Located a little over 50 miles outside of Tokyo, Mount Fujican be seen from higher hotels like the Park Hyatt, though that is more the exception than the rule. The sky must be clear to see the grandeur — it’s better to make the trip outside of Tokyo to truly appreciate the beauty of Fuji-san.
Tradition holds that the best time to be at the top of the mountain is when the sun rises. The sunrise is also known as Go-raiko. This means that climbers must arrive before dawn, which is at approximately 4:30 in the summer. The climb can take five to eight hours. Some do this by climbing most of the way the previous afternoon, spending the night at a way station along the route, and finishing the trip in the early morning. Others start their climb at midnight. How you approach your climb depends on your style.
Most climbs begin at the fifth station at Kawaguchi-ko, possibly because buses from Tokyo stop here. There are other fifth stations associated with other paths up the mountain. If you’re driving (and we don’t recommend that), the road ends at Kawaguchi. You will then climb the 10-station Yoshida trail. Hard-core climbers can start at the very bottom of the mountain, of course. You’ll pick up the trail at the point where the shops and restaurants end — just follow the crowds.
You will climb a series of switchbacks. Mt. Fuji has separate trails for ascending and descending, so the whole process is very orderly. There are shops and huts along the route that are open 24-hours if you need hot soup or a break. There are also futons available for naps. When you reach the summit, you might succumb to the urge to send a postcard to friends and family. Luckily, there’s a post office right there for you.
After the sun rises, you will then circumnavigate the crater before beginning your descent. You will pick up the Gotemba-guchi trail by the post office (just in case you waited to send that postcard, you have another chance) and start your way down. Some would suggest that this where the fun really begins: think giant sand slide. After the stately procession to the top and reverent viewing of the sunrise, the climb down is like entering a playground. People run, jump, and slide their way to the bottom. The descent takes an hour or two, depending on how athletic and bold you are. Go down at your own pace.
The region surrounding Fuji-san has developed a program to encourage tourists and visitors. You can join the The Mount Fuji Welcome Card program, which gives foreign tourists discounts of about 10 percent on services at 211 facilities, such as hotels, restaurants and museums in the Fuji, Hakone and Izu regions. The card can be printed out by visiting via the Web site at Mount Fuji Welcome Card.