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I climbed Fuji, Japan's highest mountain

12 September 2023

Japan is my favourite travel destination, and I recently returned from my third trip there. Having a sister who lives in Japan makes it convenient for me to book a flight back. During my travels, I have explored Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nagasaki, and I could have written long essays about my experience of each city. However, I want to share a memorable experience from my initial visit to Japan, when my family and I climbed Mount Fuji, which stands at an impressive altitude of 3776 meters above sea level.

Preparation and good things to know

I have previously climbed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. I have a penchant for embarking on thrilling adventures that push my limits. It is crucial to be mentally prepared as the hike can be challenging, but the sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit makes it all worthwhile. 

When travelling to Japan, it is important to be prepared, and you can find a lot of helpful information online. It is worth noting that many Japanese people may not be fluent in English (but they are friendly and willing to help), and their culture strongly emphasises politeness. For instance, eating a sandwich on public transportation or not waiting in line may attract attention, and you may receive sidelong glances. However, you can learn these cultural norms as you go. Just try to be respectful and avoid being too loud. 

We opted for a direct bus from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko, which costs approximately 2000 yen and takes about two hours. Alternatively, taking the train to Kawaguchiko station is also a viable option. Another possibility is renting a car, which is surprisingly affordable in Japan. We arrived in Kawaguchiko a day early to explore the area by cycling around Lake Kawaguchiko and catching a glimpse of Mount Fuji - an activity we highly recommend! Additionally, there are plenty of other attractions in Kawaguchiko, such as the "music forest museum" my sister and I visited. 

Before starting the climb, it is essential to pack a backpack with necessary supplies such as snacks, sun protection, and extra clothes. Remember to wear appropriate hiking shoes and a sun hat if the UV index is high. We decided to climb Mount Fuji in August and could comfortably wear lightweight pants and a T-shirt throughout the hike without feeling cold at the summit. 

Climbing Mount Fuji is not technically challenging, but it requires a certain fitness level. Additionally, it is important to consider the risk of altitude sickness. To prevent symptoms such as nausea and fatigue, it is recommended to ascend slowly. However, taking altitude sickness tablets can be beneficial if you are prone to feeling unwell at high altitudes. 

The Ascent of Fuji-san

One of the most popular ways to climb the mountain is by taking the bus to Fuji Subaru, 5th station. That's what my family and I decided to do, and we arrived there at around 9:00 a.m. When you arrive, you are already approximately 2300 meters above sea level. It is recommended to stay at this station for about an hour to acclimatise. However, we decided not to do this because we were concerned about making it back down in time to catch the last bus back to civilisation. 

We embarked on the Yoshida trail to reach the summit. The terrain was generally favourable, particularly at the start. However, there were occasional slopes with larger stones where we had to tread carefully to avoid missteps. Throughout the mountain hike, we encountered small stations that primarily sold onigiri (rice balls) and oxygen, along with vending machines offering a variety of cold beverages. Additionally, there were toilets available, although they often required payment in small coins. 

During the hike, my mother experienced altitude sickness, which caused headaches and fatigue. She had to stay with my father at approximately 3200 meters. As a result, my sister and I continued to hike up to the top of the mountain. It took us around six hours to reach the summit from the 5th station. At the top, we could see a volcanic crater since Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano. After taking a few cool photos, we began our descent, which felt more challenging than the ascent because our calves were very sore from all the exercise. It took us about four hours to hike back down the mountain. 

In conclusion, Japan is a fantastic country with a rich culture that is very different from Sweden. While visiting Japan may require some preparation, climbing Fuji-san is achievable for most moderately fit individuals.

Here are my top five tips for travelling to Japan:

  • Learn some simple Japanese phrases like "arigatou gozaimasu", which means thank you very much.

  • Take the time to read about Japanese culture and religion, such as Shintoism, as it will not only enhance your experience but also show respect.

  • If you plan to visit during the summer, pack light and breathable clothing like shorts and sandals, as Japan can be extremely hot and humid during this season.

  • Consider withdrawing some Japanese Yen before your trip, as cash is still widely used in Japan.

  • If you plan on staying in Japan for an extended period, purchase a prepaid SIM card (available at major electronics stores in Japan). These SIM cards are relatively inexpensive and allow you to access mobile data whenever needed. This way, you won't have to rely on Wi-Fi in places like shopping centres.