Life Lessons Learned From Climbing Mount Fuji in Japan

Life Lessons Learned From Climbing Mount Fuji in Japan

Japan

Beginner’s Guide to Climbing Mount Fuji

Let me start off by saying I am not an experienced hiker. Also I don’t exercise regularly (kinda out of shape). I don’t know the technical ins and outs of hiking. All I know was I had always wanted to hike Mount Fuji but never got around to it. Climbing Mount Fuji was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding experiences I have had in my life. I was glad I did it, pushed myself to the limit and felt more alive. 🙂

Official Climbing Mount Fuji Season:
Yoshida Trail: July 1 to September 10, 2017

Two Day Climbing Mount Fuji Equipment List: Backpack, sunglasses, gloves, sun hat, warm hat, thermal underwear, waterproof trousers, warm fleece jacket, waterproof jacket with an attached hood, hiking boots, wool socks, gaiters, head lamps, hiking Stick, etc.

Fuji Subaru 5th station 富士山五合目

Altitude: 2305 meters
There were tons of people in the Subaru 5th station. We took Yoshida trail (吉田). There are 4 main trails leading up to the summit of Mt. Fuji. If you are a more experienced climber and prefer it to be less-crowded, consider taking other paths such as Fujinomiya (富士宮), Subashiri (須走口) and Gotemba (御殿場駅) trails.

Even if you have no intention climbing Mount Fuji, you can spend some time in the Fuji Five Lakes area. It is a really nice resort area. Lake Yamanaka, Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Saiko, Lake Shoji, Lake Motosu.

Yoshida trail – Started climbing Mount Fuji! Departed at 11:17am.

Mt. Fuji 6th Station 富士山六合目

Arrived at 12:18pm. Altitude: 2390 meters
Mostly pebbles and red soil trail. The walk from 6th – 7th Station was wide enough to fit the crowd, to pass others and climb at your own pace.

Mt. Fuji 7th Station 富士山七合目

Arrived at 2:04pm. Departed at 2:40pm. Altitude: 2700 meters
My level of commitment increased as we approached station 7. There was no turning back you just had to move forward. Station 7 was almost all giant rocks where you need to use some arm works like rock climbing but still manageable. Getting difficult!

Toilets cost 200 yen entrance fee. Like most places in Japan the toilets worked and were clean, although no fancy high-tech toilets.

Mt. Fuji 8th Station 富士山八合目

Arrived at 6:08pm. Departed at 6:18pm. Altitude: 3250 meters
This was where weather changes drastically, I added three layers of top and wore snow hat here.

The sun had almost set and the clouds had completely enveloped the world below.

Mt. Fuji 8th Station Tomoe Kan 富士山八合目トモエ館

Arrived at 8:25pm. Altitude: 3400 meters
By the time we reached our mountain hut, it was already dark. We checked in and were given bags to put our shoes in. Ate curry rice for dinner and got ready for bed. There were not much water to brush teeth or wash hands. The hut had no private bed, just a sleeping area with a pillow, sleeping bag and a hook to hang your bag above your head. I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep (turned out I slept for about an hour).

Sunrise from 8th Station Tomoe Kan 富士山本八合目トモエ館

A sunrise with clouds was so beautiful. Watching it from Mt Fuji was magic. The view made it worth all of the effort!


Breakfast

Departed at 5:50am.
After hiking for not too long this morning, my chest was instantly a little tight due to the altitude. I was having more trouble breathing. We tried to walk slowly and took multiple stops and it helped.

Mt. Fuji 8.5th Station 富士山八合五勺

Arrived at 6:17am. Departed at 6:22am. Altitude: 3450 meters

Mt. Fuji 9th Station 富士山九合目

Arrived at 7:15am. Depart at 7:20am. Altitude: 3600 meters

Top of Mt. Fuji 富士山山頂

Arrived at 8:10am. Departed at 9:25am. Altitude: 3756 meters
Finally, after our legs had started to give out from the long ascent, we approached the summit. Unfortunately the post office and restroom were not opened yet…

Back Down | Mt. Fuji 8th Station – 5th Station 富士山八合目 – 五合目

Arrived at 11:20am. Departed at noon. The hard part was just beginning! The climb down took us almost 6 hours since we took a lot of short and long breaks. There were tons of volcanic rocks everywhere causing you to slip and slide down the hill. At some points, I lost patience and tried to run down like other people did and sprained my ankle. Tendon strength took about 3 months longer to build up. My tendon was still relatively weak to support myself and the weight I was carrying. The hike down sucked. I just wanted it to be over. Also no place to purchase water after the 8th Station. I was hydrated for too long. Afterwards we were absolutely exhausted.

Lessons Learned from climbing Mount Fuji: Always takes your time (slow down especially when hiking down hill), be patient. It takes time to get strong. It takes patience to keep with it until you get there. Don’t give up, take a break whenever you need it. When I sprained my ankle I was ready to call an ambulance but it seemed to be a lot of trouble to get one. Afterwards we managed to walked down slowly. Trust yourself, you can do it!

Checked in Hotel Konanso Yamanashi

After we arrived Ryokan I was vomiting and couldn’t keep anything down. It was still hard to believe that we had actually climbed it. Glad we made it back safely! Climbing Mount Fuji was on my bucket list and I was glad I did it. Every step was worth it. This is something you’ll never forget in your life!


Fuji Five Lakes

Fuji Five Lakes

Japan

Lake Kawaguchiko 河口湖

Kawaguchiko is a great base to explore the surrounding five lakes areas. The best approach is to rent a bike. We arrived late in the day to Kawaguchiko so we only had time to catch the sunset which was very nice too.

Shuhoukaku Kogetsu 秀峰閣湖月

The hotel was in a perfect location for viewing Mt. Fuji. It is right next to Lake Kawaguchiko and on clear days you can see Mount Fuji from your room.

You can see Mount Fuji directly from the room.

Kawaguchiko Winter Fireworks
The highlight of our stay was the fireworks display over the mountain.

Dinner
Traditional Kaiseki meal



Good morning Mount Fuji!

The view from the room was breathtaking. Even when Mt. Fuji was not visible, the lake and the hills were really beautiful.

Breakfast
I love Japanese style breakfast buffet! I often end up stuff myself with too much food…self control is needed!

Too bad Mount Fuji was covered by cloud right before we left the hotel.

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Japan

JIGOKUDANI YAENKOEN 地獄谷野猿公苑

LOCATION: Yudanaka Shibu Onsen, Yamanouchi town, Nagano prefecture, Japan
DISTANCE: About 33km from Nagano city, 7km from Yudanaka station, 2.5km from Shibu Onsen
HOURS: Summer (April-October) 8:30am-5:00pm | Winter (November-March) 9:00am-4:00pm

The heavy snow covers the ground for 4 months a year. This place is only accessible via a narrow 2 kilometer footpath through the forest. It is famous for the wild Japanese macaques (snow monkeys). The monkeys are fed by park attendants everyday so you can see them in the hot springs all year round.

It's 1.6km hike to the monkey park. It's not an easy hike, especially if it's raining or snowing, as it's very icy and slippery uphill (about a 45 minute walk). Be sure to wear proper shoes or you can rent a cramp-on as well. There are a very narrow ramp on the left.

Entrance is on top of the hill, there are a small gift shop and toilets in the building. Then you walk down to the river, where the monkeys are feeding, playing, and bathing in the onsen. While we were there it snowed heavily, there was a layer of snow on my eyelashes at times!

There are literally hundreds of monkeys running up the snowy slopes, in the river and bathing in the onsen. They looked so relaxed. Remember NO food is allowed near the monkeys as they will try to take it from you!

Shibu Onsen

Shibu Onsen

Japan

Shibu Onsen is a very quiet and quaint little town. The main street comprising a few old style shops, ryokans, restaurants, bath houses, and temples. There are 9 public onsen, one each for men and one for women. 

The residents here were very friendly. Bought some pottery at a small shop called "Yamamoto". The owner didn't understand English so I tried to use very limited Japanese to communicate with her. At the end she even gave us 4 apples as souvenirs. So sweet!

It was very cold and snowing heavily in January. The best thing was the atmosphere you can feel by going around the main street. Where else can you find Onsen egg for 50 yen?!

Ryokan Aburaya Tousen あぶらや燈千

Stayed in Aburaya Tousen for one night after visited the snow monkey park. The open aired private bath was spacious. We were frozen and exhausted from all the travel and the snow monkey park prior, spent the rest of the day soaking in the hot tub was the best!

Dinner

We had a delicious 9 course dinner. The food itself was meticulously decorated and it tasted as good as it looked.

The amazing snowy river and mountain view of the town in the morning.

Breakfast

We chose a Japanese style breakfast. There was even a chef who cooked the eggs for us right there.

Daio Wasabi Farm

Daio Wasabi Farm

Japan

The Daio Wasabi Farm is near Matsumoto (about 25 mins drive from the city). It's one of Japan's largest wasabi farms. Taking a quick trip from Matsumoto after seeing the Matsumoto castle was a great stop to see how wasabi is grown.

Here you can freely walked around the farm and sample all the different wasabi related products such as wasabi ice cream, wasabi croquette, wasabi lollipop, etc.

Wasabi plants growing in a fresh running stream. The wasabi is grown under black tarps to protect it from the sun and the crop is watered by spring water. It takes 2 years for the wasabi to mature.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

Japan

The Matsumoto castle is a National Treasure of Japan, which is one of the only twelve remaining original castles in Japan.

Massive stone walls and a moat filled with carp and swans.

The castle was built in 1504. It has been perfectly preserved and is in excellent condition. 

You need to change into slippers to walk through the castle. The wooden structure has very steep stairs and very low ceilings, making climbing up and down a bit challenging.

The views are wonderful over the city and the surrounding mountains.

Tsumago-juku

Tsumago-juku

Japan

Tsumago is known one of the historic Post Towns on the old Edo road over a hundred years ago (present-day Tokyo to Kyoto). I knew about this town from a poster awhile back, and decided to visit on this trip to japan.

It has retained the old town feel, with cables and wires all hidden underground. The residents using the buildings with their 3-part creed: "Don't Sell, Don't Lend, Don't Tear Down." They really try their best to recreate the ambiance of the Edo Period.

Handmade Soba (buckwheat Noodle) with a firmness of texture and fullness of flavor. Gohei Mochi (sticky rice on a skewer) is made from white rice and pounded into a sticky cake, coated in a sweet sauce, and aromatically cooked over a flame.

The down has plenty of cafe's, souvenir shops, restaurants, and museums. I loved exploring the little shops with different crafts and snacks.

Magome-juku

Magome-juku

Japan

Magome-juku (馬籠宿), Tsumago-juku (妻籠宿), and Narai-juku (奈良井宿) are 3 must visit historical towns along the Nakasendo Trail (中山道). Among them, Magome-juku is the most touristy. It's nicely situated with steep streets and interesting architecture. There is a great lookout point at the top with a fantastic view.

The main street up the hill is full of small shops with some interesting handicrafts and local foods. It is still maintaining a traditional atmosphere, with the houses and cobblestone street. I like the hand-made rice cracker. 😀

Magome-juku was destroyed by fire twice in 1895 and 1915 and was rebuilt.

The Nakasendo Trail (Magome to Tsumago) during winter is very slippery. However, it will be a very nice walking trial during summer. It is recommended to start your journey from Magome if don't want to walk uphill for too long.