JET Life, Travel

A Culminating Climb up Mount Fuji (AKA Are we on the moon?)

My last epic adventure before starting my descent back to America was to climb Fuji. I left Amami the day my teaching contract ended and met Lesley (who I also hiked Yakushima with last September) and her brother, Graham, in Shinjuku so we could set off early the following morning for Shizuoka, the prefecture where the majestic Fuji San reigns.

Our last supper was tsukemen (Cold noodles dipped in broth) Tuesday night in Shinjuku

lastsupperWe took a 7:30 am bus from Shinkuju Station to the 5th Station. 5thstationbus“This looks like Killington base lodge!” -Becca “This looks like Banff!” – Lesley5thstationIt started raining as soon as we got there. Like an idiot, I had forgotten my raincoat back on Amami and I was so mad at myself for not being fully prepared after I swore I packed more sensibly for this trip than I did for Yakushima (Don’t ever bring 6 sports bras in exchange for extra food.) But at least I was able to buy a swanky Fuji raincoat at one of the omiyage shops. In the end, I’m actually glad I forgot my rain gear so I could upgrade to my Fuji one! Though you can clearly tell I’m not happy with myself in this picture.rainystart

First group photo mid-climb. We are soaked, but having a great time! FirstgroupshotIt was so misty and rainy as we climbed. I completely forgot we were hiking above the trees so there was almost no vegetation. It felt like we were climbing up to the moon.MistyIt took us about three hours to get from the fifth station (2,400m) to our mountain hut at the 8th station (3,400m.) I’m glad we decided to make a mountain hut reservation because it was fun to climb during the day when there wasn’t a lot of people. Most hikers start climbing at night so they can reach the summit for sunrise. Some people choose to sleep for a few hours at a mountain hut or they just hike through the night.

Here is a picture of the sleeping arrangements in the mountain hut. We would be packed in like actual sardines and snuggling up with about 100 strangers. MountainhutsleepsRegal One Cup Sake drinkers RegalonecupHanging out above the cloudsMountainhutlifeWe had cheese and curry rice for dinner CurrydinnerStaying at our hut was quite the experience. They have really strict guidelines, such as you are sent to bed immediately after you eat dinner (for us that meant 5 pm), and if you are too noisy, you will “incur the shame of the Japanese people.” Yikes! Despite the rules and the mountain hut employee who never said a word but just pointed us to the direction of our beds, we had a lot of fun during our stay. Until all of the night hikers started showing up at the cabin and the place got really hot and stuffy and full of smelly, snoring people. I seriously cannot imagine how jam packed a hut would be on the weekends. (We were climbing on a Tuesday.)

We woke up before 1:30 am because lots of people were shuffling around in the hut already, putting on extra layers and their boots. There was a huge line of people outside making their way to the peak for the sunrise already! So we decided to head out a little earlier than expected. And as Graham says, “there is nothing like waking up at 1:30 am to see the sunrise.”

I obviously did not take this gorgeous picture. All of the amazing photo cred goes to Lesley’s brother, Graham. That stream of light ascending up the mountain are all of the glowing headlamps from climbers, trying their best to make it up in time for the sunrise.img_8426Now this is more like my mediocre iPhone photography.
WaitingforthesunpanoBy the time we made it to the top (3,776m), we had earned ourselves an incredible spot to sit and wait for the sunrise. It took us about 2 hours to get from the 8th station to the summit because there were so many people! Fortunately we were allowed to pass big groups of people scramble up the rocks on the right. Waitingforthesun2WaitingWaitingforthesun3And waitingWaitingforthesun4And more waitingWaitingforthesun5Just as the first sunlight appeared, someone shouted “ohayo gozaimasu!” This started a chain reaction of everyone screaming good morning in unison, followed by a triple “Bonzai!”This was one of my favorite moments of the whole experience.IMG_0685Thanks Graham and Lesley for letting me steal your pictures for my blog!OurshadowsGrahamsMoonJumpingFujThere is a post office at the top of Mount Fuji so people can send letters!FujipostAnd a vending machine!img_8425FujitoriiSunriseloveIMG_0751.JPG

Last thoughts: I loved that this was my last Epic Adventure to end my year living in Japan. I am grateful no one in our group had problems with altitude sickness, and just so happy we had sunny, clear skies for the sunrise and our descent so we could enjoy and appreciate the incredible views. I loved that in order to experience the magic of Mount Fuji at sunrise, you really have to work for it. I really didn’t mind how crowded it was either (in case you didn’t know…Fuji is the most climbed mountain in the world!) because we were surrounded by hundreds of people who were all working towards the same goal. It was empowering!

# of times I fell on my butt while walking back down to the 5th station: three

(Climbing DOWN Fuji is arguably more difficult than climbing UP Fuji)

Amount of yen I spent on peeing: 800 yen

(Each bathroom visit will costs 200 yen.)

2 thoughts on “A Culminating Climb up Mount Fuji (AKA Are we on the moon?)”

  1. Congratulations on this hike. I did it too in 2012 up the Gotemba trail. Which trail did you do? It was difficult but absolutely definitely totally worth it.

    1. Thanks! My friends and I did the Yoshida Trail. It was very congested as we got closer to the summit for sunrise time, but we weren’t with a tour group so were allowed to just scamper past people to the summit!

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