A friend and I felt an intense, burning motivation to climb Mount Fuji. ALL OF IT: from sea level to the top. The lure of the Fuji City 3776 meter challenge was irresistible.
Pre-COVID, between 200,000 to 300,000 climb Mount Fuji during the only two months it is officially open: July and August.
Many chatrooms debate which of the four Mount Fuji trails is the most challenging. Is it the Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya, or the Yoshida?
Hands-down, the most challenging route is the one that starts at sea level. Elevation ZERO.
The Japanese have a saying regarding Mount Fuji:
He who climbs Mt. Fuji is a wise man; he who climbs twice is a fool.
As it so happens, this was a second climb for each of us. If that made us both fools, so be it.
Several years ago, when the bus dropped our group off for a climb beginning at the traditional access point near Station 5, I had felt almost guilty. If the summit is Station 10, then it seemed like cheating for the bus to have done half the work. I was confident I’d be up and down the mountain within a few hours.
Mt. Fuji knocked the youthful hubris right out of me. When I finally stumbled back down I was bleary-eyed, bruised, and missing skin after some light skidding. The stamped Fuji stick from that first trip became one of my most prized possessions.
When I returned to Japan several years later Mt. Fuji continued to lure me in with its beauty. It was like Mt. Fuji was giving a gigantic and playful wink.
It was while watching the sun set on New Year’s Day on a Zushi beach that I realized how badly I wanted to climb it again.
ONLY THIS TIME, I WANTED TO CLIMB STARTING AT SEA LEVEL.
Fujinomiya 3776 Challenge
How many iconic mountains can you climb from sea level to the top in under three days?
The Fuji City Tourism Division awards a certificate AND a badge to those hikers who are able to prove that they completed the Mount Fuji 3776 Climbing Route.
Certificates always mean more when they come from another country.
Of the four official Mt. Fuji routes, the Fujinomiya Trail ranks second in popularity to the Yoshida Trail. Yoshida might not be the most exciting route – switchback after switchback – but it is arguably the easiest. Fujinomiya, on the other hand — the route we would take to earn the certificate — has the steepest, most direct ascent.
Therefore, the problem was finding someone willing to do it with me.
Cue my friend Delicia, who had walked with me some 28+ miles from Yokosuka to Tokyo a few months earlier. Granted, for the Yokosuka to Tokyo walk we had hugged sea level virtually the entire way. Nonetheless, I am convinced when it comes to adventure and journeys, it is the company you keep that matters most. And my warm-hearted, organized pal was plenty tough.
Originally, we hoped to do the climb over Independence Day weekend. We felt some sadness upon learning that the Fujinomiya route would not open until July 10. Thus, we shifted our climb dates to July 16-18.
The Fuji City officials recommend four days and three nights. Being Sailors, we decided we could do it in three days. To celebrate, we planned for dinner in Fuji City and a stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese guest house).
Some things officials requested for the registration forms were expected: itinerary, hotels, route, emergency points of contact. Some things caught us by surprise: requests to know our blood type, the color of our rain gear and the color of our backpacks. Then again, the Japanese are nothing if not meticulous.
We filled out the registration forms and emailed them to the Fuji City officials, who swiftly confirmed receipt.
As the date approached, we looked anxiously at the weather forecasts: every site we looked at called for rain all three days.
|Protection from Cold
|Backpack (35-40 liters)
|Socks (thick one is better)
|Meals for _ Days
|Health Insurance Card
|Medicine and bandages
|Headlight (with extra batteries)
|Towels and water-soluble Kleenex
|Trash bags (at least 5)
|Sunscreen and lip balm
|Flu mask and pocket warmer
|Cell phone (with extra batteries)
Day One – Shin-Fuji to Temple
That Saturday afternoon we caught local trains from Yokosuka to Shin-Yokohama. From Shin-Yokohama we took the Shinkansen to Shin-Fuji.
Our hotel for that evening was literally a one minute walk from Shin-Fuji station. Since we had arrived before the 4 p.m. check-in, the kind receptionist graciously let us store our backpacks. We immediately set off in search of the starting point: Fujinokuni Tagonoura Port Park.
Because of the gray sky the black sand beach was all but empty. What was particularly striking were the massive interlocking structures lining a long stretch of the beach. We’d later learn that the enormous structures were designed to prevent erosion and protect against tsunamis.
Unfortunately, the structures also blocked our access to the ocean. Ultimately, we decided it was not safe to climb over them. Rather than scoop a vial of seawater, we scooped a small spoonful of volcanic sand into a bag, with the intent of depositing it at the top of Mt. Fuji.
We easily located the bright blue box marking the start of the Fuji City 3776 challenge. It had the requisite brochures and stamp, exactly as promised. After carefully affixing the stamps to the document pages, we climbed to the top of the observatory. Not only was there no trace of Mt. Fuji – a complete downpour left us both soaked through within a minute.
Since we were already drenched, we decided it would be smart to walk now, and shave off a few miles from our trip the following day. The sidewalks and asphalt for the Fujinomiya trail were well marked, and the first few miles took us on an easy tour through the city.
At around sunset we stopped at Houzouji Temple. At the convenience store across the street the super kind 7-11 staff called a taxi to take us back to the hotel. We stopped to have dinner at a restaurant so authentically Japanese there were no English menus. We pointed at the pictures on the menu, and the server’s eyes widened. He held up five fingers repeatedly.
Delicia and I thought he was indicating the varieties of ocean sashimi that would come with the dish. As it turns out, he was valiantly trying to warn us that the sashimi portions were intended for five people.
Neither of us will let good food go to waste. Still, five portions is A LOT of fish, and we both felt sick as we hobbled back to the hotel.
Day Two – To Station 6
We awoke to discover it was still raining outside. Given that we expected to walk some 20+ miles, it might sound odd that we both wanted to start the day clean. After taking showers, we took the elevator down to the first floor for the free breakfast.
We asked a taxi driver to take us to Houzouji Temple. If he had any thoughts as to why two Western women wearing hiking attire and carrying hiking poles wanted to visit a temple early Sunday morning, he kept them to himself.
As with many temples, you are required to remove your shoes before ascending the steps, saying your prayers, and making an offering. Since we expected that it would become increasingly difficult to take our shoes off as the journey continued, we resolved this would be the only temple we visited until after the journey was complete.
After a quick stop at 7-11 for fluids and snacks, we were off. The distances between houses became wider and finally transitioned to vegetable gardens and fields of green tea bushes. The roads were lined with bright hydrangeas and lilies. It was a truly beautiful morning.
We thought we had packed very smartly. We had kept the weight of our gear under 20 lbs. and ensured we were able to survive temperatures between 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the overcast sky and our relatively light packs, we were drenched with sweat within a half hour. Eventually we veered away from the farms and through lovely woods in search of the second stamp marker. As before, we easily located the bright blue box with a solitary stamp inside.
First Stamp Complete!
From there, the walk took us along Obuchi Forest Road and posted signs cautioning hikers to be on the lookout for wild boar, black bears, and deer. There were few vehicles on the road, but they were wonderfully courteous. The bigger threat to us came from the rain: moss growing on the asphalt made the road surface slick. After sliding a few times we broke out the hiking poles for better balance and grip.
Thankfully, the sun soon broke out from the clouds. Unfortunately, the evaporating water from the asphalt quickly transformed into steam, adding to the humidity. We sat down for a rest and beheld a most amazing sight: at the intersection strapping young men were whizzing past in helmets, hiking poles and…
…Wheels strapped to skis?
They were each in top physical condition. We were amused that while they all wore helmets protecting their heads, the vast majority of the group were shirtless. There’s no denying they were all super fit. I am curious to know what sport or hobby this was. In any case, wheeling yourself uphill on a pair of roller-skis makes for one intense workout.
By now, the sun was firmly out and the July heat was staggering. We also now faced the challenge of navigating through thick mud. Six or more passages of the road required careful crossing due to mud overflows. Still, in this mud we saw a hopeful sign: a fresh set of human tracks letting us know there were others sharing our journey.
It was at this point that we caught a 45 second glimpse of Mount Fuji, looking majestic and super close.
19 Kilometers to Go?!
Our joy at seeing Fuji-san was short-lived. Upon navigating the next major turn, we were alarmed: a sign read that Station 5 was a solid 19 kilometers (11.6 miles) away – much further than we had thought. Furthermore, the slope on the excellently posted and well-shaded road to Station 5 varied between 7-9 degrees.
We decided to concentrate our energy on getting to our next stamp destination: PICA campsite. As we approached, the PICA campsite appeared to be either empty or closed. However, we rejoiced to see a young man dressed in black hiking apparel open the blue box and affix his stamp. A sticker on his backpack indicated he was also attempting the Fuji City 3776 challenge. My friend and I exchanged sheepish glances: we hadn’t known the white paper we had pulled from the first blue box was intended to be a sticker for our backpacks.
Our fellow adventurer very graciously moved aside to let us stamp our documents. He sat at a curb near our bench and removed his shoes. I watched out of the corner of my eye, horrified by the condition of his feet. The color above his toenails was a blue-gray-white hue, and every toe was swollen. He sprayed his feet and calmly and expertly bandaged his toes and heels with white tape.
Delicia and I ate our lunch, administered to our own feet, and exchanged concerns over our water supplies. There was not enough in either of our backpacks to last the 4+ hours we expected it would take to cover the remaining distance.
Fortunately, as we scouted the area we found that the campsite store open. The store sold neatly chopped wood along with Pretzel Pete packages and “Made in America” marshmallows. Most importantly, they sold beverages. We purchased several bottles of water, electrolyte beverages, and light snacks. Refreshed and relieved to have restocked our supplies, we set off for Station 5.
Onwards to Station 5!
The air grew cooler. At a checkpoint guards immediately directed us toward a dirt path through the woods. The only problem was there was no clear path, and the fog through the woods was so thick we could not see more than fifty feet. We traveled back down to the checkpoint and begged the guards to let us share the road with the buses and taxis. They obligingly let us.
It rained almost as soon as we began the 12 kilometer (7.4 mile) walk uphill. Passengers traveling on the buses up to Station 5 rubber necked and stared at us, their expressions incredulous and amused. None of the passengers coming down from Mt. Fuji seemed to see us. Their eyes were closed, their heads flung back in obvious exhaustion.
We were surprised and cheered by the sight of so many taxis. It made perfect sense. After an intense climb, hikers would pay anything to leave the mountain as quickly as possible. The Japanese taxi drivers were a hoot. While they made a point of giving us space on the road, one particularly friendly driver rolled down his window and called out something encouraging every time he came back up the mountain.
One of the sweet surprises of climbing through the forest on foot was seeing thousands of wild strawberries at almost every turn, each no bigger than a pinkie nail. At least, I am 99 percent certain they were strawberries. I ate two and they were delicious.
All of a sudden the rain cleared and there was a splendid rainbow.
And almost as quickly, the sun set.
To the Station 6 Hut
The quasi-clear night sky revealed splendid stars and a downright terrifying view of Mt. Fuji’s slope. The only comfort we had at this point was that the road was neatly marked every .2 kilometers.
It was absolutely dark as we reached Station 5. We changed from rain ponchos to cold weather gear, and asked by officials to review the English questionnaire regarding safety precautions and our health. We attested that we were in excellent health and totally capable of climbing Mt. Fuji.
All the same, it was depressing to realize that after considerable time and effort we had only just reached the part where over 99 percent of hikers would begin their climb.
A set of stairs led from Station 5 to the beginning of the trail. At the base of the staircase a sign requested that hikers keep Mt. Fuji pure, and that they wipe the dirt off their boots before proceeding up the trail. And just like that I realized that to put any amount of soil would be wrong — we would NOT be depositing the black beach sand anywhere.
After over 21 miles of climbing uphill, it felt downright cruel to discover that the climb to Station 6 was especially steep. I tried vainly to remember the Yoshida Trail, which had not turned rocky until the upper stages.
I was alarmed by the number of climbers waiting on benches outside the Station 6 hut. Why were the climbers outside on benches? Were they wait-listed for a hut futon?
I spied a woman through the clear glass window. Before I could say in my clumsy Japanese that we had made a reservation to sleep at the hut, the smiling woman directed me in Japanese to go around the corner. There was only the outhouse and the trail leading up to the next station. I returned to the hut and awkwardly managed to convey that my friend and I wanted to sleep there. The woman was startled, but very willingly slid the door open.
She typed a few figures on a register: ¥8000 ($57.96).
“Hittori,” she said, raising one finger. The price for one person.
We were only too happy to put the cash in her hands. She gestured at a table and we removed our hiking boots and limped over. In retrospect I can only wonder what she must have thought: if the Americans looked like this after moving from Station 5 to 6, there was no way we would ever make it to the summit of Mt. Fuji. We scarfed down our bowls of instant soba noodles and agreed it had been a brutal day. We marveled that we had been lucky to make it this far.
The area where we would be sleeping that night was upstairs. We transitioned from slippers to socks to climb to the second floor. The woman slid another door to reveal three futons laid side by side. Curtains six feet on either side separated us from our neighbors.
There was an indoor toilet in the hut, but since that would have involved walking down and back up the stairs, I decided not to even bother with brushing my teeth.
I dove for the futon and passed out.
Day Three – To the Top of Mt. Fuji!
Throughout the night we could hear the soft sleeping sounds of our invisible neighbors. Shortly afterwards, we heard sounds of bags being zipped and unzipped from climbers determined to see a Mt. Fuji sunrise. I listened to the sound of the wind howling and knew the sky was overcast: there would be no sunrise that morning.
We inspected our feet. There were discolored toenails, popped blisters, feet that had swelled. Despite the damage, we determined that we were (overall) in fine shape to climb.
Downstairs, I purchased several bottles of electrolyte beverages and presented my documentation to the woman we had met the night before.
“Sumimasen…stamp wa doko desuka?”
Smile lines formed above her face mask. She accepted the paper I held out and immediately ran back to stamp the sheet. When my friend came down, the woman appeared with two cups of hot coffee. This was followed by two cups of green tea. As a final demonstration of first-rate hospitality, she appeared with two wrapped biscuit cookies to wish us well.
The Station 6 hut was well above cloud cover. A sign outside informed us we were at over 2430 meters elevation. Despite the light drizzle, I felt downright cocky. We had just climbed over 21 miles uphill with 2430 meter elevation gain with 15+ pound packs the day before. A paltry 3.8 kilometers to the summit with some 1300 meters would be NOTHING.
I don’t know why it should have been a surprise that the climb to Station 7 immediately began with a scramble up rocks, or that the time and distance between Stations 6 and 7 should be triple what it had taken to get from Station 5 to 6. Every step became increasingly difficult. We drank our beverages and rested frequently.
A Tough Climb to Station 10
Outside of big cities, Japanese tend to eschew flashy colors. However, the Japanese philosophy on conservative colors goes out the window when it comes to hiking. All around us hikers were dressed in festive lemony yellow, neon orange, electric blues, lime greens, cherry reds, hibiscus pinks.
They represented a wide age demographic, from primary school to those whose hair was snow white.
We gradually moved past New Station 7, Old Station 7, and Station 8. Beyond that, the route simply appeared vertical.
The prices of goods understandably increased corresponding tidily with the gain in elevation. The fee to use the outhouse was ¥200.
Two white upright posts had tiny slots carved into the wood for those who wished to leave a coin offering. We looked around and saw that the green plants that had covered the base had long since given way to rocks and snow. Strangely, every time my friend and I stopped to rest we would quickly be buzzed by a bee or hornet.
Station 9 was festively decorated with miniature flags from countries around the world. We stopped for hot bowls of soba noodles. A customer at a nearby table was ignoring the food…it was his own head that was plopped on the table in a pose we immediately identified and sympathized with.
That the climb should be so brutal contrasts with the fact that the hikers on Mt. Fuji are just the nicest people. They say “arrigato gozaimasu” or ”sumimasen” if you let them pass, they say “konnichiwa” if they are passing from an opposite direction, and they’ll say something sweet if they have the tiniest sense you need encouragement. I lost track of the number of ”kiotsukete’s” (take care) and ”gambatte’s’ (good luck, c’mon, you can do it) we heard.
I love, love, love that these words of encouragement are almost always delivered from someone older. Inevitably, they’re also from someone who is graciously smoking past you. All I can say is that the Japanese in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are absolute beasts.
Approaching the seven hour mark of climbing, and fighting 35 mph gusts of wind, we finally crossed through the Shinto gate to the summit of Mt. Fuji.
The View From the Top
I know what I felt looking at Mt. Fuji from a distance.
Awe. Humility. Wonder. Curiosity. Ambition. Peace. Abstract longing. Excitement. Connectedness. Contemplative. Optimistic.
Now, at the top of this great sacred mountain, I thought each of those feelings would be magnified 10-fold.
I expected there would be a gleeful, cackling, in-your-face triumph, a euphoria.
I felt gratitude and bewilderment. However, overriding every emotion was complete exhaustion. There’s the realization at the top that you have not made it.
Not only must you go down; you can’t wait to go down.
That I wandered around aimlessly at the top was out of a sense of obligation. I saw the post office and realized I had forgotten to send family postcards from the top of Mt. Fuji. Behind the post office, I marveled at the enormous volcanic crater, and all the shades and hues the richly covered soil contained. There were surprisingly few signs warning you to stay clear of the edge, far more warnings asking hikers to keep their distance due to COVID.
However, COVID seemed a tiny concern at that elevation. Earlier that summer, Japanese officials had declared that face masks were not required for certain outdoor activities. Indeed, we would not have done the climb if a face mask had been required. But as I looked around the summit at my fellow hikers, I saw expressions of fatigue, of joy, of relief, of utter weariness.
I was surprisingly moved — of the 19 months I had been in Japan, this was the most amount of unmasked faces I had seen. We were seeing each other, really seeing each other.
I returned to find my friend.
”You ready to go down?”
The Brutal Descent
We descended shortly after 2 p.m. I had been very much looking forward to the descent under the flawed reasoning that if the uphill battle had been tough, going down should be easy.
That logic was ridiculous. For me, the descent was nothing short of agonizing. I slid no fewer than ten times on my rear. Each time, it got harder to lift my backpack and stand. By Station 8 my leg muscles were jelly. I panicked at the thought my slow progress might be the reason my friend and I spent an extra night on the mountain. My friend also experienced her share of falls – but strangely and impressively – her falls somehow resulted in her landing neatly in the splits.
My most embarrassing and spectacular fall – one that carried me and loose rocks a few feet – happened at twilight before a group of young Japanese on their way up. There was a chorus of concerned ”Daijobo desuka’s” (Are you okay?) And then one of the cheekier lads grinned at me and spoke in English.
“How do you like Mt. Fuji?”
”Fuji-san wa subarashi desu. Fuji-san ga suki desu. Demo—“ Mt. Fuji is amazing. I like Mt. Fuji. But-
Here, I switched back to English. ”Demo, I think I will like Mt. Fuji much more next year…when it is a memory.”
At this, every hiker there burst out laughing.
”I feel the same way, too,” he admitted.
At Station 7 I pumped myself full of the most sugary, caffeinated beverage I could find. By the time we made it back to Station 6 it was pitch dark. We stopped and went inside to buy souvenirs: walking sticks, T-shirts, postcards. The ladies who had been so kind in ensuring we were heavily caffeinated earlier that morning once again ran outside as were putting on our backpacks for one final kindness: two cans of Real Gold. All three ladies once again waved goodbye.
As we had the day before, we navigated the distance between Station 5 and 6 with nothing but headlamps for light.
A Taxi Back to Fuji City
A taxi was waiting at the base of the Station 5 steps, its trunk popped, doors open. It was as though it had been waiting exclusively for our arrival. I gave him the address for our ryokan. It was past 8 p.m., and I fully expecting that due to my slowness we would need to have a convenience store dinner. I was wracked with guilt that the day would end on such a note, and apologized repeatedly to my friend.
When you are that tired: minimal sleep, long distances, heavy packs, etc., the details only vaguely register. For example, I was interested in the business model these Fuji-san taxi drivers operated by, but not enough where I could ask any questions in Japanese.
Now that I am more alert, I would love to know whether there a law that requires every taxi to have white linen covering the backseat. How the heck does a taxi that spends all day ferrying dirty climbers up and down a mountain stay so clean? I myself felt like it would take some steel wool to clean all the grime off.
As the taxi wove down the turns, it was stunning to see the distance we had covered the day before. The altitude drop was so great our ears popped.
Twelve miles later we arrived in the city.
Getting Pampered at the Ryokan
I had booked accommodation at a ryokan. I called and let the proprietress know we were there. Somehow, my Japanese was so bad she had the impression we were still on Mt. Fuji and waiting for a taxi. I was about to give up and look for another place to spend the night when a woman in kimono came flying around the corner. It turns out that we had been dropped off at the wrong entrance.
As we entered the reception area I knew just enough Japanese to understand we were being asked when we wanted to shower and have dinner. That she should immediately offer a shower was obvious — we were filthy. However, we were shocked and delighted that dinner was still a possibility.
”Ju-ji, onegashimasu.” Ten o’clock, please.
Despite our protests, she insisted on taking the backpacks from us. We followed her very slowly up the staircase to our room…on the third floor. We were treading so slowly that every six or seven steps she turned around and in a voice full of concern asked ”Daijobo desuka?”
The spotless room she took us to had two adjacent futons on tatami mats. I grimly resolved that when the time came I would get on the futon mat ”snow angel-style”, a.k.a. a back breakfall.
But the first order of business was the shower, comically located with the onsen on the FOURTH floor. We removed our smelly clothes and took dispassionate note of the damage: bruises in unexpected places combined with plasma oozing out of toes and feet.
We changed into the clean robes the ryokan provided and walked the final staircase to take showers. The hot water felt both deliciously decadent and excruciatingly painful as it met raw flesh. Freshly clean, we hobbled back to the designated tatami room and encountered a spectacular feast. A low Japanese table full of beautiful tiny dishes had been laid out. It was utterly beautiful.
Our hostess watched with concern as we stiffly, ungracefully approached the table and crawled from the mats into the Japanese chairs. She asked whether we would prefer a bigger table, with Western-style chairs. We demurred and told her sincerely that everything was perfect.
The hostess poured hot green tea and cold water, and we chatted with as much Japanese as I could manage. I had thought this beautiful, exquisitely kind woman was in her early fifties; I was shocked when she said she was nana-ju-san: 73.
After pouring the drinks she excused herself and told us to take our time eating.
That dinner should be amazing is almost a given when you are in Japan. There is so much thought and care that goes into the preparation of a meal. The ingredients in these dishes were as fresh and local as it was possible to get.
All of this seemed too good a treat. Then again, at every stage of a the trip, we had been so blessed.
The Day After
In the morning, we awoke and checked our feet again. We had run out of bandages. I bandaged the worst toe, but the sticky liquid seeping out the remaining toes and cushions of my feet meant that, like a gecko, I stuck to whatever surface my foot touched.
Breakfast – miso soup, rice, vegetables, pickled plum, whitefish, salmon – was set up just as prettily and with as much attentive detail as the day before, with one noticeable change: there was now a Western table and Western chairs.
Initially, we had planned to travel back to Yokosuka the way we had come, taking the Shinkansen and two local trains. However, there was no way we could stand in a packed train compartment with backpacks for 90 minutes. Her husband very nobly agreed to pick us up and take us back.
We settled our bill with the ryokan and again apologized for having arrived so late the night before. I still felt awful about them having kept dinner so long, and showed her the documentation with the stamps and tried my best to explain the route we had traveled. The instant she realized we had walked from the beach to the top of Mt. Fuji, her already kind demeanor shifted to full-on Mama bear.
She refused to let me put my boots on, and instead passed a pair of slippers. I tried to refuse: it was raining heavily outside and I did not want the nice slippers getting wet. She insisted, and then followed us to the car in heavy rain to wave goodbye.
We waved back. We were well and truly blessed.
Straight-up, the Fujinomiya Trail and Fuji City 3776 challenge is geared toward dreamers, adventure/challenge seekers, the stubborn and oblivious, and those who love being part of an exclusive club. If you simply want to say you have climbed Mt. Fuji, if there is any question on your fitness, or if you only have one day, then I strongly recommend Yoshida Station 5.
- Three items in particular saved us: a poncho large enough to cover the hiker plus their bag; good hiking sticks, and a head lamp. I had not expected to need the head lamp, and was so thankful to have packed it. I will swear by the value of those hiking poles. That being said, we watched many a climber scamper up and down Fujinomiya just fine without them.
- Carry a backpack – there are no places to store your trash, and no open potable water sources. Therefore, if you don’t have a backpack the assumption is you are unprepared, severely dehydrated, and/or disposing trash very rudely/illegally.
- Your backpack needs to be large enough to carry your own trash. Don’t be a jerk and leave it for someone else to take care of. I was amazed how many empty bottles I generated to stay hydrated – trash took up literally 1/3 of my backpack.
- Carry lots and lots of Yen. Most places only accept cash, and the higher you ascend, the steeper the price. Specifically, carry coins, because you are going to need them to use the toilet.
- Expect that any bandages, gauzes, or bandages you put on will wear off between the humidity and the friction your moving feet generate. Therefore, bring four to five times as many bandages as you expect to need!
Things We Did Well + Things We Could Have Done Better
- I had the most amazing companion/walking buddy. I am so sincere when I say I could not have completed the walk without her. If you travel with someone, make certain they are tough, flexible, and have a strong sense of humor.
- Estimate that it may take you twice as long to do something.
- Don’t get too cocky. I had been arrogant based on the fact we had done so well on Day 2, carrying nearly 20 pounds 20+ miles up 7-9 degree slopes in the rain/summer humidity with NO TRAINING. I therefore underestimated the physicality of Day 3. The hardest part was not going up – although that was plenty hard! – it was the descent downhill that was the worst part of the trip.
- Our feet were shredded, and it was the feet – not our cardio – that needed more attention. We did not have enough bandages, but more importantly, an extra day to rest would have been wise.
- The logistics getting back home are far more difficult than the process of getting to Shin-Fuji. We lucked out that Delicia’s husband is a downright awesome man who picked us up with a full bag of bandages and ointment.
One Random Thought: Given that some hikers are on a multi-day trip, I cannot help but think a baggage storage area would be an amazing service. I think many a hiker would be only too willing to leave their dirty clothes, personal trash, and gifts at a storage locker to travel lightly.
Final Note: Fuji’s beauty is jaw-dropping. It’s mystical, magical, awe-inspiring, and every kind of gorgeous. Nonetheless, I swore with every breath going up Fuji that I would never do it again.
That was the FIRST TIME I climbed.
And yet despite the pain from our youthful first climbs, Delicia and I still chose to try the Fuji City Climbing Route 3776. Part of me wonders whether it was because we wanted to see how we had changed, and whether we had gained wisdom and perspective over the years in between.
I will always love Mt. Fuji. And I will always, always, always remember and be grateful for the kindness everyone showed us.
If you want to be part of the ultra-exclusive Fuji City 3776 club, expect to earn it!