Things to Know Before You Go
What?! There’s a climbing season for Fuji!? Yes, those were my exact thoughts too! The climbing seasons starts July 1st and goes until September 10 every year. If you go outside of the climbing season, you will need to apply for a permit.
1000¥ Mountain Donation (NOT optional)
There are two points on the trail where someone will come collect your mandatory donation. The first point is at the start of the trail at Station 5 where you will see a booth on the right-hand side. They will most definitely stop you! In return, you’ll receive a trail map and a wooden ornament that says Mt.Fuji on it. The second point is at Station 6 where all the porta potties are. Someone will come out of a hut and see if you have a wooden ornament hung on your bag (aka if you have paid or not). Make sure you bring enough cash with you!
There are teahouses at Stations 7, Fake 8, Real 8, and 8.5. These teahouses are for people to hike up early, nap for a few hours and enjoy a meal in a warm indoor place, then continue the hike to the summit at 12 am. There is a teahouse at Station 9 but it is a small shack that only sells food. I have included more information about this climb below. If you plan to book a teahouse, make sure you do it ahead of time because LOTS of tour companies will book 20-30 spots at a time so it gets booked up quickly. Also, these teahouses are at least 8,000¥ on a weekday. Not cheap at all :(!
Food and drinks are sold at all teahouses along the way. However, be prepared to have enough CASH on you! A small plate of curry rice costs 1000¥ up there!
Your headlamp will be your best friend! Forget flashlights because you will need BOTH hands when you are climbing (yes on your hands and knees). Also, bring extra batteries because once your headlamp goes out, you might as well crawl to the side and nap until the sunrises before you hike again.
It costs money to go to the washroom at each and every station!!! Most of the time there is a box with a price labeled on it so technically you can donate what you can afford :). However, the washroom at the very top of the mountain is very much guarded by people and you have to pay 100¥ to go.
My 40 hour Journey
Originally, I had planned to go to Japan during my one week October holiday in Taipei and also climb the mountain during that time period, but after finding out the climbing seasons starts July 1st and goes until September 10 every year, I realized I had 3 weeks before the season is over!! Woohoo, another spontaneous last minute adventure!
Day 1: Saturday
Arriving at Haneda Airport
After work on Friday, I went straight to the airport in Taipei, Taiwan and flew the 8:40 pm flight to Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan where I landed on Saturday morning at 1 am on September 2nd. My plan? It was to crash on one of the airport seats/benches until 6 am since the bus I wanted to take departs at 6:30 am from that airport. I thought I would be the only person lying out there, but ALL the seats were already occupied by other sleeping passengers! I quickly gave up the bench idea anyway after lining up for over an hour at the LONG immigration line. I asked for a cheap airport hotel but it was nowhere to be found in the international airport.
Luckily, my friend told me to go to First Cabin, located at the domestic airport. First Cabin is a really clean, quiet, capsule hotel. It was late and no free shuttles were operating so I had to take a taxi over. I got checked in – they only had the bigger rooms left (Big room: approx $75 CAD. Regular rooms: approx $50 CAD). I walked in, saw pajamas laid out for me, clean towels, new slippers, a robe, and well….goodnight 🙂 zzzzZZzZzzzzzz!
Bus from Haneda Airport to Kawaguchiko Station
The next morning, I woke up at 9:00, took a fantastic shower, checked out, and went back to the international airport via the free airport shuttle bus. The thing I researched the most on was transportation since I only had that weekend, I had to find the most direct route to and from each place. I bought my bus ticket inside the airport at the bus counter. They have 2-3 selections.
I went with the Keikyu Bus company and got on the 10:05 am bus. The bus schedule is linked below.
Bus timetable here
From Kawaguchiko Station to Station 5
Yay!!! I arrived at Kawaguchiko Station at around 1:30 pm! I definitely took up two seats and slept during the entire ride :).
I got off at Kawaguchiko Station, but this is not the start of the trail. I had to transfer to another bus that will bring me to Station 5 (the start of the trail). This is a BUSY station because it is also a railway station. The good thing is, you do not need to go inside to get your ticket. Look for BUS STAND 7 to pay and board the next bus. You have a choice to get a one-way ticket or a round-trip ticket. I got a round trip ticket even though I had absolutely no transportation plans to bring me back to the airport after my hike, but I figured I should have that ticket just in case. Well, that bus took at least an hour and a half to get to Station 5.
Bus timetable here
Station 5: Things to do and eat
I FINALLY ARRIVED at Station 5 at 3 pm!!! haha. I was so surprised to see so many people!!! There were SO many hiking tours, all with their own colourful flags /caps /vests. I literally had no food cause my morning was really rushed so I went into the shops and got some snacks, got another headlamp cause mine broke (ugh), and my Mt. Fuji patch (hehe).
These stores sell everything: jackets, warm layers, hats, mitts, fancy souvenirs, energy bars, to name a few.
I headed over to the information station and the man there told me not to go up until at least 8 pm cause I’ll just be up there freezing since I didn’t book a teahouse to sleep in! This other girl was on the same boat as me, also a solo hiker, so we decided to go together. We got food (at least 1000¥), took our time, I mean really took our time, and started going up the mountain at 5 pm.
Explanation of the Stations on Mt. Fuji
Basically, it was all swell at first. haha. We watched the sunset as we hiked past station 6 and 7. Let me explain a bit about the stations. There’s station 5, 6, 7, Fake 8, Real 8, 8.5, 9, and the summit. There is a ‘Fake 8’ and a ‘Real 8’ because the ‘Fake 8’ used to be the only Station 8 but the distance between 8 and 9 was too long so another Station 8 was created and that is called ‘Real 8’. Confusing, I know. There is also a Station 8.5 because the stretch is honestly a killer. We did not want to freeze up there so early on so we enjoyed the hike up really really slowly.
Catch the Sunset at Station 6
We met a group of guys who were also going up and shared our struggles haha but we walked at different paces but since it was just one way up, we kept bumping into each other at random teahouses along the way between station 7 and 8. It got really rough after station 7 and the stretch from station 7 to Real 8 will definitely take you at least 2.5 hours. You’ll know when the next station is approaching because of the bright lights, otherwise, it is pitch dark!
Is it Possible to Warm Up on Mt. Fuji?
I started realizing we needed to pick up the pace when we got to Fake Station 8 and saw that it was already close to 11 pm. We were chilling at the other stations for way too long!!! We were sitting in front of the teahouses waiting for people to open the doors so we could warm up with the head that escaped. hahaha. Okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little but this was not too far fetched from the truth. They actually have little stone-pot filled firepits that they use to heat up stamps to burn on sticks. You can purchase hiking sticks from the shops at Station 5 and get it stamped at each station you arrive at for a fee of 300-500¥/stamp. These little firepits were SO warm!!! Some teahouses left it outside but some did not want anyone around it so they kept it indoors (sad). Anyway, I left the group and continued on solo from Station Fake 8 because I wanted to reach the top before the sunrise.
Day 2: Sunday
At my 24 hour mark, since I landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo (1 am on Sunday), I was making my way between Station Real 8 and Station 8.5.
The Last Place to Eat A Hot Meal
I got to Station 8.5 at 2:20 am, ate curry chicken rice for 1,500¥ (if you would even call it chicken), but the nice owners allowed whoever ordered food to eat inside but we all had to leave right when we finished. I was almost delusional at this point from the sleepiness but the cold was keeping me awake. There were cheaper options: instant noodles for 800¥. THIS IS THE LAST PLACE TO EAT! At around 2:45 am, I finished my meal and continued my ascent from Station 8.5. Oh so sleepy and cold and windy…
Queuing To Climb the Mountain?
If you’ve heard about the massive lineups to go up the mountain, it is totally correct. All those tour groups I told you about at the beginning started their hike way earlier during the day and so made they it to teahouses between Fake Station 8 and Real Station 8 in time to nap for hours and also eat a nice dinner before departing around 12 am – 1 am to start their hike upwards. When all the tour groups left their teahouses, that was when it got REAL crowded and that was also when I was like…FML I need to keep going.
Expect Delays from Station 8.5 to Station 9
At around 4:30 am, I thought it was the summit, but I was only at STATION 9! It was only supposed to take 30 mins from Station 8.5 to Station 9, but because of the massive crowds, it took me 1 HOUR AND 45 MINUTES. Oh hell, there were certain points where I was swaying from tiredness and I seriously wasn’t sure if I was gonna fall off the mountain hahaha or roll off at least cause I was definitely falling asleep while standing up. If you fall, you would most certainly tumble all the way down…
When I go to Station 9, it was when I looked up and saw the last bit of the mountain, the summit. It was still pretty far away. The only thing at Station 9 was a small shack that was CLOSED. And so, the whole massive line hiked on. There was only one like going up most of the time because it was really narrow – unless you’re brave enough to climb on the edge of the mountain and run up before you fall off. When it got wider, some people went to the side and tried to get ahead of others. Sheesh, talk about competition! No one wanted to stop and rest cause if you do, then you’ll lose your spot in line and it means you’ll be even more behind. At around 4:45 am I started to see a slight hint of the sun rising.
The Final Rush for the Sunrise
At 5 am, the sun was definitely coming out. The sun was due to rise at 5:15 am that morning. And this is when everyone got very very anxious. Instead of walking along the path, everyone started climbing over everything (rocks, dirt, the edge) so they can be at the top when the sun rises. And of course, I had to join in on the chaos. haha. There was already a ginormous crowd of people waiting at the very top. And so, right at 5:15 am the sun did indeed rise :D!!! I just made it to the very top and found a ledge to climb on that was on top of everyone else to stand and bask in the excitement.
A Slippery and Fast Descend
I started my descend at 6:30 am cause I really needed to catch my flight later that day at 5:40 pm haha. It is supposed to take 4 hours, but with all the slipping and sliding, it took me about 3 hours. The view was really really nice on the way down. It got so much warmer when the sun came out.
The path going down was much wider but it was also very sandy and slippery! There were no rocks for your feet to grip onto. It was the only point where my feet actually hurt cause I had to stop myself from rolling and running down uncontrollably.
I got back to the trailhead at Station 5 at 9:20 am!!! This whole time, however, I was wondering what I should do for transportation!
From Station 5 to Kawaguchiko Station
I ended up taking the same bus back to Kawaguchiko Station (the one that is also a railway station). This ride was a lot longer for some reason and it was fully packed. It took 2.5 hours to get to Kawaguchiko.
From Kawaguchiko Station to Narita Airport
From Kawaguchiko, I had lunch and took the 1 pm airport bus to Narita Airport. Their bus schedule changes depending on the peak climbing season and off-peak climbing season.
Bus Schedule here
The bus driver got me to the airport right at 4:25 pm, just in time to check in before the counter closed at 4:45 pm!! Phew! Close call!!!
Well, this is my 40-hour count in Japan! From landing in Haneda Airport, Tokyo on Saturday at 1 am, climbing Mt.Fuji, and flying out of Narita, Tokyo on Sunday at 5:50 pm. Goodbye, for now, Japan, you have been fun!!! Time to finally sleep!!!