Mount Fuji at 3776 meters, is Japan's highest and most prominent mountain.
The mountain itself may look more attractive from afar than from close up, but the views on clear days and the experience of climbing through the early morning hours among hundreds of equally minded hikers from across the world are very rewarding and definitely worth trying once.
Early July to mid-September is the official climbing season when the trails and mountain facilities are open. During this period the mountain is usually free of snow, the weather is relatively mild, access by public transportation is easy, and the mountain huts are operating.
Anyone without much hiking experience is advised to tackle the mountain during the official climbing season. Climbing Mount Fuji is very popular not only among Japanese but also foreign tourists, who seem to make up more than a third of all hikers.
The high season for climbing Mount Fuji is during the school vacations which last from around July 20 to the end of August. The top end of the high season is reached during the Obon Week in mid-August when climbers literally have to stand in queues at some passages.
While you may want to avoid the Obon Week, we believe that by avoiding the crowds in general, you would miss out on one of the most interesting aspects of climbing Mount Fuji, which is the camaraderie and unique experience of ascending the mountain among hundreds of equally minded people from across the world.
In order to encounter neither too large nor too small crowds, I would recommend climbing Mount Fuji on a weekday in the first half of July before the start of the school vacations. The downside of a climb in early July is the weather, which tends to be somewhat more unstable than later in the season.
Some mountain huts open a few days before the start of the official climbing season and/or remain open until around mid-September.
Public transportation is considerably less frequent or non-existent outside of the official climbing season.
While there is usually no snow on Mount Fuji from late June until October, temperatures at the summit can drop too far below zero in the shoulder seasons.
Only experienced hikers should consider the ascent in late June or September.
If there is snow on the mountain, appropriate mountaineering equipment and experience is required.
From October to around mid-June, climbing to the summit is highly perilous due to extreme wind and weather conditions, snow, ice, and the risk of avalanches.
How to climb Mt. Fuji
Mount Fuji is divided into ten stations with the first station at the foot of the mountain and the tenth station being the summit.
Paved roads go as far as the fifth station halfway up the mountain.
There are four 5th stations on different sides of the mountain, from where most people start their ascent. The ascent to the summit does not pose any major difficulties regarding climbing skills.
Only at some points, the terrain is rather steep and rocky. Abundant signs along the trail warn the hikers of other minor problems such as sudden wind gusts and falling rocks.
However, the main challenge of the climb is the fact that it is very strenuous and the air gets notably thinner as you gain altitude.
Because the hike is not technically difficult, and there are many other hikers during the climbing season, the average person will not need a guide.
However, inexperienced hikers or people who prefer to leave all the planning to somebody else may want to consider hiring a guide.
There are several companies offering group or private tours, such as "HIS", for example, offers a 2-day Mount Fuji Ascent with English-speaking Guide that departs from Tokyo.
Many people aim for Sunrise
Most people try to time their ascent in order to witness the sunrise from the summit. Also, the chances of the mountain being free of clouds are highest during the early morning hours. Ascending and descending the mountain in a single day during the daytime is also possible, but again it is not recommended for the same reasons as above.
Furthermore, the mountain provides very little shelter, leaving climbers fully exposed to the sun. Visibility also tends to be worse during the daytime when the mountain is frequently wrapped in clouds.
A walk around the crater of Mount Fuji takes about one hour.
The mountain's and Japan's highest point is located immediately next to the weather station on the opposite side from where the Yoshida Trail reaches the peak.