Wednesday, August 20, 2008


A wise man climbs Fuji once. A fool climbs it twice.

-Japanese proverb

At 3776 metres, Mount Fuji is Japan's highest mountain. Throughout history, it has been worshipped as a sacred mountain and has influenced artists and poets alike. It currently lies dormant and the last eruption was in 1708.

The official climbing season is from July 1 to August 27 and during this time the weather is relatively mild and the mountain huts are open. Even though the mountain is 3776 metres tall ,you don't have to start at the bottom. Many people start at one of the four 5th stations which are on different sides of the mountain.

Most people time their climb to coincide with seeing the sunrise at the summit. One way of doing this is to climb up during the day and stay in one of the huts over night. Another is to start climbing from the fifth station at around ten o'clock and go up all in one go, although this does increase the chances of altitude sickness.

It's wise to wrap up warm as it can very cold at the top of the mountain and to also take about a litre and a half of water.

Since I've been here in Japan I've been telling everybody about how I'm going to climb Mount Fuji, as it's been one of the main things I've wanted to do since arriving here.

Well last week, on my final holiday before I return back to England, I was actually faced with having to do it. In the days leading up to climbing Fuji I was actually beginning to feel a little apprehensive as the reality of the situation and how tiring it would be was beginning to set in. A few friends of mine(who shall remain nameless) who were coming up with me unfortunately had to pull out, leaving me on my own. At four thirty I was still pondering whether to go, so I decided to put the outcome on the toss of a coin. Heads I climb, tails I go down the pub and get very drunk. It came out heads, so I immediately set out for Shinjuku to get the coach to Fuji.

I arrived at the Kawaguchi-ko 5th station just before ten o'clock, which this is the easiest station to get to from Tokyo and is at an altitude of 2300 metres. Fortunately I'd met a Canadian guy called Bryan in the town of Kawaguchi-ko, so I had someone to go up with. I was definitely very lucky to meet Bryan as without him I'm sure my ascent would have been far more difficult.

At first climbing was relatively easy, the first couple of hours went by without any problems. Then things started to get more difficult. The slopes got steeper and the air got thinner. The final hour of my climb was especially difficult as I was beginning to feel the pain in my legs and I was getting altitude sickness. In fact the final hour was one of the most painful experiences of my life.

Once at the top I just collapsed. I had achieved my goal and felt an overwhelming sense of relief that I didn't have to do any more climbing. I just wanted to lay on the ground. A few minutes later I managed to gather myself up. Surprisingly at the top of Fuji there are lots of souveneir shops and vending machines and even my mobile phone worked.

Fortunately I'd arrived before sunrise and I'd unbelievably managed to climb the mountain in six hours.

The sun came up at around four thirty and it really was an amazing sight. Everyone was entranced as the sun slowly revealed itself. It felt as if I was on top of the world looking down. It was then that it all seemed worth it.

Once it was daylight I had a short walk around the crater(to go all the way around takes about an hour and my legs weren't really up to it) and then I started to make the long arduous journey back down. It took about three hours to get down and once at the bottom I felt this amazing high. Looking back up towards the top of the mountain I found it difficult to believe I'd just climbed up there.

Will I climb it again? As the saying goes, only a fool climbs it twice....

You can see all the photos


Anonymous said...

I will be traveling to that area soon. Look forward in attempting the climb up. I am in avarage shape, but don't think I will break your time. Can not wait to see the rising sun.