At the end of August last year–only about a month after I packed up my entire life and moved to a c
ompletely different country–I decided to complete another, yet much simpler, life experience. I climbed Mt. Fuji.
Now, I know. Some might say that climbing Mt. Fuji is child’s play compared to other mountain giants like Everest, but i’m certainly not a hiker, and definitely not a mountain-climber. So, when the JET group in my prefecture offered the new ALTs to go on a group Fuji adventure, I was apprehensive yet completely down for the new experience. I was just a little short of hyperly pumped.
On August 25th, a group of about 20 Fukui JETs and I hopped on a charter bus in the morning for the long ride to Shizuoka prefecture. It was a LONG ride, very similar to the journey from Tokyo to Fukui when I first moved to Japan. There were many rest-stop breaks, a lot of talking, and many movie reruns. At around 7:30PM, we arrived at station 5 of Mt. Fuji. We were going to climb the beast at night to catch the sunrise the next morning.
I bought some much-needed climbing gear like a headlight (which I would soon find out to be defective), gloves, and a walking stick with a bear bell. We took our group photos–a sort of before for our after, and we set off at around 9PM on the Yoshida trail to the summit (one of the more popular and easier trail to climb).
During the long climb, I stuck with about 2 to 5 girls while the rest of the group went ahead like mini terminators to the summit. We were definitely taking a more leisurely pace, and by the time we got to around station 6, half the group was experiencing a mutiny. There were tears and there was calls for defeat.
At around 4AM, the sun was beginning to peak under the horizon, and I quickened my pace to catch it at the top. I have to admit, I left my fellow soldiers behind. But, I did try wait for them as long as possible! I reached the summit as the sun rose over the horizon at full blast and got the last stamp on my walking stick. I was pooped, so I stuck around for some time to wait for my group, but little did I know, they were still an hour away.
So, having waited long enough (we had to be back on the bus by 11AM), I set to descending the mountain with some hope that the group would catch up. I took a short rest at the next station, removed some layers (the sun was burning at full blast) and ate a Cup Ramen. Finally, I got in contact with my group. They were coming down, so I decided to wait.
That was a BIG mistake. Within ten minutes, an intense fog rolled in. Little did I realize, there was a large storm passing through and I was lucky enough to experience its full force. If I hadn’t waited, I would have been able to skip the nonsense of the next five hours of hell.
I met up with my group and we descended the slippery, fog-ridden, and rainy mountain back to station five. Descent was supposed to be the easiest part of climbing Mt. Fuji. But, I have to say it was the hardest. It was almost impossible to get proper footing without slipping down, and running down (like some people opt to do) was out of the question with the thick fog. Besides, we were trying not to get smacked off the side of the mountain by the various bulldozers that were sliding down. There was at least one near-miss that made me question the whole experience.
By the time my rag-tag group made it to station five, it was well past the meet-up time, everyone had already made it back before the storm, and we were soaked to the bone with minor injuries.
It’s safe to say I knocked out instantly. But, even though the experience was hard, I’d do it all over again.
Mt. Fuji is on the eastern side of Japan in both Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefecture. You can start climbing at the base of the mountain on either side, or climb from station five. Mt. Fuji is accessible by bus, car, and train.
You should check with the official website for updates about conditions on the mountain.