Although Mt. Fuji is closed all summer this year, today I went to Mt. Fuji – virtually that is. My sister booked me an online experience AirBnB tour with Kenji-san. We were supposed to meet in Japan in May this year, but as with all other plans and flights, ours was cancelled. I don’t know when we can reschedule – maybe next summer? Hopefully. Anyway, for now I’ll climb Mt. Fuji in the comforts of my own home, while enjoying my freshly brewed coffee and porridge. Another plus was I’m ‘climbing’ it with a couple of other friends as well, so it was like a mini Zoom party.
Mt Fuji is the tallest peak in Japan and is popularly climbed in the summer. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. An average of 200,000 people climb it every year. There are 4 climbing routes, and more than 70% of the climbers take the route through the 5th station is easily accessed from Tokyo. It typically takes 8 hours of climbing, and 4 hours of going down. Night climb is popular, where the highlight is viewing the sunrise from Mt Fuji’s summit.
Minutes before we ‘took off’ we did a bit of stretching and did an encouragement cheer, and then at 11AM we headed out from the 5th station towards the 6th station. We passed through some horses, which play a big role especially for those who are doing the pilgrimage to Mt Fuji as a form of worship but could not make the full climb. We also saw several colorful flowers, and the one that stuck to me the most was the Fuji thistle, a spiny purple flower which appeared to be nodding.
At 12PM we arrived at the 6th station and appreciated the view of the other stations, the lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji. At 1:35 we arrived at the 7th station and arrived at some huts. There’s a bit more rocky parts from the 7th station, and at 2:50 PM I could see a Tori-gate of a mountain hut up above. At 3:15 PM we headed up to the 7th Station Toyokan-lodge which was 3000 meters up, and once again our eyes feasted on a scenic view.
Hiking up to the 8th station took us another 1 hour, and we got there at 4 PM, arriving at the Taishikan-lodge, 3100 meters up. As a cloud lover, the views of the clouds from this location was spectacular. The Pacific ocean could also be seen from here. We saw the Kage-Fuji (Shadow Fuji), a rare view whose chances of being seen happens only when the sky is very clear, and if one is lucky, can see it around 4 PM or 6 AM. The shadow casts the perfect shape of Mt. Fuji.
I’d say the best view so far was at night – the city lights from the distance, and a shot of a lightning flash over rainy Tokyo was spectacular! There was a dormitory for a few hours of snooze, which would be needed as we headed out towards the 9th station from 1 AM onwards. There was a long row of lights from people also heading up through the night, so though it was supposedly dark it wasn’t quite, because the line of climbers at this time of the year was very long.
At 4:30 AM, the sky was getting brighter as the sun peaked from the distance. At 4:45 AM we finally reached the summit, and looks like the sun was finally coming. There was a lot of people facing the sunrise with their cameras ready. I saw a sea of clouds, moving as if making way for the sun’s grand entrance. I’ve never really seen a proper sunrise (my attempts at Borobodur and Sagada were both epic fails because the clouds shrouded the sun). The sunrise photos that Kenji-san shared were absolutely breathtaking!
Finally, we celebrated the successful climb and sunrise view with a hot yummy looking bowl of miso ramen. Of course that translated to me finishing up my porridge from my end. After the snack, we walked around the crater. Then we went to the highest point (3776 meters) where there was a queue of people lined up to have their photo taken next to the sign. We also passed by a post office, where the Mt Fuji stamp is placed on postcards which climbers send to themselves as souvenirs sometimes.
Lastly we made our way down. The descent was mostly in silence. I admire the people who have have climbed Mt Fuji and I am inspired to climb it too. One day, soon.