Climbing Mt. Fuji in One Day on a Budget

Climbing Mt. Fuji at Sunrise

Climb FujiClimbing Mt. Fuji was kind of like the drunkest night of my life. While alcohol wasn’t actually involved, the horrible drunk symptoms absolutely were: stumbling, slurring of words, light-headedness, nausea, delirium, the inability to form coherent sentences, and a strong desire to curl up on a large rock and pass out every 30 steps.

The boyfriend and I planned a trip to Tokyo a few weeks back and then decided a few days before departing that we absolutely had to climb Mt. Fuji. And thus the research began.

Mount Fuji – or “Fuji-san” – is Japan’s most sacred and highest mountain standing at 3,776 meters. It was recently added to the World Heritage List in June 2013 and has around 100,000 climbers a year. It is still an active volcano today and last erupted in 1701.

Fuji-san
Source: Wallpaperswiki

I was somewhat discouraged when reading about this climb because most people recommended climbing a few hours one day, staying the night at one of the huts on the mountain, and then getting up super early to catch the sunrise the next morning. But ain’t nobody got time for that.

After doing some more research, I found a few blogs and articles about “bullet climbers” starting the hike late (8-10pm) and climbing through the night. Along with saving loads of time, you also avoid the 7000 yen($70ish)/night accommodation costs on the mountain. Win-win!

Small huts you can sleep in – on the floor, of course.

So after some site-seeing and a short nap that day in Tokyo, Nate and I headed to Shinjuku where our bus would leave for Fuji’s Kawaguchiko 5th Station (scroll down for details & tips). A 2 hour bus ride brought us to the Yoshida Trail at around 930pm where we would start our ascent.

The hike started as any drunken night might – all lollipops and rainbows, adrenaline running high, and absolutely no idea how horrible the next few hours might be. We started at Station 5 and our goal was Station 10: the summit. There are a few huts (Station 6-9 plus a few more in between) on the way up to rest, get food and spend ridiculous amounts of money to use the Little Girl’s Room (200¥ –AKA $2– every time, to be exact).

The climb from Station 5 to 6 was a breeze – the part where I convinced myself that all of those people who wrote reviews warning against “bullet climbing” just couldn’t hang.

Climbing Mt. Fuji Station 8
Station #8 – 3 more hours to the top!

6 to 7 was alright – a bit tiring and definitely more steep, but alright for the most part. From 7 to 8 was when we started getting down to business. We were climbing up large boulders on all fours and having to take breaks more frequently.

From 8 to 9 was when it really started to hit me. The cold was setting in and the wind was becoming more fierce. The hike was no longer a peaceful climb in the night above the thick fog and under the billions of silent stars. It was becoming a literal pain in my ass.

I was struggling. I was feeling nauseas and light-headed. I had to stop even more frequently to rest and gain some strength to keep going. I wanted to go back down to Station 6 where I could sit happily on a rock, eat a roast beef sandwich and point out different constellations in the dead silence of night.  Luckily, I had an awesome and motivating boyfriend (who clearly wasn’t being affected by the altitude at all) to encourage me.

Climbing from Station 9-10 was considerably easier, or maybe I was just running off adrenaline from being so close to the top. Hundreds of climbers were congested in the small pathways now and we spent the majority of our time waiting in queues. The sky started lightening and people were starting to push and shove their way to the top. I read that there are about 3000 people a day that climb Mt. Fuji during “climbing season” (July & August) and everyone is trying to get there at the same exact time: sunrise.

Climbing Mt. Fuji Before Sunrise
pre-sunrise

After a grueling 7 hours, we finally made it to the very top, just in time to see the sun rising.

Climbing Mt. Fuji at Sunrise

After being greeted by 2 lion statues, a couple shrines and wooden posts that mark the top, there were various shops and huts selling ramen, burning stamps onto peoples’ walking sticks (you can buy a wooden walking stick at the bottom and purchase stamps to get burned into it at every station) and selling other random souvenirs. We sat at the top for about an hour and enjoyed the spectacular view before making the brutal descent.

DSC_0581

The climb down was possibly even more exhausting. We were sleep-deprived and delirious and the last thing we wanted to do after climbing to the top of a 12,395 foot mountain was crawl back down, but we slid down the loose, volcanic rock-filled pathway in about 4 hours.

Climbing Mt. Fuji Volcanic Rock

100% absolutely worth the climb. It was more of a mental struggle during most of the ascent – I literally was saying “mind over matter” in my head for an hour straight – but it feels amazingly rewarding when you reach the summit (and even better when you make it all the way back down!)

Tips on Climbing Fuji in One Day on a Budget:

1. Research! Read about other people’s accounts to see if you’re up for the challenge. Granted, it’s not something you need to train for months in advance if you’re in relatively good shape, but it still is a challenge.

2. Decide which trail you want to go up. Because we were on a time crunch (& also somewhat out of shape), we chose the Yoshida Trail starting at Kawaguchiko Station 5. This is the most common (therefore, the most crowded) trail. It’s the easiest to climb and the easiest to access.

Source: Gary J. Wolff
Source: Gary J. Wolff

3. Figure out how you’re going to get to the starting point. Most people start at Station 5. However, there are about 5 different “Station 5’s” (again, we started at Kawaguchiko). There are many different trains/buses/subways you can take to get here that vary in price, speed and convenience. We chose to take a bus from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Kawaguchiko Station 5 because it’s one of the few that is direct (there are buses/trains that bring you just to Kawaguchiko, which is NOT where the Yoshida Trail begins – You have to go to Kawaguchiko Station 5).

On the map above, I believe the bus brings you to Subaru Line 5th StationIt took about 2-2.5 hours from Shinjuku Station and only stopped a few times on the way to Kawaguchiko Station 5. Click here for the website. For this particular bus, reservations are required and they book up fast during climbing season (we booked ours about 3 days in advance and got the last seats). You can call and someone will speak enough English to reserve your spot or you can reserve it online (although, I had some difficulties and ended up just calling). We chose the latest departure time (730pm), so we could start the hike around 10pm. It costs 2600¥ each way per person (booking a round trip is advisable so you can ensure a spot on the bus back – although this also means you have to make it down by a certain time. We scheduled our return at 1030am and made it back with plenty of time to spare). Click here for other public transportation options and timetables.

4.  Check the weather & sunrise time beforehand. If it’s going to rain, you might want to pack differently. You will also want to time your hike so you can get to the top before sunrise. At around Station 7 and 8 is where most people stay in huts overnight so it starts to get super crowded.

5. Rest before and give yourself plenty of time to get to the bus station to depart. We didn’t take nearly as long of a nap as I would’ve liked, but a cat nap is better than nothing. We also thought the bus terminal would be easy to find, but Shinjuku station is HUGE. It’s actually down the street a little ways from the main station.  Below is a map somebody gave us – the bus terminal you’re looking for is Shinjuku Kosuku Bus Terminal on the lower left with a [sloppy] box around it.

Hiking Fujisan - Shinjuku Bus Terminal
Click to enlarge

6. Pack light and smart. It’s around 90 degrees in Tokyo during the summer so you probably won’t want to wear your hiking gear on the way to Shinjuku Station. However, you still want to pack light so you aren’t lugging up an extra 30 pounds. (Scroll all the way down  for a list of what I packed.) Remember that it is FREEZING on the mountain, regardless of how warm it is at sea level. A lot of people think that since it’s summer and there’s no snow, it’ll be warm on the mountain. It’s NOT.

7. Buy snacks beforehand. We made 3 roast beef sandwiches each that we packed for the climb + granola bars and bananas. You can buy food at the huts/stations but it’s pricey and costs more the higher you climb.

8. Bring a lot of coins. If you’re a girl, you’ll be using a lot of 100¥ coins to use the bathroom. Luckily, the bathrooms are pretty clean (probably due to how expensive they are to use). Make sure you don’t leave your stuff in the bathroom either. 5/6 times I used a bathroom, somebody had left a purse or bag hanging on the hook. You climb down a different route so a detour back won’t be convenient.

9. Rest at each station. We rested at every station and in between as well. Like I mentioned before, I was starting to feel nauseas and didn’t want to get terrible altitude sickness so I took a lot of breaks to let my body acclimate. It’s not a race up the mountain. It’s actually even worse to climb up fast because then you’ll be waiting a few hours at the top for the sunrise (the climb up takes anywhere from 5-8 hours) and like I said before – it’s freeeezing at the top.

My Fuji Packing List:

  • Waterproof windbreaker jacket. I think I would’ve died from the cold wind if I didn’t have this.
  • Athletic shoes – a lot of sites recommend hiking boots but as long as it’s not raining, you should be fine in running shoes if that’s all you have (like me).
  • Thick socks and a pair or two to change into (if you’re wearing non waterproof shoes like I did)
  • Shirts that you can layer – I wore 2 tank tops + a flannel + my jacket and was warm 90% of the time
  • Bottoms/pants you can layer – I wore 2 pairs of leggings
  • 100 yen coins for the bathroom & for other small purchases
  • Flashlight (one per person is a good idea). A lot of people wore headlamps, which was somewhat obnoxious when they would look at you. We did fine with small hand-held flashlights.
  • Camera obviously
  • Wet wipes – it gets dirty up there
  • Postcards if you want to send some from the top. There’s a post office at the summit and overpriced post cards as well.
  • Food/snacks – sandwiches, granola bars, fruit
  • Face mask – super Asian but this was extremely helpful on the hike down. People will jog/run down and kick up huge clouds of dirt that you’ll eat unless you have something to cover your face
  • Change of clothes for when you’re finished
  • Hat or sunglasses
  • Gloves
  • Sunblock
  • I personally wouldn’t recommend a walking stick – they sell them at the huts with a little bell on them that drove me crazy. There’s also a good amount of time where you need to use both hands to climb up rocks so a walking stick would just be more of a nuisance. But everyone’s different :)

I spent A LOT of time looking for all the information I wrote about here on multiple sites and blogs. Hope that this can be of assistance to some of you out there!

Happy climbing!

Top of Mt. FujiHiking back down Fujisan

 


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41 Comment

  1. Shumaila says: Reply

    Hi Kirsten! Thanks for sharing your thoughts – it’s very helpful! I have the same views as you initially, so we were thinking of doing a climb during the day (missing sunset and the sunrise!) but then I came across your blog.. I was wondering are all the shops etc open 24hrs on the mountain on your way up? And was there a lot of people climbing at that time?

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      Hi Shumaila, sorry I didn’t see this until now! The huts on the mountain along each stop are open all night, yes! There were a decent amount of people climbing – more so after the 7th station! There were times when we would be alone, but only for a few minutes at a time!

  2. Ingrid La says: Reply

    Hi there!
    Thanks for a very detailed and inspiring post! I’m gonna go hiking this late July!
    I’m looking into the transportation to go from Shinjuku. But I’m really confused about which destination for the ticket I should reserve, according to your post. I want to follow your trail, the yoshida trail! But I don’t know wether to buy the ticket to “Kawaguchico”, as you keep mentioning something about “station 5” or is it the ticket to “Mount Fuji 5th station”? I see the price you mention matches the ticket to Mount Fuji 5th station. And you also talk about a direct line so .. So what station to go to the Kawaguchico station 5?
    Sorry if I sound too confused .. I am! But very excited as well 😉
    Thanks in advance.
    Best,
    Ingrid

    1. Ingrid La says: Reply

      And another question: I’m thinking of getting a rail pass. Would any of these passes cover this trip to the mountain? I’m also planning on going directly to Hakone afterwards.
      Hope to hear from you soon, thanks!

  3. Alvvin says: Reply

    Hello Kirsten!! I had an impromptu decision to climb mount fuji and did a search on completing the hike in 1 day. This has shown its entire possible and i have decided to give it a try.

    Although this post is on the older side, i hope to get some tips and information for this climb.

    I will be going to Japan on the 12th July but will choose to climb probably on the 18th July 2016 this year. I wanted a weekday and i am the closest to yamanote line on that day which makes shinjuku very convenient. That is also the only day i have and i really want to do something different in my trip, something memorable.

    From your experience i roughly assume that the hike up and down would take approximately 12-14hrs. Due to my time restrain, i am convinced i do not need to watch the sun rise but i will want to watch the sunset. In this case, i intend to start really early and home to be back at my airbnb house by night. (It costs me $45 and im not gonna waste the money not utilizing my space there =p).

    Do you think this would be a possible hike based on my current plans? I am no experienced climber and i will be traveling alone. While it is necessary to rest, i am trying to avoid night climbing knowing that my reaction over night is greatly reduced, taken i dont have a friend to be with me either.

    My other goal was to get those climbing sticks as a souvenir home and i wanna try and collect all them stamps xD Although information may not be the most updated, are you able to recall the price of the sticks and the stamps?

    Thanks

  4. Tiffany Tang says: Reply

    Hi Kirsten,

    I have so many questions about climbing Mt. Fuji at night.
    1. My plan is to climb Mt. Fuji with two of my friends at night on 1JULY2016 @ 10pm to see the sunrise. I know that you climb in August, so maybe it got warm by then. Will 1 July be too cold? Should I start rethinking my plan?
    2. Were there other people climbing at night as well? (Afraid of trespassing / getting lost)
    3. Is the route an easy route to do at night?
    4. Is the route just open 24/7 for anyone to start climbing?
    5. Is there a night bus back to Shinjuku? (In case I change my mind about night climbing) I really don’t want to stay the night at Fuji.
    6. Is there a direct route from Fuji to Osaka?

    I’m really nervous about this trip. Any insights will really help. Mahalo.

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      1. I believe that both July and August are climbing season so I think you’ll be okay! It was also pretty cold at the top in August so I think it’s inevitable!
      2. There were TONS of people climbing at night, there’s no way you’ll get lost!
      3. It’s fairly easy the first half. After the 7th or 8th station is when it got more difficult. But there were so many kids and old people doing the climb. For me, it was more about adjusting to the altitude than the actual climbing.
      4. Yes, I believe it’s open 24/7.
      5. I’m not sure about night buses, I know that the last bus there from Shinjuku was around 1930. You can check out this website for more bus details: http://highway-buses.jp/fuji/
      6. I unfortunately don’t know the answer to this one! But I absolutely LOVED Osaka so definitely make your way there!

      Hope this helps! Don’t be nervous, it’s an amazing experience! It’s difficult but sooo worth it!

      1. Ina says: Reply

        Hi! Is it safe to climb without a guide? I’ll be climbing alone so i am thinking of whether i’ll hire a guide or i’ll be on my own.

  5. Peter says: Reply

    Hi Kristen,

    Indeed this is an interesting and useful post! I would like to ask was there any sections of your route up and down that was dangerous (exposure to heights which posed real danger)? I am asking because I am wondering whether it is suitable for a 12 year old child to come on this hike.

    Thank you.

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      There are some areas where you’ll have to use all fours and it requires a bit of effort! There are some steep areas, but I remember children up there hiking with their parents!

  6. April says: Reply

    Loved your honest account of your Mt. Fuji hike. I am trying to decide if I want to be a bullet climber like you or not. I am definitely interested in getting one of those hiking sticks and getting branded at every station. Is there someone there to brand the stick in the middle of the night? I know you wrote this post a few years ago, but hopefully you can help me! Thanks!!

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      Hi April! Yeah when I went, there were still people to brand my stick (I think I did 3 stamps?) during the night! If you have the time and money, may as well do the overnight huts, but otherwise, bullet climbing was totally doable! Good luck :)

  7. Rosie says: Reply

    Thanks for the great blog post! Loved reading your journey

  8. Terence says: Reply

    Hi,

    Great blog! What month did you guys climb mt. Fuji?
    I’ll be in Japan on the April. I’m thinking to do it alone. Can you climb my. Fuji not on climbing season?

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      We went in August! I believe that only July – mid-September is climbing season (it varies each eyear) and you would need a special permit in other months.

  9. zaid says: Reply

    awesome post! am visiting japan in a few weeks for 5days! was thinking of doing Fuji while im there..bullet climb might be the best since im a bit tight on time..was just wondering if there are any registration required or any sort to bullet climb? or can i just take the bus to 5th station and just hike up?

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      Hi Zaid! Sorry for such a late response! There wasn’t any kind of registration needed, but I’m sure you found that out when you went yourself :P! Hope you had an amazing climb!

  10. Jade says: Reply

    Hi! Great article! We’re going to Tokyo early February next year and initially just wanted to get on a tour to see mt. fuji. HOWEVER, articles like yours make me want to climb it too! Haha it’s just me and my husband, never climbed a mountain ever, mid 30’s and coming from an extremely tropical country (no “winter experience” at all). Is climbing Fuji-san too much for us to ask? I need to be realistic here :) Would appreciate your advice. Cheers!

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      Hi Jade, sorry for the late response! Honestly, if you’re in relatively good shape, the hike is definitely doable, so long as you dress appropriately, eat/drink enough, take your time, rest and allow yourself enough time! Hope you were able to climb Fuji, it was an amazing experience!

  11. luci says: Reply

    Thank you! I was hesitating on whether a guide was necessary. I am hiking in August and now really convinced that I can go on my own!

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      Hope you were able to make the trek, Luci!

  12. alvinfoo says: Reply

    Hi, like to check.. u did this with your boyfriend without a guide? cos i’m planning to do this alone too.. (:

  13. […] to my tight schedule I had arrived at Mount Fuji on September 8th with the plan of doing the bullet hike, which means you start from the fifth station in the late afternoon or evening and climb through […]

  14. Abi says: Reply

    Excellent Post. I enjoyed reading it.
    Thank you very much for sharing your experience with Mt Fuji. Actually me and my friend going to Japan on August. Mt Fuji is on the list ofc!

    We still not sure if we should climb it in 1 day or 2 days. Would you recommend the “Bullet Climbing”? or its better to rest then continue next day?

    1. Well it depends on how long you’ll be there and what your budget is like: if you’re only in Tokyo for a few days or if you’re on a budget – I’d definitely recommend bullet climbing. If you’re able to take your time and don’t mind paying the 7000ish yen ($70) accommodation on the mountain, then go for it! Good luck and let me know if you have anymore questions :)

      1. Abi says: Reply

        Thanks Kristen,

        Actually i have 8 days to spend in Tokyo , 4 (or 3) in Kyoto and 3 (or 4) in Osaka. at first I was thinking of doing the bullet climbing in 1 day .. but then I thought of 2 days. so the next day after getting down i can do the attractions around the Mountain (caves , lakes , hot springs .. etc) tho I don’t know if it a good idea :)

  15. Helen Lloyd says: Reply

    Thank you for this post!! I am busy doing research on hiking up alone! I am not a big hiker but I am pretty active, and Mount Fuji is an absolute must for me!! You said you left at 9.30… .If I were to leave earlier, and say- pack a sleeping bag and pillow and sleep at the summit for the sunrise- what’s the terrain like up there? (might even pack my pop-up tent). I’m literally flying into Tokyo on the Friday night, heading to Fuji on Sat morning, climbing, then then heading back to Tokyo for my flight back to Tokyo Sun evening.

    1. Hi Helen! Are you planning on going in August or July? These are the climbing months and so it’s difficult to get to the mountain otherwise because a lot of access roads are closed! I read that camping on the mountain (not in one of the huts) is “strictly prohibited” but I’m not sure how strict they actually are. I didn’t see anybody camping at the top, but I also got there right at sunrise so I can’t be positive there wasn’t anybody doing it! Most people will either “bullet climb” or sleep in the huts. I do know that it was fiercely cold so I’d be concerned about sleeping out in the open. The terrain at the top is mostly all loose tephra. If you’re on a tight schedule like I was, you might just want to spend some of Saturday day sleeping, catch the bus to Fuji around the same time (arriving around 930/10ish pm) and then be finished Sunday morning so you’ll have plenty of time to get back to Tokyo for your flight that night!

  16. Wow! This post is way-cool. Very helpful and informative. My wife and I would love to get to Mt. Fuji someday and get to the peak, and we’d probably attempt the same thing you did, so thanks for all the info! Congrats!

    1. Thanks for reading Thomas! Good luck on your future climb, you guys are pros so I’m sure you’ll be fine :)

      1. Haha we are far from pros! Mt. Fuji is on our list to do while we’re here in Korea, hopefully we can get there soon! Congrats again for making it to the top, what an accomplishment!

  17. Ceri says: Reply

    Amazing. You should be so proud of yourself. 😀

    I’d really love to climb Mt Fuji but I have a question – Did you and your boyfriend just climb together or were you with a group/guide? I love hiking but I’m really not fast. I like to go at my own steady pace (as I have flat feet) and always feel like I’m slowing down groups or guides if I have to go with them. I’d much rather go alone or with a friend. Is that possible or do you have to do it as a package deal thing?

    1. A group tour definitely isn’t necessary! In fact, it’s pretty much completely unnecessary! The trails are easy to follow and so I would say most people go on their own. All you have to do is make sure the trails are open (July/August are the climbing months) and check the bus times to get there when you want. The bus I used and linked here is probably the easiest way to get there. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      (Did you also get my email in response to teaching in Ulsan? Feel free to email or comment back about either queries :))

      1. Ceri says: Reply

        (Will be emailing you Friday on my day off. :) Appreciate it so much!)

      2. Ina says: Reply

        Ok. Thanks for this. No need to response to my earlier query 😊

        One more thing, is there somewhere i could leave my luggage? Possibly at 5th station? Thanks!

        1. Alvvin says: Reply

          Hi Ina,

          I never got a reply on my inquiry earlier on but I did get an email notice of your posting. Although I am not the blog author, I did climb Fuji on my own using some of the comments here.

          I traveled to Mt Fuji light and had my items stored at my Airbnb place. I started climbing without utilizing any of the lodges so I might not be able to answer your question in the most accurate manner.

          However, I wouldnt suggest bringing a luggage with you, I did not notice of any place I could store any luggage on the 5th station, there is a bus-stop, a souvenir shop and a huge parking lot. If you do carry a bagpack, I would suggest that you only carry the essential items to feed yourself and defend against the cold.

          I say this because I had a tall bagpack and the winds gusting about 6-7th station up is going to be high throughout the night. The bagpack created alot of drag due to the winds and I had to deal with my bag and increasing amount of physical and mental fatigue. The top of mount fuji is only half the climb, the descent is going to be difficult as well.

          All these are due to the fact that I was my first time climbing a mountain, if you are a experience climber, you might find it less challenging to do the things I did. But definitely wouldnt suggest bringing a luggage to the 5th station.

  18. So gorgeous at sunrise! It’s amazing. Good work!

  19. janice says: Reply

    Inspiring, beautiful photos – what an accomplishment.

    1. Thanks Janice! :)

  20. This is on my bucket list of things to do. Unfortunately, July and August are official climbing season months and I can’t stand to be in Japan when it’s that hot! Great post, great pictures, I really enjoyed reading it!

    1. Thanks! :) The weather in Japan actually wasn’t TOO bad when I was there! However, I’m living in Korea and it’s ridiculously hot here so maybe I’m just used to it! I absolutely recommend climbing it, it’s an amazing experience and worth a few days of miserably hot weather 😉

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