Few places in Japan are more iconic than Mt Fuji, the country’s tallest peak. Towering over the landscape at a height of 3,776 meters (12,388 feet), Mt Fuji looms large not only in real life but also in the psyche of the Japanese population. The mountain appears in everything from ancient poetry and ukiyo-e woodblock prints to modern day travel posters and TV series.
Mount Fuji straddles the border of both Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures. While technically considered an active volcano, the last major eruption occurred in 1707. It’s considered one of the three sacred mountains of Japan, along with Mount Haku and Mount Tateyama. In 2013, Mount Fuji was accorded World Heritage status as a cultural site.
Climbing Mount Fuji is a popular summertime activity and every year, around 300,000 people attempt to scale the summit of the iconic peak. The official climbing season runs from the first of July unto the last day of August, though a handful of huts and services remain open until mid-September. There are four routes to the peak, with the most popular being the Yoshida Trail. While some people choose to reach the summit and descend over the course of very long day, others prefer spending a night on the mountain to acclimatize to the altitude. This option then allows hikers to witness the sunrise from the peak early the next morning.
Outside of the season, or for those who simply don’t want to make the long trek to the top, visitors can stop off at Mount Fuji’s 5th station (of which there are several scattered around the slopes). Known mostly as the starting point for the hiking routes to the peak, these rest areas/tourist spots allow visitors a close-up view of the mountain and the chance to buy numerous local souvenirs.
Those that wish to admire Mount Fuji from afar can do so even from the center of Tokyo. Highrise observatories – such as those attached to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings or the Mori Building in Roppongi – provide excellent viewpoints for catching a glimpse of Mount Fuji on a clear day. Or, venture to Hakone and stay in an onsen ryokan (traditional Japanese hot springs inn) where the baths may provide sweeping views of the impressive scene.
The Yoshida Trail is the most popular route, and is the only trail that originates in Yamanashi Prefecture at an elevation of around 2300 meters. The trail’s starting point is known as the Fuji Subaru Line 5th station. Higher up the mountain, the Yoshida Trail offers the largest concentration of huts between the 7th and 8th stations.
The Subashiri Trail begins on the eastern side of Mt Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, and its 5th station sits at a slightly lower elevation of 2000 meters. The Subashiri trail actually joins up with the Yoshida trail around the 8th station.
The Gotemba Trail begins on the southeastern side of the mountain, in Shizuoka Prefecture. With the 5th station here sitting only at 1400 meters above sea level, a hike to the summit from this starting point takes the longest of all the routes.
The Fujinomiya Trail is the southernmost of the four trails and the most accessible starting point for travelers coming from western Japan. With a starting elevation of 2400 meters above sea level, this is the shortest of the trails to the summit but the only one that offers zero visibility of a morning sunrise, until the final arrival at the mountain’s peak. About a half dozen huts are located along the route.