Mount Fuji: From Japan

I know Mount Fuji isn’t actually a Korean mountain and therefore doesn’t actually belong on this site, but it is here nonetheless.

Difficulty: ▶▶▶

Overall Rating: ▶▶▶

Thought I was joking about the Kit Kats didn't you?

Thought I was joking about the Kit Kats didn’t you?

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan standing at 3,776 meters. However for Japan Mount Fuji is not just a mountain, it is an icon. Indeed Mount Fuji is worth climbing if for no other reason so you can validate buying that Tenugui with the Mount Fuji print, or that box of Kit Kats shaped like Mount Fuji, or that memo pad with a picture of Mount Fuji, or any other item with Mount Fuji on it that might catch your fancy.

Due to my tight schedule I had arrived at Mount Fuji on September 8th with the plan of doing the bullet hike, which means you start from the fifth station in the late afternoon or evening and climb through the night in order to arrive at the peak before sunrise. Generally it seemed that people left the fifth station around 10 pm in order to arrive at the summit before sunset, so I had decided to give it a try. Upon my arrival at the Mt. Fuji fifth station I purchased the classic Mt. Fuji hiking stick from the local shop and headed on my way.

There were plenty of people on the trail for the first hour or so, which I must say made it all the more surprising when I arrived at the seventh station only to find I had missed the sixth station and my chance for the sixth station stamp! Dissapointed though I was, I got my seventh station stamp and after a short break headed onwards and upwards only to discover that the eighth and ninth station were closed and no longer offering stamps (whether due to me climbing out of season or to the lateness of the hour I do not know).

The fifth station at sunrise

The fifth station at sunrise

However before I got that far, and as I moved past the seventh station, the ominous clouds began to send a light mist. For the first half hour this scarcely bothered me, but an hour or so later I sat in a bathroom at the eighth station looking at my watch thinking how I still had several hours to wait, and a few stations yet to pass, before sunrise. The only problem was that I was already freezing cold (not literally of course but considering I had spent that afternoon wearing shorts in Tokyo the difference in temperature at least seemed severe).

Not many trees past the sixth station, but I shot this on my way down.

Not many trees past the sixth station, but I shot this on my way down.

Eventually I ended up where I had wanted to end up: at the summit of Fount Fuji, joined by at least a few hundred others staring out at the Eastern horizon awaiting the rising of the sun. I suppose somewhere inside of me there was a part thinking how poetic and beautiful the moment was, all of us from various corners of the earth gathered here to celebrate the beauty of one of nature’s greatest daily shows. However, mostly I was just quite cold despite the four layers of shirts, winter coat, two layers of socks and two pairs of hiking pants I was wearing. Even worse the clouds blocked any view of the sun breaking the horizon and I must admit I was left more disappointed than inspired, though I was grateful that I could now head down without any feeling of regret. First though I would experience one more disappointment as I couldn’t even find where to get my tenth station stamp!

My walking stick at sunrise

My walking stick at sunrise

Ultimately I decided that I had no desire to trek across the mountain to the western side of Mount Fuji’s peak in search of the stamp and opted instead to begin my descent down; all the while wondering if the rest of my life people would see the stick and think I only made it as far as the seventh station.

Just in case you didn't believe my stories about how cold it was-yeah those are icicles.

Just in case you didn’t believe my stories about how cold it was-yeah those are icicles.

All of this may seem quite dire but it really didn’t need to be. If I had been able to do the hike a few weeks earlier before the weather got so cold (the peak is however always quite chilly apparently -something about altitude), or if I could have avoided the rain it really wouldn’t have been tough to do the bullet hike at all, and of course if I had more time and could have stayed at one of the station huts till the early morning that would have helped as well. That being said it also could have been a lot harder as Mount Fuji is infamously difficult to climb from October to May. Ultimately I have no regrets about climbing Mount Fuji however as it is a wonderful and awe inspiring monument to nature, and hopefully I can climb it again someday.

Note: For a culinary review from Tokyo visit my other site


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