I've received feedback and e-mail from all around the world since these pages were first posted. Most of the questions in those messages can be grouped into a few general categories. I will try to cover the most common inquiries, but if you don't find what you're looking for here, please feel free to drop me a line. Note: links that are external to this site will open in a new window.
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Sorry to be so blunt, and so negative, but I do not coordinate tours, I do not contract out for private tours, and I do not create personal sightseeing itineraries of any kind. I just don't have the time.
I have a regular full time job during the week, several collateral assignments at that job, and I do a bit of volunteer work at my daughter's high school as well. If that's not enough to keep me quite busy every day, I occasionally travel to other locations on official business.
So, once again, I do not do private contract work as a guide or tour coordinator. Also, I do not have listings of guides or other guide services. I do not have lists of hotels, trains, directions to or from places, sightseeing itineraries, and the like. Most of that kind of information is already available elsewhere on the Internet, and can be found by a browser search. Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) is a good place to start. They have some of the best information about visiting Japan, including Places To Stay, Regional Travel Plans (model sightseeing courses), and Regional Tourist Information. Their home page provides access to 8 different language versions of the site. You can also try my Links page and see if any of the other information there can help.
(Note: if you are a professional or certified commercial provider of guide services, and will provide me with a hard copy of your credentials or link to your web site, I have been thinking about creating a page just for this purpose or adding a link to your service on my Links page. Contact me via my feedback page for details.)
Mt. Fuji is officially open for general climbing from the 1st of July through the 27th of August in any given year. Ceremonies to mark the official opening and closing of the season are held at shrines around the base of the mountain on those dates, most notably at the Main North Entrance Fuji Sengen Shrine (Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Jinja) in Fujiyoshida City. The Mt. Fuji Fire Festival in Fujiyoshida City marks the end of the season and is quite spectacular.
If accumulated snow remains on the upper reaches of the mountain, and not just on the trails, the National Parks Service may delay the start of the climbing season as a precaution against landslide hazards. In the past, the opening has been delayed as much as two weeks. Even if the season starts late, the end of the climbing season will always be on the 27th of August.
While it is true that the Mt. Fuji climbing season is "officially" open from July 1st through August 27th, the are also no "official" restrictions on climbing the mountain at any other time of the year. However, extreme caution should be exercised during the winter months, or at any time when snow covers the upper reaches of the mountain. The upper levels of the trails are quite steep, and wet weather (especially in springtime) can easily trigger an avalanche or landslide simply by stepping in the wrong place. I have a rather morbid scrapbook of articles about climbers who never made it back from out of season climbs, most of which were attempted in late winter or early spring. Some of these folks were experienced winter climbers.
Mt. Fuji, though significantly shorter than many peaks in the U.S. Rockies, European Alps or other mountain ranges, is not your ordinary mountain. Fujisan plays by her own rules as far as winter weather is concerned. In winter, there is no local weather forecast that will be able to give you an accurate indication of the conditions on the mountain. As previously stated, rest huts and other climber/hiker services are almost exclusively available only during those few weeks in summer. The rest of the year, all huts and services on the upper levels of the mountain are securely boarded up against the extreme weather conditions.
How cold does it get? Considering basic atmospheric physics, if the temperature at the top of the mountain is typically about 40 degrees lower than at sea level, and the temperature at sea level in February is about 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (at least around where I live), then it is practical to assume that the basic temperature at the top of the mountain will be about -15 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill factor, etc., will drive the apparent temperature much lower. February, specifically during the first two weeks, tends to be the coldest time of year in this part of Japan.
If you intend to climb "out of season," you need to make sure you check in with the local authorities at either the base of the mountain (Fuji Yoshida or Kawaguchiko Police Stations, for example) or one of the lower level huts that might be open (Satogoya 5th Station hut, just below the junction of the Yoshida and Kawaguchiko trails, is a good choice.) Let them know you will be climbing, and your planned schedule. Let them also check your equipment, to be both politically correct and to establish a good rapport with them. There is no other special permission or permit needed. When you return from your climb (wherever you end up) do the authorities the courtesy of letting them know that you are safe. Give them a brief call or visit. Whomever you check with, both before and after, be prepared to communicate in Japanese. If you decide to go it alone without telling anyone about your plan, and then get blown off the mountain or get caught in an avalanche, no one will know you've gone missing until (or if) your body is found in spring or summer, and no one will know where to look if someone back home reports your failure to return.
Though I am not a winter climber/hiker myself, information gathered from others basically dictates that crampons and an ice axe are necessary specialized equipments for a mid-winter ascent, as well as a good pair of leather boots and some sturdy hiking poles. Gaiters might be an optional carry along item, to keep out any fine scree particles on the descent should the weather dry up and to keep out the snow otherwise. Damp weather would of course reduce the amount of airborne scree and dust. I would caution against snowshoes, due to the steepness of the slope in some areas, the occasional narrowness of the trail (maybe less than one foot wide in a place or two), and the potential to get them hung up on underlying loose rock if the snow cover is shallow.
After all of that, just be sure to bring water. There is none on the mountain, except for the snow. If you do make a winter climb, please consider sending me a brief report after your return. Your information may be valuable to others. Some of what I wrote here is based on the experiences of other off-season climbers. A handful of folks make the trip every year, and have a fairly good time of it. Most of the comments refer to the severity of the weather and how quickly it changes. My comments above are not intended to demean, scare, insult or intimidate. Rather, they should be taken as a wake-up call or reality check before heading off to do something that is inherently dangerous.
During the "official" climbing season, mountain huts are open to provide accommodations, supplies and food to climbers. During the week or two prior to the season opening, hut-keepers will start getting their places ready for the season. It takes nearly a week to get ready, during which time the hut-keepers might not be willing or able to provide services. And the week after the season closes (on August 27th), the huts will start closing down for the winter. All doors and windows are heavily shuttered and locked against the severe winter weather, and are not accessible to off-season climbers.
Accommodations at a mountain hut are rustic, crowded, noisy, and generally uncomfortable ... on a good day. The space allotted to one person is about the width of one small Japanese-size pillow, and all the pillows on the sleeping platform are basically right next to each other. The platforms are lined with thick cotton futons, but these are not intended to be parceled out at one futon per person. Not a chance! A better approximation is three pillows (see above) for every two futons. Blankets are provided, and one blanket generally covers about 1.5 futons. By now you have probably guessed (correctly) that everything in the sleeping area of a hut is SHARED ... except for the pillows. DO NOT expect any privacy or personal space in the sleeping area. Click here for a picture of the sleeping area in a typical mountain hut on Mt. Fuji. (Then click the "back" button in your browser to return to this page.)
The average cost per person to spend the evening hours resting at a hut (in the sleeping area) is about 5,000 Yen, without meals. Most huts will not allow climbers/hikers to rest inside their facility without some sort of charge. The lobby-eating area is reserved for people who have paid to use the sleeping area. The "resting fee" is usually about 1,000 Yen for 30 minutes to one hour.
It is a good idea to plan ahead and make a reservation at one of the huts, especially if you will be hiking at night. Most of the huts will be able to find a space for "one more," even without a reservation. Huts on Mt. Fuji can accommodate between 150 and 400 people each (depending on the hut.) A list of mountain huts and their phone numbers is here.
Supplies such as gloves, vinyl rain suits, O2 canisters, hiking sticks, hats, flashlights, batteries, etc. are available at most huts for well above the "street price" you would pay anywhere else in downtown Japan. Look below for a list of typical prices for basic supplies on the mountain.
Likewise with the food. Typical food items at a hut, at over-inflated prices, might consist of Rice, Curry Rice, Ramen noodles, Udon noodles, Onigiri (rice balls) (here's another link), Miso Soup, coffee, cocoa, juice, and occasionally fruit and candy items. Meals served in a "package deal" with lodging are charged at the rate of about 1,000 Yen each.
Why is everything so expensive? Two answers: Supply vs. demand, and everything has to be ferried up the mountain by tractor and/or carried on someone's back.
Can you give me some advice about climbing/hiking on Mt. Fuji with kids? Is it okay to bring my [x] year old son/daughter? What is the best route for kids to hike? (and so on ...)
Climbing Mt. Fuji is a serious outdoor endeavor. If children are to be involved in your hiking plans ...
Strong parental or other adult guidance and supervision is an absolute must.
Mt. Fuji's Kawaguchiko course was designed to be the most accommodating to the majority of hikers of all ages. There are plenty of places to stop on the way up. There are at least 18 huts, and plenty of "flat spots" to park at for periodic breaks. The huts are not evenly spaced along the trail, though. It's a long way between the 6th station huts and the first hut in the 7th station, and likewise between the top of the 7th and the 8th station. There are no huts at all in the 9th station, or on the descending route until you get back to the 6th station. From a child's point of view, this is not your average "fun and games."
Generally speaking, kids who do a lot of other outdoor activities seem to do pretty well on the mountain. But parents must remember that this type of event requires a good measure of determination, and a willingness to do something that is inherently boring (repetitive motion) for hours on end. It is one thing for adults to subscribe to this kind of activity, but parents MUST be aware of the capabilities of their children when planning their Mt. Fuji challenge.
It is my opinion that any parent who brings a child to hike the mountain (any mountain) must be willing to accept the CHILD'S desire to quit the hike, turn around and hike back to the start, if-or-when the child decides to do so. There can be no other choice. No cajoling, enticements, threats or the like. The child makes the call to go up or to turn back.
That said ... my very first family hiking experience on Mt. Fuji was in the summer of 1986. Our son was 7 years old at the time and we had no clue (back then) what we were doing or where we were going. We headed for the Gotemba trail, just because it was close to home and with easy public access. We didn't realize that it was mostly a sand trail, and that it started nearly 900 meters farther down the mountain than the popular Kawaguchiko route. It was a very tough hike, even though I was a lot more fit back then. It was a long hike, about 11 hours on the trail, but we all made it just fine. After that, our son accompanied me on several other hikes up Fuji on the Kawaguchiko route. When he was 9 y.o., he decided he'd had enough after we got to 3,400 meters. We shared a bowl of ramen at the Fujisan Hotel and then headed down. He made it to the top every trip after that.
Our youngest daughter gave it a try when she was about 7 or 8 years old. Fujisan Hotel was the end of the line for her, too. She has had no desire to hike the mountain again, though she had a pretty good time. Our middle child (daughter) could care less about hiking, and that's okay with me.
These days, lots of kids challenge the Kawaguchiko route with their families, school groups, and other organizations (scouts, etc.) Many of them make it, too. But I usually see (or hear about) a few who packed it in early. Their parent(s) or other adult [chaperone] none too happy I suppose, but I feel better knowing that the kids had a more positive outing than if they had been pushed beyond the limits of their capabilities.
I think the lower age "limit" for bringing children to hike Mt. Fuji should be around 6 or seven years old, only because I have seen children of those ages standing on the top of the mountain, just like they owned the place. There is no official National Parks Ministry rule or regulation that directs, or even suggests, any specific age limit. Some tour companies may set minimum age requirements that are much higher, and they have the right to do so if it is in their company's best interest. As stated above, parents need to know the limits of their child's endurance and ability to withstand this kind of strenuous activity. This is my opinion only, and should not be construed as direct guidance.
Let your kids know what they might experience with this kind of adventure. Talk to them about the challenge, the exercise, Preparation and safety, what the weather might be like, etc. Encourage them to explore their abilities on a big mountain. Give them a single use disposable camera to record their experiences. Then hit the trail. When they're done, have them send me a full report (check their grammar and spelling first, please). One of these days, I just might post one or two kids' stories on my links page.
The Kawaguchiko 5th Station, at the end of the Subaru Line highway, is the most popular of the four prominent 5th Stations, and the one that is most easily accessed by visitors. The elevation is marked as 2,305 meters (7,562.3 feet) above sea level. This trail is marked at the trail head as being 6.3 km to the top. The Kawaguchiko descending trail is a bit longer. By my estimate it is about 6.8 or 7.0 km, but the exact distance is not marked anywhere.
The other three 5th Stations are:
I do not have information about the length of the Subashiri, Gotemba or Fujinomiya trails. If you challenge one of these trails and find a sign with the total trail distance marked, send me the details. I'll post it here and credit you with the find.
There is another 5th Station on the Yoshida route, but it is very close to the Kawaguchiko 5th Station, and almost at the same level. I estimate the trail length from that location to be about 5.8 km.
There is really no "textbook" answer to this type of question.
The "average" climber on the popular Kawaguchiko route might make it to the summit of Fuji in about 5 to 8 hours, or the round-trip in 8 to 12 hours. A few will make it faster than that. Some will take longer.
On the Gotemba route, the climb can easily take 8 hours or more, due to the lower elevation of the starting point and the sandy condition of the trail. It's like walking up the world's tallest sand dune.
Estimate that it will take you about half the time to hike down as it did for you to hike/climb up. For example, if it takes you 6 hours to get to the top, plan on 3 hours to get back to the starting point.
Every climber is different, and every "body" reacts differently to the conditions on the mountain (weather, exertion, reduced oxygen, etc.) I've seen some very fit people who couldn't make it to the top. On the other hand, some less-than-fit once-in-a-lifetime hikers have made it to the top with little difficulty.
However long it takes you, climb and descend safely.
Here is a price list (in in no particular order) for basic equipment that can be found in huts. The prices shown here are based on a survey of items for sale at the Kawaguchiko 5th Station. You can expect prices to increase by as much as 50% (for some items) as you go farther up the mountain.
|Climbing Stick||800-1000 Yen|
|Climbing Stick w/ Bells & Flag (basic)||1000-1200 Yen|
|same stick with map flag (colorful!)||about 1500 Yen|
|Rain Suit||up to 2500 Yen|
|Poncho||up to 1500 Yen|
|Pocket Raincoat||about 400 Yen|
|Hat (many types available)||up to 1200 Yen|
|Hat Keeper (lanyard to clip hat to collar)||about 600 Yen|
|Gaiters||about 1700 Yen|
|Backpack Rain Cover||up to 2000 Yen|
|Head Lamp||about 1500 Yen|
|Bottle Keeper Lanyard||about 1000 Yen|
|O2 (oxygen; about 2 minutes worth)||about 1100 Yen|
YES! The Fujisan Joba [Horseback Riding] Union offers both sightseeing visitors and climbers at Mt. Fuji the opportunity to ride one of their horses part-way up or down the trails on the Kawaguchiko Route. These services do not come cheap. The following chart shows the price schedule that has been in effect for the past several years.
Tozan (Mountain Climbing) Courses
|Model (standing pose, on horseback) 300 Yen||5th Station to 6th Station 6,000 Yen|
|Observatory Course 1,000 Yen||5th Station to 7th Station (end of dirt trail) 12,000 Yen|
|Satomi Daira Course 2,000 Yen||Izumi Ga Take Course 3,000 Yen|
|Kataeda no Matsu Course 3,000 Yen||Kyo Ga Take Course 5,000 Yen|
|Koke Momo Ba Take 4,000 Yen||Shishi Ko Iwa to 5th Station 10,000 Yen (caution: there is a 30 per cent increase in this fee in the case of nighttime, rain, wind, etc.)|
Please note: I do not have any other information about recreational horseback riding for anywhere else in Japan. Sorry. Perhaps JNTO can provide you with that kind of information.
Basically, there aren't any. You are expected to take your trash home with you in an effort to help keep Mt. Fuji clean.
One of the first things people notice when they get to Mt. Fuji, whether they are there to hike/climb or are just visiting, is the lack of trash cans, bins, etc. To be sure, there are a few, especially for recyclable items, but they are hard to find. Until recently, there was trash all over the mountain. It got so bad that local volunteer groups were called in to assist with the cleanup effort. These days, it is quite common for tour companies to issue personal trash bags to the members of their Mt. Fuji climbing tours. Tour members are also requested to pick up any other trash they might see.
Please do your part to keep Mt. Fuji clean. Take your trash off the mountain.
Please send me your specific questions about Mt. Fuji via my Feedback page. I would like to help you in your search for more information. I can give you a much better reply if I know what type of Mt. Fuji information you need. I'm not a very good mind reader.
My Links page refers to maps, stories, weather info, and web sites that provide highly-detailed scientific information about the history and geology of Mt. Fuji. Please visit them, too, and see if they have some information you can use. There are other links scattered throughout these pages. Click on them to see what they have to offer.
Introduction / Facts & Other Information / Preparation / Safety Precautions
Health Tips / FAQs / Quotable Quotes / Winter / Links / My Info Page