Climbing Mt. Fuji: How one dream came true :)

I’m not a 100% certain when and why I got interested in Japan, but there were a few brief contacts with Japan and Japanese culture when I was a kid that might be the root cause of it.

When I was 12 or 13, my best friend’s father returned from Japan and he was talking about how lucky he was, as he saw the sacred mountain without clouds. He said that according to old Japanese tradition it means that all his dreams will come true and that because he saw Fujisan without clouds he will live a long and wealthy life.

Later that year two Japanese engineers were guests in my home in Umag where my father and my friend’s father were testing remote ordering systems. It all looked like rocket science back then, but it could also be the reason why I ended up in IT. I had a computer at home, computer that was used to test Japanese software.

Some years later, when Internet was born and finding people to chat from around the world was considered fun and cool, not scary and dangerous, I’ve met a guy from Japan over Net Meeting application. I was 17 at that time, and I was not looking for Japanese, but it ended up that I found some Japanese professor. We used to chat a couple of times and he was drawing an outline of Japan with cities, prefectures, and notable places in Japan for me, if I ever get a chance to visit. He even confirmed the mentioned belief that if you see red mount Fuji you will live a long and wealthy life.

Unfortunately, my computer at a time died and I’ve lost contact with him. It really is a pity, since he was one of a few who knew English well. 🙂

All those small details placed Japan and Fuji on my “to do” list, or “bucket list” if you prefer it better. 🙂 But, as a kid from Croatia, it was on “I guess it will never happen” list, as it seemed too expensive and not realistic. Due to all that I was never talking loud about Japan, but I do love bamboo, sushi, ramen and other nice Japanese things. 🙂

And then, at the beginning of this year Dina asked me – What do you think, should we finally visit Asia and go to China for vacations? As every good husband who likes to make his wife happy I said – That’s such a splendid idea, but you know as we are going east, we should go more east – what about Tokyo and Mt. Fuji, they are the best? 🙂

As Dina agreed to it, I told here that I wish to see four things – Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and sunrise on Fujisan (goraikō).

I was not certain about the last one. It takes 2 days out of short vacations, and it can potentially ruin a couple more days if we get too exhausted. We were close to 3000 meters in Slovenia, but there are 776 meters more to reach the top of Mt. Fuji, and hiking is never easy until you are done with it. 🙂

While we were preparing our trip I’ve found somewhere online an old Japanese saying:
“If you come to Japan and don’t climb Mt. Fuji, you’re a fool; but if you climb it more than once, you’re an even bigger fool.”

Well, it was obvious that I’m not giving up and that we are doing it! 🙂

We had a couple of complications there, with booking the hut on the mountain, but as mentioned in a previous post – it was luckily handled by our Tokyo Host – Koji. I’m not sure that we would make it without his help.

Finally the fourth morning in Tokyo was the beginning of the F day! 🙂

Since we were required to check in the hut by 4 PM, we had to get up at 5:30 AM, catch a metro to Shinjuku, change 3 trains to Kawaguchiko and then catch a bus to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. (2300 m)

First two trains are mostly metro rides, underground and nothing interesting to see. Second and third one are on the surface and riding from Shinjuku through the valleys between Chichibu mountain range to the north and the Misaka and Tanzawa mountains to the south and along the Sagami river. Lakes, streams and many rice fields can be seen between the high mountains.


Usually, Fuji is seen in winter times from almost anywhere around Tokyo. In summer, due to high humidity you are lucky if you see it at all. As we approached Kawaguchiko there was a glorious shadow visible in front of the train, and we were heading towards it.


Around 10.30 we were finally there. But as you can see we were not alone. Thousands of hikers were there, some of them finishing yesterday’s hike, some preparing to go.


We were already tired and hungry and as it’s advised to rest at this station for at least 30 minutes to avoid altitude sickness, it was right time for early lunch. We bought “tickets” on one of many Japanese food machines but luckily this one had images of meals, so I got my Fujisan Curry and Dina had some weird noodles.


You all know that Fuji is a symbol of Japan, but when you get closer to it, there’s even more Fuji than you can handle. It’s everywhere. Fuji before you start your curry, Fuji when you finish it, Fuji on algae if you order ramen, Fuji as a dessert. 🙂


Then, with our backpacks packed with some energy gels, calorie mates (energy meals available in Japan that replace your meal) and bunch of water, we were ready to start the hike on Yoshida trail.
Yoshida is considered the easiest trail to climb, but it is most crowded as well. According to all information online it takes 4-6 hours to climb it, and we were already tight on the deadline to reach the top before 4 PM.


I’ve started the hike quite strong, but soon we had to slow down a bit. And then the fight started. Fight with the very steep mountain, time, and emotions. I’m finally doing it – I’m climbing the crazy mountain. 🙂


It is not only that, it was our first mountain that is above 3500 meters, where it’s recommended to sleep overnight in order to avoid altitude sickness, but it is as well height that might affect your body in an undesired way. Even though I’m usually a positive thinker, I could not stop thinking about that and was quite afraid. What if we get to 3000 meters and me or Dina get sick? What if we have to abandon this hike on the other part of the world? What if our room is not properly booked and we will have no place to sleep?

And the terrain was not in our favour at all. 🙂


After two hours we’ve reached first huts on lower heights, on about 2600 meters, but ours is on 3100m. It was still warm outside and we remained in shorts with winterish equipment tied to our backpacks. We had a break, and had to use some fake food.


And some more legal doping for hikers. 🙂


Terrain has changed several times, from rocks where you need both hands, to typical volcano terrain, where you take one step, then you slip half step backwards searching the balance. As we approached the huts, each had a set of steep stairs to make your life easier, or harder – It depends what you prefer better. 🙂


You can see some facial expressions and how easy it is to climb Fujisan.


It was more or less cloudy all the way to 3000 meters, which was actually good. We could not see much but it made the hike much cooler.

Once we reached 3000 meters we were above the clouds. Similar feeling to one you have in the airplanes, except, you did it on your own. You’ve climbed above the sky, and you can’t see below your level.

Finally, after less than 4 hours we came to our designated hut. I’ve said that we have a reservation for two, and that my name is Igor. After 30 seconds in more or less terrible English, they are asking my name again. Igor, I said. Search continues and the guy shows us a list with names and reservations all written in Japanese.

I’m confused, but I still believe that Koji did what he said, as he told me that he will re-check in the morning when we leave the apartment to make sure we are coming, and if there are problems he will give me a call. Since he did not, it must be ok.

Finally, a guy finds a name on the list and says – “No Igor, I have Dina from Ireland?”. The benefit of being one of a couple of Europeans, name does not really matter. 🙂


We were then taken to our designated space, next to two Spaniards from Barcelona and a local guy and his son.

Our dinner was served in typical Japanese style at 4.30 PM , and then we had the rest of the day to sleep and relax, since we should continue the hike at midnight.


We were already in bed when we agreed that we really should buy one head lamp, since we forgot ours in our luggage in Tokyo. That was a really good move as even though the Moon was still quite big and bright it would be stupid and dangerous going all the way up without any light. Trust me, it’s dark. Like, proper dark as there is no light pollution. 🙂

To buy that lamp I had to get out of the hut and this was the view. We were sleeping on clouds. 🙂


We slept a bit, but it was quite annoying. A kid sleeping next to me had a full nose. He was sniffling every 45 seconds so loud and weird that it sounded like a machine gun.

We did manage to catch a few naps, but that was far from proper sleeping.

And then at midnight we got up, we dressed and got out of the hut. That incredible warmth from just a few hours ago was replaced with incredible cold and strong wind. It was around 7 degrees but with such strong winds that made our Irish winter gear barely sufficient.


We started our hike in pitch black, with one head lamp on unknown rocky terrain. But as soon as we caught our pace we got stuck behind older hikers. We figured out that there’s mostly one line and not enough space to overtake hikers in front of us. That made it terrible, as you need your pace in order to keep warm. My hands got cold and swollen, I could not hold a grip, and taking pictures and videos was a problem too.


In such conditions we continued for additional 4 hours. On several occasions a group of faster hikers wanted to surpass us and others, so I’ve ended up being pushed by an old Japanese hiker. It was not really a pleasant thing, as it’s a mountain and if I can respect those slow pacers and freeze my ass off, they should too. I guess. My Balkan temper started to boil from inside and at one point I finally did not move but stood firmly, so old grandpa instead of pushing me bounced and almost fell down. He did not say a word. Later, on the first possible stop the whole group stopped for 10-15 minutes and we were way ahead then.

I felt bad at that point. Along the last few hundred meters there were organized security officers that were giving orders only in Japanese. I had no idea, maybe there is some rule to form two lines, maybe faster pacers are allowed to push slower and keep the pace, but since he was just pushing with me without saying a single “sorry” or something like that, I managed to ignore my boiling emotions and continue to climb.

After 2 hours we’ve sat in front of one of top huts, and we ate the breakfast that we got in our hut. It was a pack of rice with seafood, nice pumpkin bread and a bottle of water.


We rested for maybe 10 minutes, and then we continued our slow and freezing climb, surrounded with a bunch of Japanese voices coming from those security officers.

As we were approaching the top, more and more people were laying sick along the path, and more and more sounds of pressurised air bottles could be heard. Some people were really feeling bad, and we’ve seen a few vomits.

On one side, I am curious to know how they feel? Is it like when you are terribly hangover?

On the other, I was happy that it seems we are both fit enough and we felt great.

After four hours we reached the hut at the summit. We got inside, and had a warm tea as it was still too cold and too dark outside.


Actually, we asked for warm Sake, but it seems that bringing alcohol and drinking to warm up is our local, Slavic thing. There were only non alcoholic drinks available.

That confused us, and we were both angry with ourselves, as a flask of whiskey or rakija were supposed to be in the bag. Amateurs. 🙂

Some thirty minutes later a light started to appear on the horizon and we hurried to catch “the best possible” spot to watch the sunrise.


Silly move, we found a spot under this wall built to protect hikers from falling into the volcano crater, and we sat there. But we sat there almost one hour too early. It was around 4:40, and the sun appeared at 5:30.

We got frozen once again, as those strong winds and fatigue did not really help to keep us warm. As you can see, my hands were shaking and was quite hard to control them.

As sunrise approached the number of people on the top of Fujisan was incredible. Thousands were trying to catch the first ray of light with cameras, mobile phones and selfie sticks.


So did we. 🙂


Clouds got colored, first dark red, then dark orange, then lighter and lighter, and finally red ball emerged in front of us.


It was not where I expected it to be. 🙂 When you watch the sunset, it is totally on the end of the sea, you don’t see anything “behind” the sun.

On the sunrise from Fujisan, red ball showed up somehow in the middle, like it emerged through the clouds. Was really impressive though. 🙂

That moment lasted for maybe 3-5 minutes, and that was it. Sun is up, morning has started, but it’s still cold as hell. We hid back in that hut and had a warm ramen for breakfast. We did a couple more shots of the volcano crater and it was time to start our descent.


Additional four hours ahead of us. After just 2 minutes we were on the return path of Yoshida trail, which is all but simple. It contains 53 “Z” curve combinations, or to say 106 serpentines, and you have to keep “breaking” on slippery sandy volcanic ash for almost 4 hours. Every step raises the dust, but you are not the only one going down. There are thousands of people descending, and it is all dusty around you.


You can see on this photo that hundreds are still climbing to reach the summit too. It is quite busy on mount Fuji. 🙂

After just 20 minutes we had to get rid of our winter equipment, and after 40 minutes we started to boil. We were high above the sky and sun was unappealing. We were burning for the next 3 hours. Luckily our legs managed to hold us almost all the way. It started to hurt me in last 30 minutes only. But those 30 minutes… were painful, really painful, but who the hell cares. We just got off the Fujisan.

OK, that’s what I’m saying now. 🙂 To be honest, I was cursing the pain and the fact I’ve decided to get there in the first place. I wanted new legs and I wanted to lay down and cry. We were exhausted, sunburned, covered in dust and in pain. Only a masochist can say that all that feels good. 🙂

When we reached the fifth station, I’ve changed back to shorts. Even though my legs were covered, I was dusty and dirty above the knees. You can see the difference between left freshly washed leg, and the right one. 🙂


But who cares, we did it! Fuji is behind us.


When we got off the mountain, we caught a bus to Kawaguchicko. That was one funny ride, as the bus was full of dirty and tired people like us, so after only a few minutes everyone without a seat set down on the floor and fell asleep. 🙂


We continued our exploration of Tokyo the very same afternoon, but that will be a part of some other story.

Back there on top, I found a bad place to put my iPhone, but still this is a stop motion of what we’ve seen in 40 minutes on top of Fujisan.

And that’s all for this post.

I’d encourage everyone to go and climb Fuji at least once, and if you decide to go, please do get informed. There were guys on top in shorts, people without equipment who were then covered in that tin foil to keep them safe from freezing and hypothermia. We’ve witnessed people similar to tourists visiting Croatian mountains and hiking in flip flops.

Don’t do that. Respect the mountains and high altitude. You can get sick, weather can suddenly change, or God forbid, volcano can erupt.



With hope that you enjoyed this “hike” same as we did doing it, I’m signing off. 🙂

Till the next post from magnificent Japan.



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