Fuji-san 2018

by kenji SAITO on July 18, 2018

Hiking Fuji-no-Takane 2018

We returned to Japan’s iconic symbol after a year’s hiatus due to Mari’s recent development of rheumatoid arthritis which had derailed our annual pilgrimage to Fuji-san. But thanks to medication, physical therapy and sporadic hikes to Makapu’u Lighthouse; Mari was ready to climb Fuji again this year. Monitoring the weather score cards for Fuji before our hike date, they fluctuated daily from A to C to A. Just throw a lava rock and get the same results. Guy Hagi is alive and well in Japan.

5th Station

5th Station

Japan was experiencing her hottest summer ever when we boarded the hour long Shinkansen bullet train that took us away from sweltering Shinjuku to hot and humid Fuji City, where the ear-piercing racket of the semis aka cicadas aka the sounds of summer as it is more affectionately known, greeted us at the train station. We caught the 90-minute bus ride that brought us to the highest of the 5th stations that make up the Fuji trail system, as there are four different trails to get to the top. A marked contrast from our last visit in 2016, where we started from the lowest 5th station. After acclimating to the mountain air for the recommended 45 minutes by drinking soda and paying 1000 yen apiece to support the Fuji conservation efforts, we made our way to the trailhead.

Trailhead

Trailhead

Pushing off at 11:36am at an elevation of 7,874′. We were already pretty high up on the mountain. One day I would like to do a sea to summit hike to Fuji. Mari said she will pass.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Starting at the higher elevation meant we had less miles of volcanic terrain to hike up to the summit.

6th Station

6th Station

Mari approaching the first of seven huts or stations on this particular trail.

Unkai-so and Hoei-sanso

Unkai-so and Hoei-sanso

Two huts for the price of one. Just like a BOGO sale! Well, maybe not quite.

Money pit

Money pit

Dropping 200 yen or roughly two bucks for one of seven stamps on my hiking stick. Can I get two stamps for the price of one? The mark(s) of a tourist hiker.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Leaving the huts and continuing our rocky climb on the third trail in the system.

Volcanic flora

Volcanic flora

Stopping to admire the colorful Japanese knotweed plant growing at the lower elevations.

First Aid

First Aid

Mari being niele (nosy) while passing paramedics administering care to a Chinese hiker that hurt her arm and who were still looking for an Australian hiker that fell off the trail.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Climbing carefully on the trail to avoid injuring an arm or falling off.

Volcanic flora

Volcanic flora

Life always finds way to exist in even the most seemingly inhospitable environments.

Goraiko-sanso

Goraiko-sanso

Arriving at the 7th station. The old station that is. I like to think of these huts as similar to Starbucks coffee shops; a place to sit, grab free wi-fi and pay for overpriced drinks and snacks.

Got views?

Got views?

While the swirling clouds robbed the views from us, at least it kept us from overheating on the trail.

New 7th Station

New 7th Station

Sign posts to guide and keep track of your hike in terms of distance and estimated time. Your mileage may vary.

Closed trail

Closed trail

Excuse me, I think the trail is over on this side. I guess there is no such thing as universal signage.

Tonka Toy Truck

Tonka Toy Truck

This is how supplies, garbage, workers and sick people get on and off the mountain. Hope we don’t fall into any of those categories.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Exchanging greetings of konnichiwa ( hello ) on the trail with other hikers coming and going.

Follow the arrows

Follow the arrows

Workers replacing the ropes on the trail. Constant upkeep. Keep on donating 1,000 yen.

Old 7th Station

Old 7th Station

Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t the old station be before the new station?

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Hiking above the clouds never gets old.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

We were hiking at well over 10,000′ and the air was still comfortably warm enough to do without any jackets, just like our last visit in 2015.

8th Station

8th Station

Every trail has a medical station to assist hikers dealing with the common complaint of altitude sickness. Thanks to canned oxygen and tablets, we were doing fine and continued on the trail.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Passing through heavy duty barricades that protects against frequent rockfalls.

Blue Skies

Blue Skies

The trail being on the other side of the mountain, is the only one that offers views of the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. Unfortunately, the only blue we saw today, was that of the sky.

Wishing Pole

Wishing Pole

We left our low denomination coins and took promising wishes with us.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Looking ahead to our hut for the night as we still had plenty of daylight to spare.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Mari was pacing herself on the hike. 20 paces. Rest. 30 paces. Rest. Repeat until you get to your destination.

9th Station

9th Station

We arrived at 4:52pm where the air was calm and the altitude was a little over 11,350′. Just in time for dinner.

Mannenyuki-sanso

Mannenyuki-sanso

Our hut for the night. Reservations for Saito?

Hut Sweet Hut

Hut Sweet Hut

We checked in and were shown our “room” for the night. $65 on the mountain gets you a sleeping bag, curry dinner and two cups of hot green tea. Nothing more. Nothing less. Outside temperature was a comfortable 59 degree Fahrenheit. The winds picked up slightly later on, but not enough to give one a chill.

Sunset

Sunset

Enjoying the pinkish sunset views, until the air temperature finally dropped and forced us back into the hut and our musty sleeping bags.

Sunrise

Sunrise

We decided to sleep in and miss the traditional sunrise hike at 2am to the summit and just catch the sunrise from the hut in the morning. One slight problem with that, as we found the sun rises on the other side of the mountain. Mari was content to sit outside our hut, due to her pounding headache, so I slippered my way around the bend to catch the rising sun at 4:30am.

Ohayo Gozaimasu

Ohayo Gozaimasu

Walking back to the hut in the cool, crisp mountain air. Ohayo Gozaimasu (Good Morning).

Torii

Torii

Mari still had her pounding headache due to the thin air and was thinking of ditching the summit hike and just going back down. Luckily Ibuprofen and persistence paid off, so we were back on the trail at 5:58am.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Descending hikers are supposed to yield to the ascending hikers, but I don’t think everybody got the memo.

Blue Skies

Blue Skies

The skies were strikingly blue this morning as we dealt with the traffic jam on the trail. Sunrise hikers have to deal with worse, borderline gridlock traffic on the trail.

Munatsuki-sanso

Munatsuki-sanso

Last hut on the trail before the summit.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

The air was quite thin at this point, so Mari’s pleading to get down didn’t travel well to my ears.

Harlequin Ladybird

Harlequin Ladybird

I guess this brightly colored beetle was making her way down from the summit. Konnichiwa.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Rock by rock, we made our way up the increasingly steep trail.

Fujinomiya Trail

Fujinomiya Trail

Mari started saying “maji?” (seriously?) more frequently, as the trail became even steeper as we approached the top.

Fuji Summit

Fuji Summit

We arrived at the Torii gate at 8:15am, which marks the gateway to the summit of Fuji. Fools five times! Congratulations to Mari for pushing through and making it despite her doubts. Mind over matter.

Cry me a river

Cry me a river

The summit weather at 12,388′ elevation was a marked departure from our first visit in 2013, where we experienced a storm pounding the top. The air was comfortably cool and the wind noticeably absent. The perfect (non) storm to climb to the highest point, Kengamine Peak. Unfortunately, the climb had taken the wind out of Mari’s sails, as she had to save her energy for the hike back down.

Fuji crater

Fuji crater

Trying not to get too close to the 820′ deep crater that still had snow sitting at the bottom, but a lot less as compared to our last visit in 2014.

Okumiya Shrine

Okumiya Shrine

We dropped off postcards at the highest post office in the land and got the final stamp on my hiking stick at the shrine. Mari forgot to add a 10 yen stamp to one of the postcards. Luckily, the postal worker found us and let us know that postage was due.

Fuji Summit

Fuji Summit

After we had corrected our postage due problem, we started to make our way to the Yoshida trailhead.

Fuji Summit

Fuji Summit

Giving the maw of the crater a wide berth, as even though the last eruption occurred in 1707, Fuji is still considered an active volcano. Fuji is actually three volcanos in one; Komitake at the bottom, Kofuji in the middle and Fuji at the top. So we can say we hiked three volcanos for the price of one!

Fuji Summit

Fuji Summit

This section of the trail was quite empty, as we had the clouds to keep us company.

Fuji Summit

Fuji Summit

Descending down to the cluster of huts where hikers gather to watch the sunrise pop up, eat, rest, socialize, and use the bathrooms. Not necessarily in that order.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

Thanks to the excellent weather we were enjoying; we decided to sit outside, soak in the views and have hot miso soup for breakfast.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

We left the summit at 9:50am going down the cloud soaked Yoshida trail.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

Making our way down the countless switchbacks.

Thumbs down

Thumbs down

I take it that hitchhiking is not big in Japan.

Global Warming

Global Warming

Not enough to make a snowman, just enough for a couple shave ices.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

The rolling clouds seemed to be slowly chasing us down the mountain.

Morning call

Morning call

A small bird, called awahibari, darted through the blue sky and alighted on a rock, chirped and flew off.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

Leaving behind the cluster of huts as we hit another set of switch backs going down.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

Intermittent signage and maps on the trail keeps one on track.

Bathroom break

Bathroom break

Most hikers took this opportunity to “lighten the load.”

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

Puffs of volcanic dust followed the steady stream of hikers going down the switch backs. Just like the Pigpen character in Peanuts.

Bi-lingual

Bi-lingual

Warning signs to use the shelter does not seem to work in the native and foreign tongue.

Walk or ride?

Walk or ride?

I told Mari that she could take the horse ride back down the trail and take a load off her sore feet, but like a trooper, she said she would walk it out the whole way.

Flora

Flora

Stopping and smelling the pink flowers on the trail.

Field trip

Field trip

Yielding to some pint sized hikers. They sure start them young in Japan.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

Mari pining to go back and enjoy Fuji for another day.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

The horse ride going back down was getting cheaper and smaller.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

So many arrows pointing too so many trails. Which one to follow? Just go straight.

Yoshida Trail

Yoshida Trail

The long and boring walk back to the 5th station. Are those horses still available?

5th Station

5th Station

We finished our hike at 1:30pm as we jostled and joined the crushing mass of humanity at the popular Kawaguchiko 5th station.

Post-hike meal

Post-hike meal

After securing our bus ride back to Shinjuku; we ate Japanese spaghetti, pork bowl and lingoberry ice cream to replenish our caloric deficit. Pass on the spaghetti. Keep the Coca-Cola flowing.

All pau

All pau

Our last photo with Mount Fuji in the background before the rolling clouds blotted her out. We soon boarded the two hour bus ride back to our hotel, showered and had some cheap and tasty ramen for dinner.

GPS Tracks

GPS Tracks

We were blessed with excellent weather, albeit cloudy views, on our two day hike that covered 8.2 miles hiking the world’s most climbed mountain. Hats off again to Mari for completing the entire hike.

Postscript

Postscript

Mari filling in the other eye on the Daruma, as the first eye was her wish to be able to summit Fuji-san again. Time to get another Daruma for next years trail. A little background on the Daruma doll. They are seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck. When purchased, both eyes are blank white. The user will set a goal and paint in one of the eyes. Once the goal has been completed, the other eye is filled in.

Note: I have been made aware that some hikers have been using my blog as a hiking guide and getting lost on the trails. Please note that this blog was made to document the hike for the crew(s) that did it. That is why some of my comments will seem to have no relevance or meaning to anybody outside of the crew(s) that hiked that trail. My blog was never meant as a hiking guide, so please do not treat it as such. If you find inspiration and entertainment from these hikes, that is more than enough. If you plan on replicating these hikes, do so in the knowledge that you should do your own research accordingly as trail conditions, access, legalities and so forth are constantly in flux. What was current today is most likely yesterdays news. Please be prepared to accept any risks and responsibilities on your own as you should know your own limitations, experience and abilities before you even set foot on a trail, as even the “simplest” or “easiest” of trails can present potential pitfalls for even the most “experienced” hikers.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris September 13, 2018 at 8:53 am

Wow! Awesome hike with sunrise and a view!
Nicely done Kenji and Mari

Reply

kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 9:06 am

Aloha CC,
Thanks dude!
Mahalo

Reply

Emily September 13, 2018 at 9:00 am

This is incredible! Your adventures are always so well documented and funny, informative. Congrats esp. to Mari who pushed through. Mind over matter !!! On my bucket list :)

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 9:07 am

Aloha Emily,
Thanks! You should join us next year.
Mahalo

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Everett Peacock September 13, 2018 at 9:52 am

Looks like fun, and a lot of hard work! What’s your favorite food or snack that you eat at the summit?

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 10:54 am

Aloha EP,
Thanks, yes sweat and tears going up. I like to eat hot miso soup which warms you up at the usually cool summit. Other than that, the ole standby – ice cold Coke. Seems life is treating you well in Maui.
Mahalo

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Nani September 13, 2018 at 9:52 am

Congratulations! That is quite a feat! I hope to summit Nt Fuji one day! Keep on trekking!

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 10:55 am

Aloha Nani,
Thanks, hope to get out to the rockies one day as well!
Mahalo

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Olivier September 13, 2018 at 10:00 am

Awesome adventure Kenji and Mari! Mt Fuji looks amazing, I would love to go one day, I dont know why I like Japanese culture so much, maybe cause since I was a kid I always watched japanese anime on tv, even to this day I still do (my wife laughs at me)! Lol… The Daruma doll is so cool! I didn’t know about it. Wondering if you had one for the KST? Lol…

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 10:57 am

Aloha Olivier,
Thanks. Well, if you like their culture so much, you have to go to the source! That’s funny about the anime, seems there are a lot of fans out there. Yeah maybe I need to get a doll for the KST and WST. LOL.
Mahalo

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Annfai808 September 13, 2018 at 10:12 am

Wow!!!!! Awesome hike, incredible views. And Greatjob mari!! ????????????????????????
Keep on hiking.. ????

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Annfai808 September 13, 2018 at 10:23 am

And 3x higher than kaala mt.. and u guys fast!! Ur amazing Mari..

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 10:58 am

Aloha Anne,
Thanks. No we were going slow due to the thin air and Mari taking it easy, but glad she made it! Too bad didn’t have oxtail soup at the top!
Mahalo

Reply

Jasmin Nepomuceno September 13, 2018 at 10:44 am

Hi Kenji & Mari,
I always love your blog Kenji!. Congratulation to Mari!!! You made it Yay!!! I am so happy to see her doing this hike. I hope one day I can to do it too. Much Mahalo for sharing and enjoyed every moment reading this blog and keep it up Kenji!

Aloha,
Jaz

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

Aloha Jaz,
Thanks! You should come with us next year as that will be the 4th and final trail that we can experience on Fuji.
Mahalo

Reply

Jasmin Nepomuceno September 13, 2018 at 11:48 am

Sure! Let me know ahead so I can take off work.

Aloha,
Jaz

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Kelly September 13, 2018 at 11:55 am

Awesome pics! I hope you get better soon Mari! Junko and I have never hiked Mt. Fuji and you folks make it look like so much fun. Hope you see you folks soon! :-)

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Aloha Kelly,
Thanks. We should make it a fun group hike and do Mount Fuji together next year!
Mahalo

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Dale Yoshizu September 13, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Wow! Too good! Your wife is a tough hiker like you! I hope to do that hike one day. Is it humid like here where you need a lot of water? Heard Mt. Fujii is in clouds lot of time. When I go I want to take a picture from the distance to get that iconic photo.

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Aloha Dale,
Thanks. You should go climb Fuji or if you want, come with us next year as well! It’s usually a little humid in the beginning but soon starts to cool off as you get higher. Yes, the weather is hit or miss when it comes to viewing the sunrise and conditions in general.
Mahalo

Reply

You September 13, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Awesome job. Keep up the good work !!
Thanks for sharing!!

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Aloha You (Yoly),
Thanks, I had to check the email to figure out who you is? LOL. Take care.
Mahalo

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Kirk September 13, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Congrats Kikaida & Mari on your fifth successful hike up Fuji-san! The closest I think I’ll ever get to Mt. Fuji’s summit is while visiting the Gotemba Premium Outlets!

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Aloha Kirk,
Thanks! You might get closer when you find out that Kikaida and gang live at the top of Fuji! :)
Mahalo

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Brandon September 13, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Way to push through, Mari! My wife just recently got out of the hospital after 43 days and a very rough labor and delivery. We had to push her up the Lighthouse trail in a wheel chair so she could be part of my re enlistment. Set your mind to something and you can accomplish anything!

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 8:29 pm

Aloha Brandon,
Thanks. Wow, hope your wife and new family are feeling much better. Congrats on your kid and re-enlistment.
Mahalo

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Oly Vert September 13, 2018 at 9:10 pm

Loved seeing these pics of you and Mari’s Fuji adventure! It must be tough hiking at that altitude! Good job! Very interesting to see the varying terrain and different elevations. I can only hope to one day experience this hike. Thank you for sharing and Happy Trails!

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kenji SAITO September 13, 2018 at 9:20 pm

Aloha Janell,
Thanks. The air is a little thin but manageable, as there are canned air and oxygen tablets to help you deal with that if you need it. I’m sure you’ll be on this mountain one day!
Mahalo

Reply

Clayton Takemoto, Jr. September 13, 2018 at 10:43 pm

Wow, I truly enjoyed reading this international hiking adventure. Great job to you both and especially to Mari for persevering and conquering Fuji! I really enjoy seeing when you two do hikes. Power couple! ????????

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kenji SAITO September 14, 2018 at 5:53 am

Aloha Clayton,
Thanks. Haha, I don’t know about a power couple, but glad that Mari did get to see it through the end.
Mahalo

Reply

Robin September 14, 2018 at 6:43 am

I’m so jellous I want to climb Fujisan one day too! I’ve only been to Japan once and I loved it! Well Done! ????

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kenji SAITO September 14, 2018 at 8:47 am

Aloha Robin
Thanks. I’m sure you’ll make it back there one day! Just fit it into your world travels :)
Mahalo

Reply

Stuart September 17, 2018 at 9:54 pm

Hey congratulations you two! That hike is no joke. My fiance and I just finished the Yoshida Trail this year and going down that left me with some bruised toenails. I had no idea how many huts there were up there and hope to follow in your footsteps by spending the night, going up and down in one day is no bueno. I didn’t know about the Daruma doll and am sad I missed a chance to grab one, but the wood tag we get as a souvenir was cool.

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kenji SAITO September 18, 2018 at 6:06 am

Aloha Stuart,
Thanks! Yup maybe you and Mitzi can do the summit sunrise for your wedding hike! I must’ve missed the wood tag, got the standard hiking stick as a souvenir.
Mahalo

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Stuart September 18, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Good idea :)

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Matt Vidaurri September 21, 2018 at 7:58 pm

Great Job you guys! Even more proud of you Mari for persevering despite RA and having altitude sickness. I showed my wife Alma and she wants to do it now. Great Job at summiting and we will be praying for you. The quarters look crammed and hard….but I told Alma thats how it is in Japan

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