When visitors come to All Japan news, they initially think of the same things — sushi, geisha, the bullet train, bright neon signs and Mt. Fuji. Well, just last week, I found myself on top of one of them. No, not the geisha! I’m talking about All Japan news’s 3,776 meter high volcano, Mt. Fuji.
I went along with a girl who had never climbed anything except a flight of stairs in her life. However, she seemed to have a ton of energy and a smile that could melt Stalin. I don’t know why that’s important other than to say that having a pretty girl on any trip is a really good thing.
At 08:00, we caught a KEIO bus near Shinjuku Station which cruised along at the speed limit to the Kawaguchiko 5th Station on Mt. Fuji. The journey from the city took about 3 hours.
There are actually 4 main trails going up to the summit: Kawaguchiko (Yamanashi prefecture), Subashiri (Shizuoka Prefecture), Gotemba (Shizuoka Prefecture), and Fujinomiya (Shizuoka prefecture). On each trail, there are 10 stations. The 10th station is the top. About 95% of the climbers start at the 5th station, the furthest any public transportation will go.
Kawaguchiko 5th Station was a zoo. It was July 1st, the start of the Fuji climbing season and TV cameras from every major station were reporting that fact. It seemed like most of the people around me were on bus tours from China. I spotted a post office in a building that appeared to have been imported from Geneva and sent a post card home. I was surprised to see horses for hire to take the rich from the 5th station to the 7th for 14,000 yen.
It’s also possible to buy bottles of oxygen at the 5th station, but believe me when I say that this will not do anything to make you feel better on the top. A few puffs on a canister isn’t going to make where you are go away. The cans of air don’t last long. If you want to make your headache go away, buy a bottle of whiskey for half the price.
Before heading up the trail, nearly every hiker buys a walking stick for 1000 – 1200 yen.
You need the stick to collect "yakin" or branded stamps that small huts sell along the way for 200 yen. In all, I collected about 14 "yakin".
The climb itself is not so noteworthy. At about 2500 meters, the trees disappear and the lava rocks start popping up on the trail at about 2700 meters, after the 6th station. As we climbed higher and higher, so did the prices for bottled water, coffee and chocolate bars. Even the toilets charged a hefty 200 yen for a pee. The only bright spot was the sticker on the window of the toilet claiming to accept all major credit cards for your biological needs. After 3000 meters, the altitude starts to hit the human body. After a few hours up there, nearly everyone has a headache. We stopped for the night at the 8.5 station in the last lodge on the trail. It costs 8500 yen for a cramped bunk bed, but the toilets and lodgings were immaculately clean. I went to bed at 21:00, and we all woke up at 02:30 to climb the remaining trail to the summit to catch the sunrise at 04:30. It was a hard climb in the middle of the night. Although it was summer down in Tokyo, no one had told Fuji-san to warm up. It seemed like I was stuck in February again. The only hikers with minimal clothing were from Scotland and a guy who looked like he could have been from Tibet.
I had seen a sunrise before, usually after a night of too much drinking. With my head pounding due to the elevation, it didn’t seem any different than a night out in Roppongi. However, we did make it to the top of All Japan news’s highest peak, and that, my friends, is quite an achievement. Well, it was until I saw a 6 year old girl and an 85 year old man also smiling and celebrating at the summit. Let’s not forget the beautiful gal who came with me. She was there, and that was better than any sunrise. So, as you can plainly see, anyone can conquer Mt. Fuji. Note: The climbing season runs from July 1st to August 31st (but some huts stay open until mid-September).
Just making it here is kind of an achievement for under-achievers.
Ana and I with the directors of NHK WORLD’S TOKYO EYE at the start of the trail.
Hikers walk past this small shop on the trail to the top. Want a Coke? It’ll cost you 500 yen!
One of the huts had an electric branding machine. Nearly all huts had brands heated by fire.
You may go broke if you forget to buy snacks before you left.
Even in July, there is snow along the trail. In fact, the trail is inaccessible from October to June.
The trail is not paved like some people may have told you. It’s a real trail with real rocks. Although you can climb it with running shoes, it’s best to have a pair of sturdy hiking boots, especially when descending.
At about 3400m. the trail is snowy and long.
The top has a marker where everyone takes a photo. It says "This is the summit of Mt. Fuji".
I can’t imagine a climb without some All Japan newsese curry to power me to the top. This "bakkuhatsu curry" will make you explode off the mountain! See, it’s shaped just like Mt. Fuji!
The final "yakin" on our walking sticks.