Like everyone else (maybe), I’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics on TV lately and I caught a second of a Japanese supporter wearing the Fuji-san hat (see below) that I remember so well for tickling all the tourists I’ve brought around in Tokyo. If you’re wondering, you can easily find them in the ubiquitous Don Quixote shops around Japan and I don’t think it’s that pricey. Makes for a good souvenir / Halloween costume if you have space in your suitcase on your next Nippon vacation!
Shameless tourists october 2014
Of course, if you fancy food stuffs, there are also ONIGIRI, TAIYAKI, CRAB, MAGURO. And there is also a Japanese castle one if you’re more into architecture or history.
Shameless tourists july 2013
And yes, as per the title of this post, I HAVE CLIMBED MOUNT FUJI THREE TIMES. Contrary to my build and my seemingly lack of fitness, I have actually achieved some commendable feats in the hiking world. Ok, strictly speaking, perhaps it’s the amateur hiking world. My other accomplishments include: Climbing Mt. Kinabalu when I was 13 on a high school trip (with porters HAH), Broga and Tabur, Mt. Takao, Fort de St. Eynard, Chamchaude, Jungfraujoch, Machu Picchu, … hmm, maybe I’m not that great after all lol but hey, I can assure you that I have definitely been ON TOP of many many bukits (hills) and gunungs (mountains) around the world, regardless of HOW I got up there hehe.
AND I WAS ON TOP OF MT FUJI THREE TIMES!! Although I also have to shamelessly admit that I started all three times on the 5th station (2305m altitude). And I’ve taken the Yoshida Route, aka the easiest route, all three times.
Maybe I ought to change the post title to:
Thoughts on Climbing Mt. Fuji Three Times On the Easiest, Most Amateur Yoshida Route, Not Even Consecutively but Over a Span of Four Years + from 2011 ~ 2015
①The first part (about 5 minutes in ~ 30 minutes in) is the most difficult but don’t be disheartened
When you start at the 5th Station, you will first encounter some terrain that looks like this that stretches out for about 15 minutes. You’re all pumped up to start scaling the famous mountain and maybe you’ve been training for the past weeks to get in shape. But when you start climbing, you find yourself huffing and puffing and getting short of breath, and you look around to see your mates still with their excited faces on albeit with a bit of strain. You want to rest but you’re too afraid to speak out to your group, because we are just beginning, how can I be struggling already?? Holy shoots can I even make it to the top?? Gosh I’m so unfit… shit I don’t want to drag my friends down but maybe I’m just not cut out for this, maybe it’s not too late to pull out now… etc. etc.
Hold it! (Phoenix Wright voice)
The truth is, EVERYONE IS FEELING THE SAME. I can vouch for it, unless you’re some super fit, crazy mountaineering genius with the right gear and engineered climbing shoes, everyone struggles at this part. So you can come clean and laugh about it with your friends, because rest assured, I don’t remember the exact timeframe but it gets a whole lot better (but more repetitive) after about 15-20 minutes.
Or you can be like me the first time I climbed it (summer 2011), and stop to take a picture when I just wanted badly to take a short pause. Btw, this stretch also overlooks the 樹海 (jyukai, literally the Sea of Trees or more commonly, the Suicide Forest), notoriously known for its popularity as a suicide spot for Japanese people… brr.. But I also personally know a friend who does orienteering in the forest so maybe there are more haunted areas and less haunted ones.
②Wear light shoes you feel comfortable in
So the first trip, I was so inexperienced and nervous about the climb that I asked my friend who was in a mountaineering club in uni at that time to lend me all her climbing gear. I love her for being so nice about it but I honestly don’t understand why she would lend me those killer shoes. Check out my look below. I am channeling Doraemon. And you can see that the weather was total shit the first time around.
But really, THOSE SHOES. Super PROFESSIONAL, Super EXPENSIVE, but it was the cause of my stress throughout the whole trip. Perhaps because they weren’t mine, and perhaps they were slightly too big for me, I don’t know. They were heavy and clunky and whatever extra grip they gave me, I did not appreciate it one bit. All I remember was missing my comfy Nike running shoes back home 😦
Which is why for the next two trips, I wore my comfy trusty purple Nikes which have served me loyally for many many years until I had to move on to black Nikes 😦
Yeah, great silhouette of my shoes here. july 2013
Tada! told you they’re purple! july 2015. Stole from Yi Ming’s fb. Hello YM if you’re reading this!
③Bring lots of energy bars
Well, this is quite obvious. You are climbing a mountain, so you need ENERGY. No time to worry about calories now. Fancy hipster granola bars or generic industrially manufactured ones, I DON’T CARE. You are using energy and you NEED to replenish it. Some of my favourites: CHOCOLATE!, Disgusting and dry Caloriemate but it will really be your mate atop that mountain, Fresh bananas (but it’s a drag to carry your rotting banana peel because NO LITTERING! so make sure you bring enough plastic bags to seal that baby up).
You can also buy these along the way to the peak but of course they are all premium priced:
One banana for ¥200 or RM8 or US$2
④Bring enough warm clothes
THIS IS VERY VERY IMPORTANT. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. It gets REAL COLD up there at 3776m in altitude and you have to also take into consideration that you will be standing in the DARK because you’re waiting for the sun to rise so duh there will be no sunlight to keep you warm. I am talking thick gloves, thick winter jackets, beanies, at least two layers of pants (stockings and thick pants). Trust me on this. Just tie it around your waist or hang it around your neck on the way up when it’s still warm and you will be grateful to your past self when its 0 to 2 degrees celcius up there.
Unprepared noob in lousy weather, July 2011
All snug and ready to go! July 2013
Headgear CHECK, Thick down jackets CHECK, gloves CHECK. July 2015.
⑤Enjoy a hot bowl of ramen or udon at the top, you deserve it!
At the top, at around 4 something, small restaurants will open to welcome tired and hungry climbers with free warmth and some food / hot drinks for sale. Prices of the meals vary, but are of course generally 200% more expensive than the usual prices you see in the city. HOWEVER, the warmth and umami (tastiness) of the bowl of noodles or rice that you will enjoy is beyond words can describe. So sit back, relax, and grab a bowl of very simple ramen or udon for around ¥800! Oh, but be alert for the time of the sunrise, you wouldn’t want to miss the egg yolk come up just because you’re eating an actual egg yolk in your bowl.
⑥After the sunrise, take a look around and explore the highest point of Japan
Once you’re done enjoying the magnificent sunrise (well, sometimes when it’s foggy / rainy it won’t be as magnificent but you still see some great clouds lol), don’t just surrender to the cold and go back into one of those mountain huts or start your descent right away, there are so many things to check out at the top! The first time I climbed it, I was one of those noobs who were just hating my life because it was just so frigging cold and rainy I just ducked into a hut until the group was ready to go down.
There are actually several things you can do, first: souvenirs!! If you’re not into that kinda thing, take a postcard and get it stamped with the original Fuji-san CHOP (or stamp) from the souvenir shops for free! There’s also a special Mt. Fuji post office you can send it from right there on the peak. Other than that, there are some picturesque Torii gates and the crater of the volcano itself.
⑦The descent could be HELL
After your euphoria of scaling the mountain itself comes the, in my opinion, most challenging leg of the experience. The descent generally takes around 3 hours but it is a repetitive series of turns that continues for that whole duration of 3 hours with slippery stones and sand. Any wrong move and you might slip off the cliff. JUST KIDDING, you won’t slip off, I’m almost sure, but you feel like you do. And if, like me, you have a fear of heights AND a fear of slipping and breaking your neck, then prepare to suffer. But hey, in my experience tests and makes friendships stronger (lol, true story) and hardens your mental strength.
But half of the people I know are completely fine with the slipperiness though, so maybe I’m just exaggerating. All in all, regardless of whether it’s difficult for you or not, it will lead to the next sweet part of the trip, which is –
⑧To the hot springs!
There’s a number of hot springs in the area but the truth is, without a car, it’s pretty tricky but not impossible to get to one. We went to the Fujiyama Onsen which is adjacent to the highly recommended FujiQ EXTREME THEME PARK WITH AWESOME THRILL RIDES. I think there were shuttle buses but you really gotta check the schedule and time your descent beforehand. On our trip we took a taxi, it was about 20 minutes and cost around, I want to say, 10000 yen or slightly less??? Entry to the onsen is 1250 per person and it’s just great with indoor and outdoor baths, and even one with ice water to shock your system and jack up your blood circulation.
Alright bye!! Happy hiking ★★