Thursday, July 27, 2017

Japan trip Summer 2017 Part 2: Hiking Mt Fuji to see the sunrise!

This blog post will focus on the ascent, overnight stay and descent we did for our Mt Fuji hike - including a narrative of our itinerary using a few time stamps, an overview/review of the mountain hut we reserved (HonHachigo/8th station Tomoe Kan), and a bit of advice and overall thoughts about the hike! It's a bit long winded and I'm purposefully trying to include as many details as possible, so for all of you who hate these long posts, this isn't going to be for you lol.
If you want to read more about how we prepared for the climb, please see my previous post where I went into a lot more detail.

TL;DR timeline:
Jul 14, 07:45 - Bus leaves Shinjuku
Jul 14, 10:15 - Bus arrives at Mt Fuji 5th station
Jul 14, 11:50 - Start hiking Yoshida Trail
Jul 14, 17:20 - Reach reserved mountain hut (8th station Tomoe Kan), Rest
Jul 15, 02:15 - Leave mountain hut for summit
Jul 15, 04:05 - Reach summit
Jul 15, 04:35 - Sunrise
Jul 15, 05:10 - Start descent
Jul 15, 06:00 - Regroup/reorganize at Tomoe Kan
Jul 15, 06:35 - Continue descent
Jul 15, 09:10 - Return to Mt Fuji 5th station

Jul 15, 10:00 - Bus leaves Mt Fuji 5th station
Jul 15, 12:20 - Bus arrives at Shinjuku

______________________________________ ✧ ________________________________________


Our reserved bus was scheduled for 07:45 at the Shinjuku bus terminal. Having tested and pre-packed our backpacks the night before, we woke up, had a small breakfast and did anything we needed to take care of that morning. We got dressed in the clothes in which we intended to start the hike.
I was wearing a long sleeve athletic top, athletic type leggings, Darn Tough socks and my hiking boots.

We left the apartment just before 07:00 to get to Shibuya station to catch the JR Yamanote line to Shinjuku station. At Shinjuku, we exited out the New South gate (be sure to walk along the tracks until you find it) and then went up the escalators to get to the bus terminal.

It was already quite a lively area when we got there with hundreds of people waiting and milling about. I took my printed ticket and asked the staff at the information counter to help us figure out at which gate we should be waiting. She was able to promptly point out B5, and we found seats. There is a small Family Mart in the terminal but it was crazy crowded! The line looped from the register throughout the store and outside of it. Basically you could stand in line and just grab the items you wanted as the line slowly inched forward. If you need one, there is also a bathroom near the waiting area as well.

There were two buses that were bound for Mt Fuji 5th station for our time slot. It will say on your ticket whether you are on Bus 1 or Bus 2 and the staff were helpful in helping passengers make the distinction. (Bus 1 is basically the bus that arrives first and likely is at the gate prior to the specified time for loading. Bus 2 is likely be a little bit behind that and may end up leaving a few minutes behind schedule due to Bus 1 loading, but I would still be sure to get there on time so you don't miss it!)

We stored our backpacks under the bus and had assigned seats. It's basically similar to an airport shuttle bus in Japan with seats that are able to recline a little (if you don't mind bothering the person behind you) and a small pouch and drink holder.

The bus ride was around 2.5 hours and we arrived at 10:15am. (Didn't take many pictures during this time because I had the curtain closed so the sun wouldn't bother me.)
We emptied out of the bus, claimed our items, and I immediately went to go look for the bathroom. Once that was done, we looked around a little bit and then headed back to what seemed like a major shop/restaurant to get something to eat for lunch.

The restaurant is on the second floor of the shop and there are quite a few menu options. I decided to get the ramen with char siu and my bf got the tonkatsu set.

When we were done eating, the rain started to come down. Hard. We did our best to move around the different shops/buildings at the 5th station to get our bearings and figure out which set of lockers we wanted to use and if we needed to buy any additional items. We ended up going back to the shop with the restaurant from earlier and getting a small locker there for 300yen. We left our extra clothes and anything else we didn't need for the hike in there.

Since it was still raining, my bf went to go get a bag cover for his backpack. Once purchased, we regrouped on the second floor of the information center (where the staff had previously instructed us was open for anyone to hang out), did a final check of everything and intended to start the hike after a few last minute things.

Which included my bf getting ice cream and buying the wooden hiking sticks!

At 11:50, we paid the donation fee to enter the trail and went on our way. It wasn't really raining very much at that point (a low occasional drizzle and mostly just really low clouds), but I didn't have my phone out for much of this beginning part because I didn't want the moisture to mess with my iPhone and ruin it for the rest of the trip.
Start (5th station) - 2300m

Be sure to follow the sign for the CLIMBING ROUTE.

Tbh most of the initial hike isn't very scenic. There's some loose dirt paths and then some parts where it's mostly rock but it's not much to look at, especially when the clouds are sitting so low. This is also where the path for going up and coming back down reconverge so we saw a number of people who were just finishing their hike!

We continued on our way until we got to what I think is the 6th station by around 12:20. I'll be really honest when I say that we really weren't paying attention the best that we should have been when it came to landmarks. In general, when there was a place to stop, we stopped and rested - we didn't exactly care what it was called lol. Sometimes we stopped and rested when there wasn't a landmark too hahaha.
6th station at 2400m

Up and up we go, however slowly. There were a lot of just walking along these switch backs during this portion of the climb. And then right before there's a mountain hut, there's usually a build up of rocks!

This is the mountain hut where we got our first stamps during the climb at the 7th station mark, arriving at about 13:30. We also stopped for some rest and a snack.
Hanagoya at 2700m.
Each mountain hut has a unique "stamp" - some even have 2 different ones! A very popular memento from your Fuji hike is this wooden hiking stick with stamps from every hut + the summit if you completed everything. It's a unique item but comes at a price. The stamps cost anywhere from 200yen - 400yen each. Be sure to have some loose change for this if you are interested in it!
Also remember that you must take your trash with you while you are hiking Mt Fuji. Trash disposal on the mountain comes at a high cost, and the mountain huts will not accept extraneous trash that they will have to be responsible for. If you bring something up, you will have to take it down with you to dispose of it! I made sure that everything would fit back into my bag once used.

From there, we encountered the lower mountain huts fairly quickly one after another with more stamps along the way. Aside from the stamps, the mountain huts also sell food, drinks and other useful items for your hike - all for a bit of an inflated cost since it's not easy to get these goods to this elevation! We brought our own snacks and water and didn't make any purchases ourselves aside from paying for the stamps,
Hinodekan at 2720m (14:00)

Nanagome (Seventh station) Tomoe Kan 2740m (14:05)

The trail got steeper in some parts with less dirt and more of an incline with rocks. The poles/rope are there to demark the trail and not to use for balance or help in climbing!

Kamaiwakan at 2790m (14:15)

Fujiichikan at 2800m (14:25)

This is where I stopped to use the toilet for the first time (around 14:30)! Each mountain hut also has as a bathroom/toilet available, but it's requested that you pay or "tip" for each use and carefully follow the instructions. Most mountain huts will charge 200yen, and this is another reason loose change is very helpful. (There is just a bucket or change collector which you drop the coins into. It isn't a staff-maintained fee and more of an honor system thing.) The fee helps them keep the facilities clean and manage disposals. It is requested that hikers use these toilets instead of just relieving themselves throughout the trail.
Due to how the toilet system works, you don't "flush" the toilet paper or any other non-bio waste down the toilet. You basically do your business and then throw away the toilet paper in a bin. This particular toilet had a little pail and scoop to dump in the water that triggers the toilet to "drain". There isn't always running water readily available anywhere for a full hand wash, so don't expect much!

Apparently I stopped taking pictures while doing the actual hiking. I'm assuming this is because it was fairly mundane at this point/was semi-tired, so I mostly documented when we reached each mountain hut!
Torii-so at 2900m (14:40)


Toyokan at 3000m (14:50)

At Toyokan, I looked out and realized that we finally broke out above the grey clouds and got some sun! This meant I had to take a bunch of selfies I guess because the lighting was a lot less grey and more fun.


Finally reached the first of the 8th station mountain huts at around 15:20.
Taishikan at 3100m


Horaikan at 3150m (15:40)

Back to admiring the clouds when the sun came out!


Hakuunso at 3200m (16:20)

The remnants of snow on the mountain.

Really quite a nice view from here! We were getting pretty tired at this point with less and less enthusiam, kind of just trudging along and were hoping that our mountain hut was coming up soon.
Gansomuro at 3250m (16:40)


A portion of Fujisan Hotel at 3400m (17:05)

At 17:20, we finally reach Honhachigo (Eighth station) Tomoe Kan (3400m)!
(Supposedly Fujisan Hotel and Tomoe Kan are at the same elevation but it took us 15 long minutes to get to our mountain hut from Fujisan)

This is the mountain hut for which we made our reservation online. We stopped to get our stamps first and then I provided our reservation email, and we were greeted by the staff.

First you take your shoes off in the entry area and put them in a cloth bag. You're provided rubber room slippers for the intermediate area and then remove them to enter the actual flooring. We were shown to our assigned sleeping area around the corner by a staff member. We were in the back corner upper bunk along with about 6 other people. We were the last to arrive for the bunk so we got the two slots closest to the wall. I believe there were at least 7 (maybe 9?) other spaces of similar size that were already full. The bottom bunk below us seemed to be completely occupied.
I really don't have the right kind of artistic vision for this kind of stuff, but I did my best to try and illustrate the layout of the mountain hut based on what we could see and what I mostly remember. Please keep in mind it's not perfect and not nearly at all to scale, plus I didn't try very hard to depict the 3D aspect of it but bear with me.
(There is more to the hut that is not pictured because we weren't given a full tour or anything, but down the hall we were in, this is my interepretation of what it looked like.)
You enter on the lower left of the diagram and then remove your shoes. The long blue rectangles are supposed to represent sleeping bags (1 per person). I think it's supposed to be 8 people per bunk but it could have been 10. Regardless, you are elbow to elbow right along with someone.
We were in the top right UPPER bunk in the sleeping bags with the stars on them. (Each sleeping area shown here has a top and lower bunk.)
The bathroom/toilet is located outside the mountain hut in a separate building. Even as guests, you are still asked to pay per use but Tomoe Kan offers its guests a discount, so you only have to contribute 100yen versus the regular 200yen which I think is great. I think there are about 5 toilets in their facility and 2 urinals. It was reasonably clean considering how many people use it and what level of sanitation people usually have at this point in the hike, but I still wouldn't want anything personal of mine to touch the floor in there.

When we checked-in, we had also been given a number card to indicate when we would be eating. Our number card said 20, so basically we would have to listen to the loudspeaker for them to call #20 and we should go back to the main area to eat. (Main area with tables for eating pictured below)
To try and orient the photo with the diagram, behind the staff is the entry area and on the right of the photo you can also see the stairs that I attempted to draw into the diagram to the left of "Other bunks?"
The "Other bunks?"
Eating area
Dinner was (as expected) curry rice with a little hamburger type patty and tea. This is what most mountain huts will serve for dinner with some slight variation on the "meat" item and the drink.

Then we went back to our sleeping area and got organized a little. We changed our clothes and then figured out what we needed to be packed or unpacked and ready for the next part of the hike. There are a few hooks on the wall to hang what you need but your head needs to go in the same area too.
I changed into what is basically a new set of whatever I previously had on (long sleeve athletic top, athletic type leggings) but also added a long sleeve heat tech top.

As far as I know, all the other sleeping bags on my bunk and also the other areas down this hall were occupied already. This is why I don't have very many pictures of this and tried to do the diagram instead. I didn't want to disturb the other hikers or essentially take their pictures when they're trying to relax.

Between our bunk and the one across from us was some sort of storage area but it was completely walled off to the ceiling. Each bunk isn't like a traditional bunk bed with open air at the top and a rail; they're basically like long, low ceiling (elevated) rooms. There isn't enough clearance to stand, so you definitely need to sit when you're awake or just lie down.
Storage area is behind the curtain in the left third of the photo. My bunk's little ladder is in the center of the photo. The bunk below has other people resting in it as do both the upper and lower bunks on the very left of the photo (not within frame). Our sleeping bags (out of frame) would be in the top right of the photo.
Our sleeping bags were right by the ladder so it wasn't so hard for us to get in and out as needed but if we were in the sleeping bag farthest from the ladder, we'd have to climb over several people just to get out. But it was also good that we weren't directly in front of the ladder either bc then we'd be the people that others needed to climb over and constantly disturbed.
View from sleeping bag across to the other upper bunk. Storage area is to the right. There is a curtain that can be closed but it also limits air flow. The light in the upper right was on for quite a while and very bright. I'm not sure who has control of it. 
View into our own bunk area
In terms of noise, expect to constantly hear the loudspeaker, other people talking, and the sound of the compressed air being dispensed from cans. This is when the eye mask and the earplugs can definitely come in handy! I didn't end up wearing either because the feeling of earplugs in my ears bothers me more than the noise and the eyemask felt like it was squishing my head too much (the small headache I had probably wasn't helping), but I was still able to lie down and get some semi-decent rest.

We settled in to try to sleep at around 18:30. There were times when the sleeping area felt really cold and then really hot. I think it had to do with how many other guests happened to be in the bunk at whatever time and whether the curtain was open or closed. Either way, we didn't suffer too much with the weather because we had our own warm layers we could don or shed as necessary.

I had set my alarm for 01:33 but just happened to wake up and check my phone about 5 minutes before that. I used my headlamp to look around the space and collect what I thought I needed and then went to go use the toilet before we left for the morning. (Since the bathroom fee is half price at our mountain hut, figured might as well use it there as much as possible.)

It turns out that the line was crazy long, not just with other guests but the average hiker passing by as well! When I got outside, I was surprised to see all the headlamps headed our way. I ended up needing to get out of line and go back into the sleeping area to get my jacket which I hadn't anticipated needing since I didn't think the line would take THAT long. In total, I probably waited maybe 20 minutes which really delayed our leaving.

My bf decided to leave his backpack (as allowable by Tomoe Kan up until 10:00) and just wear/carry anything he needed with the necessary water, etc in my backpack.
At this point, in addition to the clothes I had changed into earlier, I also layered on the warmer clothes I had brought with me - ski pants, both pieces of the North Face triclimate jacket and knit beanie. I also had on the headlamp.

We left Tomoe Kan at 14:15 and joined the slow moving crowd to continue our ascent. Due to the crowd volume, we were just inching along. Near the beginning of it, I ended up removing the "fleece" inner portion of my North Face jacket because it felt a bit too warm for it, but my bf was able to get it into my backpack without us even stopping our forward movement bc we were advancing that slowly.
Since the sun had yet to rise to provide any sort of light, most of my pictures came out blurry. It's a much nicer sight in person to see the trail of people along the path you just came from and also see which is the way ahead.

I can't be 100% sure but I think this picture shows the point we reached the highest mountain hut on the Yoshida Trail at around 14:40. We didn't wait around or take a break bc we were moving so slowly that it wasn't necessary. We also skipped getting the stamp bc we knew we could get it on the way down and didn't want to waste any time.
Goraikokan at 3450m

We didn't stop at the 9th station either, nor did I take a picture of it (that I can tell) so I'm not sure when we passed it. Essentially, we moved step by step, front to back with the people in front of us. Some parts were very rocky and required a lot of effort to move forward and up.

Eventually we got to a point where there were staff on the mountain who were trying to sort us into two lines - slow moving hikers on the left and those who wanted to move more quickly on the right. (They explained this in both Japanese and English).

For the majority of this last part of the ascent, I wanted to stay on the left because I was really worried that altitude sickness was going to claim me since we were just going up and up and not taking any breaks. I thought that if I felt the pressure to climb faster, I would keep up the pace and climb too quickly without properly adjusting.

My boyfriend, who wasn't carrying anything, was ready to take the right side path but stayed with me. After some time had passed and I could tell there wasn't much left and my body could probably handle the altitude, I agreed to shift to the right lane and we started moving a bit more quickly. (It's not really a running pace by any means since the rocks still introduce a number of obstacles especially in the dark, but it's a lot faster than the left side which moves slower than molasses.)

We got to the torii gate that indicates you're just reaching the summit at 04:05! We didn't stop to pose for a picture and instead pressed forward to the top.

We moved past the crowds of people who had made it there before us to a more open hill with just scatterings of hikers and a clearer view of the horizon. The sun was just about to peek through! We made it just in time - but not too crazy early that we'd be waiting for an hour or more but not so close to the sun rise that we would be scambling to get a spot.

We figured out where we wanted to sit and got our bearings/settled in (04:13) - drinking water, having a snack, figuring out which of our layers we wanted to have on. I took this picture pretty close to when we first sat down lol. I guess I don't look very happy.

The sun continues to rise slowly and I adjusted my layers - putting the fleece jacket back on, taking out the gloves, removing the headlamp (no need since the sun was right there). It really was quite cold at the top, especially just sitting there and waiting. I also took the opportunity to put on my gaiters for the descent.

There it is!

HELLO MR. SUN
(04:35)

(04:37)

(04:43)

The sun continued to slowly rise and everyone around us started gathering for photos and moving about once the *the moment* had passed. The sun is so bright because it's like we've above many of the clouds so there's no filter!

We had our fill of just trying to stare at the sun and walked around the summit a little bit. You can go all the way around it if you want, but it takes about an hour and we weren't too keen to do it.
This is what I was wearing/had with me while we were at the top! ^

We made our way back to the main area with all the shops to check out if we wanted to buy anything. There was all kinds of little memorbilia and trinkets, plus food and drinks, and it was very crowded.

We didn't end up buying anything (tbh I didn't want to bother carrying anything additional down the mountain) but we did get our summit stamps!

(04:57 - 04:58)

We made our way back to where we had come up because we wanted to go back down just a bit to revisit the torii gate we had skipped on our way up. You're not supposed to go back down the way you came up, but when my bf explained to the staff that we just wanted to take a picture, he allowed it.

(05:02)

(05:11)

We decided there wasn't much else that we wanted to do at the top, so we started making our way down just after 05:10. The descending route for the Yoshida Trail is different than the ascending one but they do coincide near certain mountain huts and from the 6th station to the bottom. The descending trail is basically just a lot of loose gravel and dirt almost all the way down.
The gaiters were essential for this because they enabled us to walk freely, basically however we wanted, without worrying about any rocks getting into our shoes.

Although I was all bundled up at the summit, it quickly became too hot to wear so many layers within the first 15 minutes or so. And I ended up taking off both layers of the jacket. The visor, sunglasses and face mask were all good to have since the sun was just blasting us on the way down and a lot of dust gets kicked up just by walking.

In contrast to the ascent, we had a really nice view from the beginning of our descent. The clouds were so nice against the sun without blocking it, and we were able to look away from the mountain and down instead of into the mountain towards the top. I was constantly taking pictures of the sun because it was really great to look at but so many of the views seem the same! Despite walking for half an hour, we don't really drop in elevation very much with how the trail is designed lol.

We continued on our way, just following the simple switchbacks and making our way back down slowly. The descent can be very hard on your knees and sometimes your toes! To avoid this, walk with your heel first (even in an exaggerated way) and you might even consider navigating to the part of the designated path where the gravel/dirt is the loosest so there's less rigid resistence for your steps. It really helped me a lot to do this.

The descending trail comes very close to Goraikokan (the highest mountain hut). Since we missed getting our stamp there on the way up, we stopped on our way down to get it. You do have to take a little "side trail" to get to the mountain hut from that the descending trail side, but it's a clearly identified path and fairly easy to get to. The mountain hut is easy to spot because it's the first structure you see on your descent.
(05:40)

Once we got our stamps from Goraikokan, we continued our descent until we reached Tomoe Kan, our mountain hut where we had stayed the night, a short while later. We went back in, shed the extra layers for warmth that we no longer needed (inner heat tech and ski pants for me), repacked our backpacks, used the toilet (still only 100yen) and took a brief rest.

A guided tour group had also arrived back at Tomoe Kan around the same time as us and ate the provided Tomoe Kan breakfast. (We paid for only 1 meal so this wasn't included for us.) The tour leader told their group that they should have at least 1 liter of water for the descent, expecting to take 3.5+ hours, and that there wouldn't be any other opportunities on the way down to purchase it.
We evaluated how much of our own water we had left, and not wanting to take any chances, decided to purchase 1 water bottle from Tomoe Kan (500yen).

At 06:30, we had finished our final preparations for the remainder of the hike and continued on our way down from Tomoe Kan.

From this point, a lot of the pictures are really starting to look the same, but I'll just dump a few in the order they were taken. There isn't a lot to say about the descending trail because there aren't many landmarks and much of it looks the same. You can see the sun getting a little higher each time though!
Be sure to follow the signs for the correct trail! Yoshida Trail signs are always in Yellow.

After about an hour, we made it to what I think is supposed to be an emergency shelter - especially necessary when the weather is bad and there's lots of rain and wind. We didn't need to go in because the skies were extremely clear, but we took a small break when we reached it.
(07:25)

And then down we go again!

There were quite a few people there ahead of us, so I didn't get a good picture of it but the descending trail 7th station can be seen in the middle left of the photo below! This isn't like the buildings on the way up and is basically just a public toilet and a place to rest. It was a relief to know we had finally made it that far.
(08:00)
We stopped to use the toilets (200yen), rested a bit and then there's nothing much to do but to keep going down, especially when there isn't much shade for respite from the sun!

About twenty minutes after leaving the 7th station, we encountered these man made covered stairs/walkways that signs directed hikers to use. I'm not entirely sure of their purpose but I think maybe the ground/hillside might be not stable enough in these areas?


I really slowed up on pictures after that, but once you get to the 6th station and start converging with the ascending path (with hikers going up on one side while you're going down), you know you're almost back and the trail gets a little boring again.

And soon enough, we were back at the 5th station!
(09:10)

Actually, it was much sooner than we had ever anticipated. The first bus that goes directly back to Shinjuku doesn't leave until 10:00 and the tickets for that bus aren't sold at the ticket window until 09:30. We stood in line amongst other early returners to try and change the bus ticket time.
This was kind of a mess because I was getting really impatient and wanted to just get the ticket settled. You can skip this part if you hate reading text and just go to the next picture lol. We started standing in line close to 09:11 which meant we were just standing in the direct sunlight, not doing anything until 09:30. It doesn't seem like much but when you're all dirty and sweaty and carrying a backpack after being awake since 01:30, it can seem like eternity.

I knew the highway bus tickets could be reserved online and I anticipated also having to cancel our 12:00 ticket we no longer wanted, so I kept trying to connect to the wifi at the 5th station to book it that way so we wouldn't have to waste time standing there, but couldn't get either pocket wifi device we brought to work, nor could I get the wifi associated with the building next to us to work either.

I spent about 15 minutes doing that and then the ticket line started moving at 09:30. We heard the woman at the front of the line try to get her reserved ticket cancelled since she had reserved a sooner bus online earlier that morning. The staff told her that she (the staff) could not cancel it and she (the woman/customer) would have to do the cancellation online. Overhearing that, I panicked a little about not being able to catch wifi soon enough to cancel the later bus ticket we had. Although 2700yen (each) isn't a lot of money, it's more than I want to waste if we can help it.

The guy behind us in line eventually advised me to go down to the Lounge area (near the public bathroom) because the wifi was really good in there. I left my bf in line (there was only 1 person ahead of him by that time) and then went go get the internet to cancel our 12:00 reservation since I knew for sure we were going to reserve the 10:00 one. Luckily, the guy was right and the wifi was excellent in the Lounge, and I was able to cancel our 12:00 ticket with no issue (just a 100yen cancellation fee each).

AS IT TURNS OUT, I did that for nothing. Our situation was a little different from that woman's. We hadn't yet reserved a ticket for the 10:00 bus, so it would have been possible for the staff at the window to just change our 12:00 ticket to the 10:00 one with no additional fee and no wifi necessary. It was because the woman had already purchased the 10:00 return bus ticket that the staff was not able to help her cancel the previous/later time ticket. Keep this in mind if you are planning to do the hike yourself!

With our return bus ticket finally sorted and happy that we would be returning to Tokyo 2 hours sooner than we had initially anticipated, we only really had 16 or some odd minutes left before the bus was set to leave. Once we used the bathroom (the women's had a really long line), there really wasn't that much time left. We didn't want to take any chances and possibly miss the bus, so instead of changing our clothes with the set that we had left in the locker like we planned, we just grabbed our extra things and waited for the bus.

Similar to like when we left from Shinjuku, there are multiple buses that will come for the same time slot. Bus #1 arrived at 09:50 which made us glad we didn't go to change.

But the #2 bus (our reserved bus) didn't start loading just about at 10:00 which isn't a lot of time to have elapsed but when you're just sitting there and waiting, it really makes it seem like you had enough time to do something more worthwhile lol.

We rode back to Shinjuku for 2.5 hours in our dirty clothes just like everyone else even though we had the best intentions.

We were back on the JR tracks at around 12:30 and returned to Shibuya just about 15 minutes later.

We left Shibuya at around 07:00 on July 14 and returned at around 12:45 on July 15 with a Mt Fuji hike in between! Not too bad. We still had a lot of Saturday left to do more things in Tokyo!

______________________________________ ✧ ________________________________________


The COST to hike Mt Fuji for 1 person
(not including most personal equipment purchased prior to arrival which will vary greatly by person)
Bus from Shinjuku directly to Mt Fuji 5th station: 2700yen
Lunch at 5th station: 1200yen
Locker for post-hike items: 300yen
Hiking stick: 900yen
Entry "donation" fee: 1000yen
Hiking stick "stamps": 6000yen (approx)
Bathroom/toilet use: 200yen + 100yen + 100yen + 100yen + 200yen
Mountain hut 1-night and 1 meal: 7500yen
Water (1 bottle): 500yen
Bus from Mt Fuji 5th station directly to Shinjuku: 2700yen + 100yen cancellation fee
Total: 23600yen = approx $212USD

The exact cost will vary per person, especially dependent on whether you get any/all of the hiking stick stamps, how many times you use the bathroom and whether you need to buy any further sustenance (food or water) from the mountain huts. We had actually pre-paid for our mountain hut online using a credit card, so we didn't have to worry about that cost during the hike at least, but all the little stamps on the stick definitely added up to be more than I expected because there are a LOT of stamps.

Were my preparations enough?
See Japan trip Summer 2017 Part 2: Preparing to hike Mt Fuji
I'd like to think so. I was very happy with all the items I purchased specifically for the hike (shoes, socks, backpack, jacket) and all the items I chose to bring with me. Honestly, I know that the hike would not have been the same without them. The only thing that was a little lacking was the gloves I brought which I think were $2 from Target that my mom had bought out of immediate necessity on a previous trip during spring and not really "real gloves". Other than that, I thought the clothes I was wearing worked for their intended purpose and I didn't have any real aches, pains or blisters from anything. Somehow I also managed not to get much of a sunburn thanks to the visor, sunglasses and face mask on the way down.
In terms of phsyical strength, I'm not sure if the regular small work outs I do at lunch really made a difference, but they definitely didn't hurt. I somehow managed not to get altitude sickness but we truly took our time with the first part of the ascent, and I drank water when I could, so I'm glad that was enough.
It was definitely worthwhile to have reserved the bus tickets (to and from Fuji) and the mountain hut ahead of time. It gave me peace of mind to know those things were already paid for and that we would definitely have a seat/spot. Even though there was a little mess with changing the bus time, I'd still do the same thing again (minus panicking to cancel) with reserving the conservative time bus just to ensure I'd have a spot on a bus returning to Tokyo at a reasonable time.

HonHachigo (8th station) Tomoe Kan mini-review
(Note: It's called "8th station Tomoe Kan" because they also have a Tomoe Kan at the 7th station level, 2740m. We only have experience with the 8th station one!)
I would consider our short stay at Tomoe Kan satisfactory. We didn't have very high expectations for privacy or amenities so I'd say the mountain hut fulfilled its purpose and its position on the mountain helped us get to the summit just before sunrise even though we only left at 02:15!
Price - 4/5; It's a average price considering what the other mountain huts at this elevation charge, but there are a few that are more expensive so I'd say that it's decent. Ofc, the cost is considered quite expensive compared to regular hotels in Japan, but this is not a regular situation and you're on a mountain. Like the other huts, they charge more for including a meal in your reservation, and they also charge more for Fridays/weekends.
Convenience/Location - 4/5; It took us about 5.5 hours to to Tomoe Kan from the 5th station. Despite taking our time and breaking as much as we wanted, we were pretty weary by the time we arrived. That being said, we were still able to get about 6 hours of rest which is not bad. I think this mountain hut is in a great position for starting the final ascent though, beaten only by Goraikokan. Easily one of the best parts about the location is that you can also access the hut on the descent as well.
Cleanliness - 3.5/5; I might not be generous enough with this rating but I don't have much to compare it to. The eating areas felt clean and the bunk areas were reasonable but there were a few things that did make me feel uneasy when the light exposed them. I feel like this is the most you can expect from a mountain hut though - I wouldn't think any of them would get a 5/5 for cleanliness. These places aren't great for neat freaks.
Comfort - 3/5; I think I was expecting level of comfort to be around a 3-3.5, so it just about met my expectations. The bedding was actually a little more cushiony than I assumed, so that was nice, but because we were pretty far back in the hallway, I think there wasn't enough air that was circulating back to me. Even being as close as I was to the bunk opening, I think that lack of air flow gave me a headache. I initially thought it was altitude sickness finally catching up to me, but when I left the bunk to go stand in the bathroom line for 20 minutes and came back and felt the headache creep back, I knew it had more to do with the bunk space than the altitude. There isn't much that the hut can do about this, but it's hard to relax when your head is throbbing a bit.
Service - 4/5; Staff were friendly but we didn't interact much. They spoke English when directly speaking to us but didn't translate everything they said in general which is fine. Like most, if not all, of the other mountain huts, you have some wifi access although it's not extremely strong or consistent. I'm rating this so high mostly because they have the website that allows you to make online reservations and it's reasonably easy to use even though it's in Japanese. We were able to pay for everything in advance by credit card and simply showed the confirmation email when we arrived. I also really like that they offer a discount for toilet use to guests! I don't know if this is a common practice but I don't remember reading other reviews for the other huts about a toilet discount? I'm not going to bother rating the food because I'm pretty sure the curry rice is the same at all the huts. It was satisfactory but nothing special.
Overall - 4/5; Nothing is perfect (I would have been shocked if it was), but I'd say it was a solid experience. I would stay here again if I had to do the hike again. It's wasn't cozy and super comfortable but it was adequate and I didn't have a terrible time. 
If you do decide to reserve/stay in a mountain hut, I think 8th station Tomoe Kan is one of the best options, second only to possibly Goraikokan, the higher mountain hut, if only for location. (Note: I'm not sure if Goraikokan also allows you to leave your bag and re-enter once you leave. In the case that it is allowable, that makes it a very solid secondary choice for me.)
I would personally not recommend getting a 7th station mountain hut unless you think you will be unreasonably tired in the first portion of the ascent and can't make it to the higher 8th station ones without significant rest in between. It did take us quite a bit of time to get from 2740m in altitude all the way to 3400m, but it was worth it not to have to do that portion of the hike in the dark and pace ourselves that much more for sunrise

My personal advice if you are planning to do the hike
BE PREPARED. This is why I made the previous blog post completely stand alone because I think it's such an essential part to why my experience wasn't terrible! Even if you don't follow something similar to what I did to prepare, it will definitely make everything a little easier if you know what to expect and have what you need to deal with any issues that might arise.
  • Wear good hiking shoes - This was so important to making both the hike up and down more comfortable for me. They weren't too heavy or too flimsy but also waterproof which was good for rain and had the ankle support for the descent. Also thankful I didn't lose any toenails from this hike which I was told can happen - especially from going down the mountain!
  • Get a good size backpack with a hip strap, adjust the straps and balance the weight correctly when packing - I'm a complete novice when it comes to hiking but my brother knows a thing or two and helped me figure out the arrangement that was best for me. The weight of the backpack shouldn't be on your shoulders - it should be on your hips! I had to tighten the hip straps a lot for this to be the case for me, but I'm confident that this was a factor in enabling me to make it through the hike without too many aches.
  • Use gaiters! - I mentioned this a couple times already, but they made the biggest difference when we were descending, and it really helped that I didn't have to worry about pesky little rocks and dirt (there was a LOT of it, believe me) getting into my shoes. 
  • Have a change of clothes if you're staying at a mountain hut overnight - It was worth it to carry the slight extra bulk in order to have "fresh" clothes while resting for 6ish hours, even among strangers. 
  • If you don't want to carry an item, bring money and expect to really pay for it if you end up needing it. 
  • Reserve your bus ticket from Fuji 5th station back to Shinjuku ahead of time if it seems like the the seats are filling up. Even though we had issues with this, knowing what I know now, I would definitely still reserve the noon tickets ahead of time. I would recommend giving yourself an extra hour or two of cushion because it's a lot easier to change it to an earlier time once you're done than it is to try and cancel it while you're on the hike. 
  • Bring hand wipes/anti-bacterial serum - This is only a must-have if you're the kind of person who can't handle feeling unclean, especially after using the bathroom. There aren't many opportunities to use "running water" to clean your hands or body. 
  • The hiking stick with the stamps is a good memento but trekking poles likely offer better support for the actual hike. If you're money conscious (and don't want to pay for the stamps) or are more concerned about your physical ability to endure the hike than what souvenir you'll have at the end, consider using 2 trekking poles instead. 
  • Use a headlamp if you are hiking to meet the sunrise - Although most others will have one, I do think we were slowed down quite a bit by those who had to rely on the light of others, especially when those without were clustered in groups. It is VERY dark without a light and there are a lot of places where you can misstep and hurt yourself.

Other things to keep in mind 
Sunscreen/sun protection is incredibly important when the sun is out.
Waterproof outerwear/equipment is incredibly important when it's raining.
Eye drops will be very useful if you wear contacts.
Clip your toenails! Although I'm sure correctly fitted shoes and how I was walking down played a part in this, I was happy not to lose any of my toenails and remembered to clip them prior to the hike thanks to advice from a family friend who had done the hike previous.
There is a lot of dust for the descent - a face mask or other protection for your mouth/nose might come in handy.
Also, I somehow managed to do the whole hike with my make up in tact. Keep in mind, I only wear eyeliner, eyelid tape and lashes, but they still somehow stayed put for the entirety of the excursion! No touch ups necessary.
(I may have other things to add to this section later as I think of them~. This is already quite a long post. Three cheers for you if you made it this far and are still reading every line of text. Leave me a comment with the number "33" in it somewhere to acknowledge this interruption if you want!)

Final thoughts
I feel like a lot of our Mt Fuji hike occurred with the best case scenario. Although I initially thought the rain was unfortunate at the beginning, it was actually really great that the sun wasn't blazing down on us that entire time, and the rain was only very heavy at the 5th station when we were preparing to leave. The trail and rocks weren't noticeably slippery, and we didn't seem to have many side affects from the low clouds and rain aside from some unattractive grey photos. Tomoe Kan wasn't our first choice mountain hut (in fact it was the last of the four options that I happened to try), but it ended up being in a much better location than we had ever anticipated. Because we got our hiking sticks stamped before checking in at Tomoe Kan, a couple checked in right before us and they got the two sleeping bag slots next to the ladder and we got the two closest to the wall (the best position imo). Furthermore, that couple decided not to rest at that time and just dropped off their things and continued to the summit after their meal! They did come back eventually while we were still resting, but my bf had a good several hours without being squished right next to them at least rather than all 6. Although we started the final ascent at least half an hour later than I intended, we still got to the summit in time for sunrise without immense rushing and without getting altitude sickness!  Plus, we also weren't too early which would have meant suffering in the cold for that much longer. The descent seemed slow and so hot with the direct sunlight but we actually made it down over an hour earlier than we had thought, took some great photos of the scenery we hadn't gotten on the way up and were able to get on the very first bus back to Shinjuku. All of this contributed to making the hike somewhat enjoyable for me!

Do I recommend hiking Mt Fuji? It depends who you are and what your level of motivation is. If you want to do the hike, it's not as hard as it seems, and you should definitely go for it! If you're lukewarm about it or about to reluctantly get dragged along by your significant other, it will seem like a major pain and maybe somewhat boring, gross and pricey.

When I was talking to my coworkers about the hike, I realized that the hike is not meant to be "the ultimate (physical/wilderness/roughing it) challenge". They want you to be able to make it to the summit! And that's why there so many helpful websites to aid in preparation, mountain huts to have a place to rest and even get food, water and use the toilet (at a cost), and a clear trail to show you which way to go. So hiking Mt Fuji is not really something that I would recommend for the enjoyment of hiking, and I'm sure most, if not all, "real" hikers scoff at what I just did with all the "luxuries" and commercialized aspects of it. However, that's not what I was trying to get out of it. I was trying to get to the top the best way possible, and I'm happy to have accepted the readily available help while still doing much of it by just slowly inching my way up. This was a unique experience I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else! Now I can always look out the window from the shinkansen towards Mt Fuji and remember this adventure.
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

22 comments:

  1. 33
    I probably won't do Mt Fuji �� thanks for writing this!

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  2. Super helpful post! I'm glad you enjoyed the overall experience of it - dunno if I would enjoy spending the night like that but that's probably just me. The sunrise photos are really beautiful however! Was there a lot of people on the hike/looking at the sunrise. It's kind of hard to tell in a picture how many people there are and now I'm curious.

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    1. I don't think you're necessary meant to "enjoy" the mountain hut stay - but based what I've heard and read from other people, it's much more of a walk in the park compared to trying to rest/sleep out on a bench or along the trail once the sun sets!
      There were easily hundreds of people at the summit!

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  3. I'm glad the rain only lasted for that first part, that sunrise looks absolutely beautiful!! I actually don't even know if I could physically manage this, but I definitely want to try one day! Thanks for being so informative!

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    1. I'm sure you could do it! If you're able bodied, take your time and drink lots of water, it's certainly not impossible.

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  4. Mt. Fuji is definitely on my list of things to conquer one day! Loved the post and your cute rain poncho!

    KYASEDI

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    1. Hope you get to check it off your list soon!

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  5. Halfway through reading this post, I realized you were wearing eyeliner the entire time 3.3 I'm amazed that it stayed intact!! My eyelids are so oily that it starts smearing within 15 minutes when I'm outside during the summer haha.

    Now, I see why you needed gaiters. I typically wear long pants for hikes during cooler seasons so that's probably why I've never needed them.

    Thank you for putting together such an informative and thorough post! Hopefully, I'll get to hike Mt. Fuji one day too ^^

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    1. My face/eyelids are really oily too but if I don't touch anywhere near my eyes, then it's fine! Lol. I think the type of tape I was wearing helped as well.

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  6. this post was incredible to read/admire!! I am so thankful for all the information because I'm definitely going to climb it one day! The photos at the top were particularly motivating for me haha I was like "damn... I need to book a trip!" haha The stamps on the walking sticks is such a cool idea, too!

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    1. The walking sticks are such cool souvenirs imo but a pain in the ass to bring back on the plane and honestly pretty expensive. On a scale of things though, it's cheaper than Disneyland I guess? Lol. And it marks your progress along the way!

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  7. 33! I'm not particularly interested in hiking but I still found this and the previous post interesting.

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    1. Thank you for reading <3 <3 <3 I'm glad it's not a total dud!

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  8. This is amazing ;D You did it Emi! You really did it! Conquer the mountains @^@

    The end cost of Mt Fuji is insane but also expected. I've heard descents were worse than ascents because there's less of a "goal" (like the peak/sunrise) in mind. All the tips are so useful. Guess I have to go buy a pair of gaiters!

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    1. The bulk of the cost is the mountain hut and the stamps. If you decide to do a different itinerary that doesn't involve an overnight stay or use your own trekking poles, the cost can be decreased exponentially!

      For me, the descent was the best because the goal was just getting the heck out of the there and I was excited about that lol. I'm not big on sunrise scenery actually.

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  9. Congrats on completing the hike, that's an awesome accomplishment!! The photos/view from the top look really amazing. :) And this was so interesting to read about in such detail, it seems like such a unique and kind of strange experience, haha! (I hike mountains relatively often, but they're always in the middle of the forest where you only see a handful of other people/groups throughout the day, so it seems rather bizarre to literally be in a queue while summiting a peak like that, lol.) Is this the first/only hike/mountain climb you've done in Japan? And do you have any desire to do any more in the future?

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    1. Yes, first hike in Japan! In the past (and likely going forward), I didn't have a lot of interest in it because it requires so much more specific and bulky gear than just what we usually do.
      We actually have a fair amount of hiking opportunities in Hawaii that I haven't done so I probably want to explore those more than hop on a plane with all the gear and do it in a foreign country again!
      This was definitely a specific Fuji thing rather than a "hiking" thing if that makes any sense.

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    2. That totally makes sense - hiking boots and packs and whatnot are so bulky and heavy to try to fit into luggage! And you're right, climbing Mt. Fuji does seem like an entire unique entity on its own, haha.
      Ahhh the hiking in Hawaii looks so nice, that will be really nice (and much more convenient for you lol). I've never gotten to visit Hawaii, but I really hope to be able to sometime in the future. :)

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    3. I think if ALL I was doing during a trip was hiking, then ofc it wouldn't be such a big deal, but since I also really enjoy shopping in Japan, I definitely don't know if I want to continue to prioritize the space! Haha. Hope you can try hiking here!

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  10. The link to part 3 on all posts is mess up! Just letting you know.

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    1. Ahhh that's so embarrassing! Thank you for letting me know! They should all be fixed now >,<

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