until 3PM, but we got there around 1PM. We waited in the lobby for about an hour and they brought us our room key an hour early! They probably felt sorry for us, but hey, we took it.

The hotel was super nice and I definitely wish we could have spent a little more time there. We ended up showering and then going right to sleep. We woke up once around midnight, but then slept in again through until around 6 AM. We slept at least 12 hours total, it was amazing.

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The breakfast at the hotel was included in our stay. Everyone was wearing their robes from their rooms, it was pretty cool. I definitely would have worn mine if I had known. The breakfast was a buffet-style, but still pretty fancy.

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As it was a spa, resort-style place, they also had private and public baths that could be used. We checked them out but ended up just heading back to the room to relax a little longer instead. The hotel does have a shuttle bus you can schedule, and it’s free! We just didn’t know that ahead of time.

Our trip home was, luckily, uneventful and much quicker. It was a great trip overall! Very rewarding, fulfilling, and then relaxing. 🙂

Hope this helps you plan your future Fujisan hike!! Or I just hope you enjoyed reading this 🙂

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Until next time,

Jen

 

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