Monday, July 24, 2017

Japan trip Summer 2017 Part 1: Preparing to hike Mt Fuji

Yet another Japan trip again! This was a very unplanned trip (compared to most in the past) in many aspects, so this post series is going to be shorter and organized differently than the structured trips in the past. I'm going to highlight just a few aspects because I didn't do something "blog-worthy" every single day, and honestly it was nice not to feel that (internal) pressure to do so and document the trip as such.

The big highlight and main purpose of this summer trip was to hike Mt Fuji! This was my 10th trip to Japan and I have yet to even think about doing this hike during a trip in the past. Since the flights (and my personal standards for my work schedule) were calling for a 6 day trip, this seemed like the time to do it since we would be grounded in Tokyo and wouldn't have to worry about lugging the hiking stuff around everywhere. Plus, the season was almost exactly right!

I'm by no means a Fuji hiking expert but I wanted to share with you a few things that I did to prepare myself for this adventure. This may be helpful to you if you're somewhat similar to me. I personally didn't find the advice of experienced hikers to be the best for my situation because I'm nothing like them! They were great to read to get some background of course, but I just felt like some of the things they noted didn't exactly apply to me.

I really didn't know much about the Fuji hike before I started doing research. Luckily, there are a lot of resources available online with just a quick google search. A few that I found especially helpful were -
http://www.fujisan-climb.jp/en
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/scenic/mtfuji/fuji_05.html
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6901.html

Consider checking out at least one of the above websites if you want just some general background information! They are very thorough and I used one or another of them as a reference for much of this post/preparation for the hike.

This video also offers quite a bit of information. It's about 30 minutes long so I would only recommend it if you're actually planning on doing the hike yourself or really want to know more information but would rather watch instead of read. It's quite thorough and they actually play this on repeat at the Information center at the 5th station.


ITINERARY
The Mt Fuji climbing season for 2017 is from July 1 to September 10, 2017. There is some slight variation based on the trail you choose, but since the soonest we would be able to start would be July 14, they were all options for us.

The four trails are: Yoshida trail, Subashiri trail, Gotemba trail and Fujinomiya trail.
img from: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/scenic/mtfuji/fuji_05.html
We chose to hike via the Yoshida trail early in the planning stages because it is the most popular and supposedly easiest of the trails and the starting point is relatively easy to access from Shinjuku. Fujinomiya was a somewhat close second because it is the shortest of all the trails. If you are a novice like me and don't necessarily need the experience of "hardcore hiking", these are the two that I would recommend looking into!

The most popular itinerary is to reach the summit of Fuji for a view of the sunrise. Since my bf and I are not extremely athletic, we knew we would want to take our time. Our plan was to start at the base (5th station) in the early afternoon and then make our way up to a mountain hut for rest until about midnight before we would start ascending again before hopefully greeting the sunrise at the top around 04:40.
Staying overnight requires slightly different resources than if you are planning to go to the top and back down in the same day.

It is advised to avoid weekends when possible for climbing Mt. Fuji because the crowds can get extreme! Due to our short travel period, and not wanting to hike on the first or last day, it only made sense for us to start our hike on Friday, July 14. This meant coming back down on Saturday (a weekend day), but it couldn't be helped much. Knowing this, we looked up the weather conditions and planned the rest of our hike around it.

EQUIPMENT
Although hiking Mt Fuji is not exactly a "traditional hike" (at least what I'm used to thinking of for North American hiking), you'll still need some hiking equipment! Based on the research I did and our intended itinerary to be hiking after the sun sets, my list looked like this:
Hiking shoes (waterproof with ankle support)
Hiking appropriate socks (long enough to extend past top of shoe)
Backpack (approx 20L with hip strap)
Jacket for warmth
Jacket/outerwear for rain
Pants for warmth + waterproof
Head lamp
Hiking stick/walking poles
Sun protection (hat or visor)
Gloves
Gaiters
Face mask
And then of course, we also planned to have:
Money (around 4000yen in change + at least 10000yen for other possible expenses)
Eye mask and earplugs
Small snacks
Water (at least 2L)
Sun screen
Body wipes
Change of clothes

This is most of what I packed in my suitcase to bring with me from Hawaii:
sorry just realized the order of these are kind of weird. it's not related to importance. 
1 - The backpack that all of this stuff + more should be able to fit into (CamelBak 18L backpack and bladder).
2 - Outerwear/clothes for warmth esp when the sun sets/prior to sunrise or when it's raining (North Face Arrowood triclimate jacket, ski pants, knit hat, gloves)
3 - A complete change of clothes for after the hike (leggings, short sleeve top, sports bra, socks). It's basically just an extra set of clothes so you're not wearing the gross hiking clothes on the bus ride back and on the trains. We intended to leave this set of clothes in a locker at the 5th station.
4 - The set of clothes I planned to wear for the ascent (leggings, long sleeve top, sports bra, socks).
5 - The set of clothes I planned to change into at the mountain hut for rest, final ascent and then descent (leggings, long sleeve top, sports bra, heat tech, socks). This was a slightly warmer set of clothes.
6 - Miscellaneous other items (poncho, hand towel, handkerchief towel, head lamp, sunglasses). Not shown: granola bars, visor, plastic and ziploc bags and gaiters (since they were shipped to my bf and he packed both of our pairs).
7 - Hiking boots (Ahnu Sugarpine hiking boots)

Items I purchased specifically for the hike (because I did not already own an equivalent):
 • CamelBak Sequoia 18L women's backpack
- Purchased from a local brick and mortar store. This was the only color option (navy blazer/mint green) but actually it ended up kind of matching with my shoes. I think it is definitely advantageous to have a women's backpack because of my build, and I actually kind of love it. The design is great with plenty of pockets, compartments, straps and details. The hip straps were something that I knew would be important because I'd be wearing the backpack for many hours during the hike and would be starting with a fair amount of weight because of the water. Having the bladder wasn't high on my list of priorities but is a good way to have water available without having to worry about packing the bottle (with and without water).

 • Ahnu (Women's) Sugarpine Waterproof Hiking Boots in size 7.5
- Purchased from Amazon. Based on reviews, I purchased 1/2 a size up. My regular shoe size is Women's US 7. These Women's US 7.5 size hiking boots fit really well and I'm definitely glad I did not purchase size 7. Amazon had some decent color options, but I chose the cheapest one at the time (Dark Grey) in my desired size. It was important for the shoes to have the ankle support and to be waterproof and ideally lightweight, so these fit the bill.

 • Darn Tough Women's Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion socks in size Small
- Purchased from Amazon. My brother recommended these and they come with a lifetime warranty. I wasn't extremely sure on the size when ordering. I'm a Women's US 7 and got size small which technically fit and are comfortable, but if I had to order another pair, I would definitely try medium. As for the color (Slate/Seafoam), I just picked what I thought would match well with my hiking boots.

 • North Face Arrowood Triclimate jacket in Small
- I purchased this from a brick and mortar North Face store. They were having a 40% off sale plus we got a small additional discount for signing up for some kind of point system. There were more color and size options online but not the same sale price. Although I ended up with this peachy orange (actually called Cayenne Red) color in small instead of my preferred x-small, I was happy to pay the price that I did. The color doesn't really make a difference anyway (except that the more "attractive" colors were not on sale) and the size difference isn't major. I liked that this jacket would be able to provide both warmth and protection from the rain but could easily separate as necessary!

 • OUTAD waterproof hiking/climbing/snow gaiters in Small
- Purchased from Amazon but note that the listing looks a bit different than when we purchased. This was a bit of a last minute purchase but it somehow worked out. Even with Amazon Prime, items sometimes still take over a week to get to us in Hawaii (I'd say I would assume things might take 2 weeks on average tbh) and the package arrived on the day of our departure flight wtf. In any case, a family friend who had done the hike had HIGHLY recommended getting gaiters which I had previously thought were a little frivolous and kind of dismissed them, but my bf wanted to order them (spoiler alert - it was for the best). I ordrered these in size small based on the measurements and this is the right size for me.

There are businesses that rent out the equipment you commonly need to climb Mt Fuji, but I wanted to be sure to have exactly what fit and felt comfortable to me before reaching the base, so I decided to buy what I didn't already own and figured that they would still be useful to me later if I wanted to do something somewhat similar in the future. The downside is that I needed to bring everything with me to Japan and then take all of it back home, but I didn't mind it so much because I really like what I ended up buying, even though aesthetically it's not super cute lol.

About a week before we left on our trip (once we had most of the items on hand), we did a short "hike" to Kaena Point. I filled the backpack up with the minimum amount of liquids I'd have with me to test how the weight felt and also wore the socks and shoes for the first time. It was a good opportunity to check if there was anything weird with these items when actually in use, and luckily I didn't find any issues with them.

We arrived in Japan and had one full day in Tokyo before our hike. I used that day to figure out which snacks/food items I wanted to bring with me and what other small things I would need. Aside from food and water (purchased at convenience stores), I did most of my purchases at 100yen shops.
Examples of things I bought: anti-bacterial wipes, sunscreen, body wipes, face masks, folding comb, plastic zipper pouch (for small items like hair rubberhands, extra contact lenses, etc), extra AAA batteries (for the headlamp) and hard plastic container (so onigiri wouldn't be smashed. Once food is eaten, can also be reasonably be used as a "safe" container for non waterproof items such as electronics)
Eye mask and earplugs were provided by the airline for our flight, and we saved them for the hike.

TRANSPORTATION
Getting to Fuji will take a couple hours from Tokyo. There are a few different ways to get there, but I knew I wanted the cheapest, most direct route possible.
There is a bus that goes from Shinjuku station directly to Mt Fuji's 5th station for 2700yen one way and takes about 2.5 hours. Reservations are necessary and can be done online. The process is well laid out in English and I didn't have any problems with it. Cancellation (minus a 100yen fee) is also possible as long as its done more than 30 min before departure.

Once we basically knew which day we would be hiking, we reserved two seats on a bus bound for Fuji and also decided to reserve a bus back the next day (departing at what we estimated to be a reasonable time.) It is possible to change this reservation if necessary BEFORE the assigned depature time.

PHYSICAL PREPARATION
Like I said, I'm not an experienced hiker or a very athletic person. Although you don't need to be in A++ physical shape to do this hike, it is still recommended that some exercise/something physical-ish for prep be done in advance if you are a complete couch potato.

I've been somewhat semi-regularly participating in the pseudo-"cross fit" circuit exercises that my supervisor has been hosting every Tuesday and Thursday at lunch during work for just under a year now. This involves 1/2 hour of a variety of different small activities for certain intervals like curls, kettle bell swings, crunches/sit ups, push ups, slam ball, jump boxes, etc with a little cardio mixed in. It's not super intense all the time but enough that I'm not doing nothing. Once I knew I was going on the trip (about 4.5 weeks out), I also added a quick 2.5ish mile run every Monday and Friday during lunch (30 min). A half hour light work out every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday isn't a lot, but also better than nothing imo. By the time the trip rolled around, I could probably do a 9min mile average which wasn't intentional but perhaps gives you an idea of the kind of running I was doing.

I didn't really have the resources to do actual altitude training, but I was quite concerned with possibly getting altitude sickness. Instead, I just researched how to best avoid it (climb slowly and allow yourself to adjust as much as possible) and take deep breaths + drink a lot of water.

ACCOMMODATIONS
Since we were planning to be hiking through the night, we wanted to find a suitable mountain hut that would serve as a decent place to rest. Since we didn't solidify the day we would hike until practically the week before due to expected bad weather, we didn't reserve a mountain hut as early as we would have liked and initially wanted to and tbh I just plain procrastinated because I didn't think it would be so hard to get a reservation so close to the date.

I got a list of the Fuji mountain huts from here and knew that we would want one at at least the 8th station to put us in a better position to reach the summit for sunrise. Being able to book online was a priority (much easier than through a phone call) so I tried Fujisan Hotel and Goraikokan first. Both are fairly popular and were fully booked for online reservations! I moved on to trying Gansomuro because their online booking was available in English. I accidentally made a booking because I didn't know the reservation process was automatic (I thought there would be more exchange of information before the reservation was accepted) but luckily I was able to cancel it through email the very next day, and then booked the mountain hut my bf preferred based on online reviews - HonHachigo Tomoekan (Tomoekan at the 8th station) which only had two spots left. The website is only in Japanese but was easy enough to navigate having a little experience with Japanese online shops + Google translate.

If you are also planning to greet the sunrise at the summit and need shelter overnight, I would definitely recommend trying to reserve a mountain hut! The process is fairly simple and there are several English options if you are uncomfortable with trying to do the reservation using a Japanese website. Many of these huts already have online reviews to help you pick the right one for yourself. It is not wholly necessary to make a reservation, but it's certainly encouraged for high crowd days!

deRp
This was a short informational post (and maybe a bland way to start this trip series), but I personally believe proper preparation played a huge part in making my hiking experience more comfortable and place a lot of importance on it! The next post about the actual hike will be up next and will definitely be quite a bit longer and perhaps more interesting. Stay tuned Published now! ♡
http://emiiichan.blogspot.com/p/contact.html

  Japan trip Summer 2017 
Part 1: Preparing to hike Mt Fuji
Part 2: Hiking Mt Fuji to see the sunrise!
Part 3: Casual shopping days - 7 different Liz Lisa stores, Kappabashi "Kitchen Town" + more
Part 4: Liz Lisa summer items haul
Part 5: Liz Lisa autumn items haul
Part 6: Other shopping items & coordinates
Part 7: Travel Notes - AirBnb, pocket wifi, food, weather & transporation
Part 8: OOTDs 

✦ Japan trip Spring 2017 posts
 Japan trip Winter 2017 posts
✦ Japan trip Spring 2016 posts
✦ Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Summer 2014 posts

14 comments:

  1. Hiking Mt. Fuji kind of looked like a good idea until I read this post XD I didn't realize you had to have all this stuff lol. There's lots of good info in this post which is handy :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not a must but I definitely recommend most of not all of these or similar items! It basically depends on your level of experience and comfort going into this situation tho :)

      Delete
  2. I've been looking forward to these Mount Fuji posts! I definitely need a pair of gaiters, but I'm cheap so I've been putting it off... I'm excited to see the rest of these posts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was too cheap to want to buy them as well but they really did help. We decided to just get like a $15 pair which is fine for us since we didn't need it for weather extremes (like snow). Not sure how they would hold up in other conditions!

      Delete
  3. Wow this is so crazy! Good for you though- I'm glad you finally got to do it! Not sure if this is on my list of things to do or not but it definitely sounds amazing! Can't wait to read about the hike!

    Saki

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's not on a lot of people's lists lol, but it's definitely an experience!

      Delete
  4. How did the gaiters help with your hike? :o I've seen them before but never thought about buying them for hikes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think most people would use them to keep snow out of your pants cuffs/boots(? my assumption since I don't live in a place with snow) but in this case, it helped keep out rocks! I'll mention it a little more when I show actually photos and talk about the hike itself :)

      Delete
  5. This was super interesting, I'm looking forward to the rest of these posts! :) When I go to Japan, I'm always torn between making it a more outdoorsy/hiking trip (which my husband would love) vs. making it a shopping/fashion trip (which my husband HATES lol), since those each require a whole different set of clothes/etc. and it's hard to pack both. (I usually compromise by doing lots of outdoor activities that can be accomplished in regular sneakers and a skirt. :p) Did you wear any LL clothes or do any shopping on this trip? Or did your hiking gear take up all your luggage space?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally understand what you're saying about two different wardrobes for the activities! This was a short trip for us - just 6 days.
      We spent 1.5 days doing the Fuji hike (to be discussed in Part 2) and the other 4.5 were spent casually shopping (to be discussed in Part 3). And actually one of those shopping days was actually used to mostly just prepare for the hike.
      Aside from doing the actual hike, I wore Liz Lisa for everything else. It wasn't so hard because it's summer so I don't need tons of layers but my hiking things did take up a lot of space in my check in luggage and I had to check in the hiking sticks separately (so I couldn't have a "real" 2nd checked bag). I'll likely talk a bit more about this in the posts to come, especially the Travel Notes section, but I think it only worked out this way because it's a short trip and I bought a lot less stuff than usual.

      Delete
  6. Ooh interesting. Mt. Fuji seems like such a long climb but if you can finish the hike to and fro in less than 2 days I guess it can be tackled! ;0 I might be going to Japan during Thanksgiving, maybe if it's not too cold I'll convince my family to take a hike!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The open hiking season ends in early September this year. It's not impossible to do the hike in the off season but it's not recommended for novices and much harder afaik.
      Good luck if you do it! I'd be really interested to know what it's like in the off season!

      Delete
    2. Oh jeez, I don't know if I'm ready for that! I've not much of a hiker;;
      If we end up doing it, I'll let you know how it goes! Mt. Fuji, here we (maybe) come?!

      Delete
    3. Definitely do your research and prepare ahead - I think one of the reasons it's discouraged in the off season is the weather. Please stay safe and have a good trip!

      Delete