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The Trial and Tribulations of Hiking Mt. Fuji

Fuji Travel Blog

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Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Mike & Matt on the metro to Ueno

Morning came. It was time to go to Mt. Fuji for our planned hike.

Waking bright and early, it was already very humid in Tokyo. We took the metro to Ueno, and transfered on the Yamanote Line to Tokyo Station, where we found a JR Office to convert our JR Pass vouchers to JR Pass book. From there, we took the shinkansen - Japan's bullet train - to Shin-Fuji, a 30-minute ride, where we planned to take the bus to Fujinomiya's 5th Station to start our hike. Unfortunately, despite hours of planning, we didn't forsee one crucial thing --- the summit of Mt Fuji on the Fujinomiya trail was actually still closed due to bad weather of snow, then rain, the past couple of weeks!!!

Oh no! What to do? The Visitors' Information Center came to our rescue.

Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Mike & Matt on their first shinkansen ride!
After showing us the train and bus schedules, and the various hiking trails we could take, the timing of the hike to each station and where to stay - decisions were made. We were off to Kawaguchiko 5th Station to take the Kawaguchiko Trail where yes, the summit was open. And with the help from the information center staff that really saved us and allowed our hike to happen, they made the call to cancel our reservation at the mountain hut on the Fujinomiya Trail, and again made the reservation at Hinodekan - one of the mountain huts at the 7th Station on the Kawaguchiko Trail.

Armed with the train & bus schedules, trail maps, and directions, we got on the shinkansen to Mishima.
Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Glimpse of Mt Fuji while on the shinkansen
Kawaguchiko's 5th Station was going to be a journey to reach in itself. From where we were - Shin-Fuji Station, our luggages already in the lockers taking only the stuff we need for the hike - such a big mistake there - we had to catch the shinkansen train to Mishima, take a 2-hour bus from Mishima Station to Kawaguchiko Station, and from there, another 45-minute bus ride from Kawaguchiko Station to the 5th Station! Other alternatives was to go back all the way to Tokyo and take another train to reach Kawaguchiko Station - a longer route I think.

After 3.5 hours, 2 buses, and some light lunch allotted in between the transfers, our enthusiasm for the hike came to a dwindling low from the whole process of just trying to get to the blasted 5th Station. Then we caught a glimpse of Mt Fuji. And finally, we reached the 5th Station at Kawaguchiko! FINALLY~!

The Kawaguchiko 5th Station is the most popular 5th Station base for climbing Mt.
Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Mt Fuji
Fuji  at 2400 meters above sea level and most accessible spot from Tokyo and the famous and picturesque Fuji Five Lakes area (see my Japan 2008 blog for Hakone, one of the Fuji Five Lakes area). The 5th Station was very busy with plenty of tourists - foreign and nationals alike - for those day tours to Mt Fuji , mostly from Tokyo. There were plenty of restaurants, shops, hotels and inns in the area.

On arrival, our spirits were lifted again. Excited for the hike, we went to change. Or rather I changed. Out where the jeans I wore and into the ski-like pants with an inner thermal/outer windproof layer, a long-sleeve thermal top that I only ever wear during the coldest of New York winter, over a loose and slightly over-sized shirt, and into my ancient sneakers circa undergraduate college years.
Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Mt Fuji peeking though the clouds and fog


I also bought a walking stick with a 5th Station stamped on it, bells and everything! I saw so many people having one and thought maybe it'd be helpful during the hike and would be a terrific souvenir!

Along with Kate, who we met on the bus from Kawaguchiko Station to the 5th Station, and a transplanted New Yorker, also who turned out to be a fellow alumna or rather still attend to the same university I went in undergraduate and now graduate school, we started off the hike a little after 4pm, chatting all the way, until the 6th Station. A more experienced hiker than us, she had a schedule to reach the 8th Station to a mountain hut where she had made reservations, so she went ahead. We were really slow - the thin air and lack of oxygen with the elevation was already hitting us and it was only slightly over 2100 meters!

So, we learned to shut up or rather just talk less, took frequent stops to catch our breaths, slow down our tachycardic heart rates, hydrate, and took plenty of pictures instead.
Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Looking up...
It was a very warm hike despite the cool, breeze. Between the 6th and 7th Station, we continued our slow pace, frequently hydrate and photo-taking stops. The terrain towards the end of the 6th into the start of 7th station trail changed from loose, flat-like ramps to rocky and steep. We reached the 7th Station slightly before 6pm - exhausted, elated, and excited for finally reaching our mountain hut with plenty of time before sunset! We had our dinner, at the mountain hut, Hinodekan, where we made reservations with the help of the staff in the visitors' information center in Shin-Fuji.

For 7600 yen (approx $76) per person, we can stay at the mountain hut overnight until the scheduled 430am sunrise with 2 meals - dinner and a bento box breakfast. We were greeted warmly at the door, given a plastic bag where we can placed our sneakers, took my walking stick marked with my initials for safekeeping, and was served with hot green tea before having our simple and light curry with rice dinner.
Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Above the 6th Station and 1st layer of clouds


We ventured outside the hut, in the chilly temperatures of Mt. Fuji, 2700 meters above sea level. Above the first layer of clouds, we caught a glimpse of the sun disappear and dusk falls on our side of the mountain. The Yoshiguchi Trail is where the sunrise is best seen so although I was slightly saddened with the lackluster sunset, I look forward to the sunrise. It was also recommended to us that due to unpredictable weather at the summit, it was better to see the sunrise at the lower stations.

After conversing with some hikers who spoke a little English, we decided to retire for the night. It had gotten considerably colder and the hut was getting crowded with groups of hikers also staying at the hut and having dinner. Because we were among the very few people staying in the hut until sunrise - almost everyone leaves at midnight to reach the summit around 4am for the sunrise according to the one of the staff - we were relegated to the attic sleeping bunk until there were spaces below.
Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: But the clouds seems to be rising, too.
There were a group of middle school kids that arrive around 7pm and several more with guides as well. By 9pm, the hut was packed with people. Futons were laid side by side both in the sleeping quarters and the main area. With my earphones on, I drowned the low voices and noise below with the Korean, Chinese, Filipino/English, and, of course, Japanese music in different genre my brother uploaded into my iPod  just hours before I left NYC, until I drifted off to sleep listening to Big Bang's "Lies",  Bamboo's "These Days", and GreeeeN's new ballad "Setsuna".

Close to midnight, we heard scrambling of feet below and was later woken up by one of the staff, letting us know that we were welcome to sleep in the sleeping quarters. We transferred our belongings below and was amazed at how empty it was, now that nearly everyone had left.
Mt Fuji, Japan 2009: Mike and Matt along the trail
On the lower bunk beds, we closed the blinds, buried ourselves in the warm blankets, before drifting back to sleep in no time.

 

 

 

 

 

LostInSpace2010 says:
Oh gosh, that was quite a challenge! =)
Posted on: Aug 04, 2010
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Fuji Hostels review
Hinodekan Sunrise Inn on Mt Fuji
Located as the 2nd mountain hut at the 7th Station on the Kawaguchiko Trail, Hinodekan is one of the mountain huts that lined up the ascending trail o… read entire review
Fuji
photo by: jennjeff1