Mount Fuji is probably the most iconic mountain in the world, instantly recognizable because of its almost perfect symmetry and snow-capped peak. The name Fuji roughly translates as wealth or abundance.
It is situated on Honshu Island and at almost 3,800 metres, it is the highest mountain peak in Japan. Mount Fuji is considered to be an active volcano but, if you’re thinking about visiting, don’t worry, it last erupted in 1707.
Mount Fuji lies about 60 miles to the southwest of Tokyo, from where it can be seen on a clear day. It is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku.
It was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site on June 22, 2013, recognized for having “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”.
A great way to view Mount Fuji is from the train on a trip from Tokyo to Osaka. If you take the bullet train or shinkansen from Tokyo you’ll find the best view of the mountain from the Shin-Fuji Station on the right hand side of the train, which is about 40-45 minutes you’re your journey.
However, don’t forget that clouds and poor visibility mean the view of Mount Fuji might not be quite what you expected and only the fortunate few experience a clear view of the mountain. Visibility tends to be better during the colder seasons as well as first thing and later in the evening.
For a more relaxed day out, head to the Fuji Five Lake (Fujigoko) region at the northern foot of the mountain, which were all formed by the damming effects of the lava flows. The lowest, Lake Kawaguchi, is noted for the beautiful inverted reflection of Mount Fuji to be seen on its still waters. Alternatively, head to the south and to Hakone, a nearby hot spring resort found within a wooded volcanic region.
Moutain Fuji is held as sacred within many sects – one such sect, the Fujikō, believe the mountain has a soul. It is surrounded by temples and shrines and there are even shrines at the edge and at the bottom of the crater. Climbing the mountain has long been a religious practice, but until the Meiji Restoration (1868) women were not allowed to climb it. Originally, people climbed the mountain wearing the white robes of a pilgrim.
You can only climb the mountain between July 1 and August 26. Typically, climbers set out at night in order to reach the summit by dawn and, on average, some 300,000 reach the peak each year.
Despite its steep slopes, Mt. Fuji can be climbed fairly easily, even by beginners and it is well signposted with plenty of mountain huts along the way where people can rest. However, it’s not something to take lightly and if you’re planning to climb it, plenty of advance planning is recommended.
The Japanese proverb ‘He who climbs Mt Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool’ remains as valid as ever. Reaching the top can feel like a great achievement but, whilst straightforward, it’s a grueling climb and not known for its beautiful scenery or being at one with nature.
During the climbing season, it’s absolutely packed and its barren apocalyptic landscape is a far cry from Mount Fuji’s beauty when viewed from afar. At the summit, the crater has circumference of 4km, but be prepared for it to be clouded over.
Serious about climbing Mount Fuji? There’s a lot of great information here.