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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{ 147 comments… read them below or add one }

Trina October 4, 2018 at 2:29 am

Awesome blog Kenji!!! And your wife is an AMAZING ???????? Beast Mode Trooper!!!
Looks Like You Guys Had A Blast!!! But I would’ve rode that horse back down nah jk
Would Love To Hike With Her On Oahu

Reply

kenji SAITO October 4, 2018 at 5:55 am

Aloha Trina,
Thank you and my wife thanks you. Yes we had fun and great weather. The horse ride was tempting me as well!
Mahalo

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jerry October 4, 2018 at 8:44 am

Aloha Kenji, wow this lools like an amazing hike an a great blog. I hope to one day take my wife to at least visit Mt. Fuji. Pictires are amazing and looks like a great time. Thank you for telling us about tje Daruma doll that is pretty neat. I plan on getting one for my wife so she can do the same.
Mahalo for sharing.
Jerry Glassco

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kenji SAITO October 4, 2018 at 9:50 am

Aloha Jerry,
Thanks! Yes, you should take your whole family to climb Mt. Fuji and get her a doll as well.
Mahalo

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Lawrence October 4, 2018 at 10:00 am

Great job! Great hike! Great pictures!

It looks like all that training hiking here on Oahu paid off big! Looks a lot like fun and I can’t believe that you’ve completed it so many times.

I normally watch this NHK tv show called “Journeys in Japan” on a weekly basis. One episode covered a person’s journey from the sea to the summit of Mt. Fuji! You can find more about that particular episode here:
https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/journeys/journey_20180821.html

Thanks for sharing!

Reply

kenji SAITO October 4, 2018 at 11:30 am

Aloha Lawrence,
Thank you. Yeah, can’t believe we have done it five times. I think Mari wants to keep doing it every year for as long as she can. Thanks for the link, as I want to do the sea to summit hike as well.
Mahalo

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xHeNg October 4, 2018 at 10:13 am

Aloha Kenji,
Thanks for sharing the beauty of your adventure. Reading your blog feels like being transported to your hiking adventure. Stunning views! Japan is on my bucket list, can’t do those hike, lol. I’ll just watch Mt. Fuji from afar.Kudos to Mari who pushed through and completed your hike. I like one of those Daruma dolls… symbol of perseverance and good luck, love it!

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kenji SAITO October 4, 2018 at 11:32 am

Aloha Sheila,
Thanks. Yah you can do the hike! Mind over matter.
Mahalo

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David October 4, 2018 at 10:26 am

Very nice! When is your next visit? You should make a tour. I am sure you will have many followers.

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kenji SAITO October 4, 2018 at 11:34 am

Aloha David,
Thank you. We are going back next summer. Haha, I can barely lead myself.
Mahalo

Reply

Brian October 4, 2018 at 2:16 pm

That was awesome adventure for you too. Next year we want to go with you two !

Reply

kenji SAITO October 4, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Aloha Brian,
Thanks! Haha, we’ll see. The hike lasts more than two hours you know!
Mahalo

Reply

Russ October 4, 2018 at 5:36 pm

Hi Kenji and Mari,

I like this blog! Looks like you folks had a great time. Mari, I take my hat off to you for enduring that hike in spite of your ailment. It goes to show that you will not let anything hold you back from doing what you want to do. Great job!

Love and Aloha
Russ Anguay

Reply

kenji SAITO October 4, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Aloha Russ,
Thank you and my wife especially thanks you! Hope you are doing well and when you gonna buy me lunch? LOL.
Mahalo

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kc October 5, 2018 at 9:29 am

wow. kenji took his daughter to fuji again. great job kenji’s daughter for having to carry the old man up the mountain again. mari looks great i think the arthritis thing that kenji wrote is a joke. look like kenji the one with arthritis. good you did the trip this year as i doubt kenji can go on too much more. looking forward to the 2019 pictures. aloha. kc

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kenji SAITO October 5, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Aloha Kerwin,
Thanks, funny guy. Yes the struggle is real. Hope you can go next year as well!
Mahalo

Reply

Lorene Yoshimura-Tanigawa October 5, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Hey Kenji,
Thank you for sharing your experience. I so enjoyed reading your adventure. Your wife is sure a trooper. I’m glad she pressed on and completed the hike. Look forward to reading about your next adventure. As always, be safe!

Reply

kenji SAITO October 5, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Aloha Lorene,
Thank you! Yes she sure is a trooper and then some!
Mahalo

Reply

Pat Murphy October 6, 2018 at 4:13 am

Congrats Mari on completeing mt. Fuji !! It is inspiring to watch you complete what you st out to do. I have yet to go to Japan but when I do this will be one of my definite stops!!

Reply

kenji SAITO October 8, 2018 at 12:20 am

Aloha Pat,
Thanks. I’m sure you’ll be on the top one day!
Mahalo

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Ryan October 9, 2018 at 8:21 am

So inspiring you two! I hope to just complete it ONCE in my lifetime. Congrats to you and your wife! And stoked you got such great weather.
Aloha
Ryan

Reply

kenji SAITO October 9, 2018 at 9:49 am

Aloha Ryan,
Thanks dude! Yup glad the weather favored us on this hike and I’m sure you’ll do it soon!
Mahalo

Reply

Shirlyn Dulce ???? October 9, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Konnichiwa Kenji-san,

Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure with your beautiful wife Mari. Love how you you guys enjoy it together.. Reading your blogs makes me feel I revisit Mt. Fuji again. it is very informative, stunning and creative. You guys are awesome doing it for the 5th time?? I guess if I’ve not mistaken. I only did it once but hopefully I can go back soon and catch the beautiful sunrise on the summit. Its a great accomplishment for both of you. Looking forward to see more adventure with you and Mari. ????
Ganbatte kudasai..????

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kenji SAITO October 9, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Aloha Shirlyn,
Thank you! Yes we are fools five times over for doing it! I’m sure if you want to go back, that you’ll find yourself back there on the top with the sunrise.
Mahalo

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Robin October 10, 2018 at 12:29 am

Wow, you folks know how to have some great adventures! Mahalo for sharing all the photos and allowing me to live vicariously!

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kenji SAITO October 10, 2018 at 10:45 am

Aloha Robin,
Thanks! I’m sure you have your own adventures up there!
Mahalo

Reply

Wklly Leong October 10, 2018 at 4:40 am

Thank you Sharing Kenji,

It looks like you and your wife had a really great time, it’s been so long since I’ve been to Japan and by your pics the weather must have been nice.

I wish I could do things like hiking Fuji unfortunately I’m too old, and also have someone as pretty as your wife to do with.

Thank you again for sharing your trip, it looks like fun!
willy

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kenji SAITO October 10, 2018 at 10:48 am

Aloha Willy,
Thank you. Never too old to do what you want to do in life. Keep on trucking!
Mahalo

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Sheldon Rodrigues October 10, 2018 at 7:15 am

You guys are amazing !!!!!! Ty for sharing the pics!!!! I give you two credit , I don’t think I could ever do that !!!!! Great job !!!!

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kenji SAITO October 10, 2018 at 11:07 am

Aloha Sheldon,
Thanks. For a person that has done the Spartan races many times over, you can surely do this hike!
Mahalo

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Cecelia Hill October 10, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Aloha Kenji! You and your lovely wife have posted some photos of your journey! So proud and happy for the both of you. The Yoshida Trail looked cool. I bet you had some ono food, too! Mahalo for posting them.
Aloha no ka oi,
Dian H.
(HL-retired)

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kenji SAITO October 10, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Aloha Harley,
Thank you. Yes it was a good experience for both of us. Trail food was okay as it was the food when we got back that was ono! Take care.
Mahalo

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Glenn Naeole October 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm

I have to say looking at your pictures and seeing the smiles on your face says it all, makes me want to retire and trek around the word.
Bruddah Kenji, I’ve never seen you so happy ???? and with such a ???? glow, must be the wife.
Stay safe and Mahalo for allowing be to travel through your eyes.

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kenji SAITO October 10, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Aloha Glenn,
Thanks! Just put in a couple more years and you can start traveling. You don’t even have to wait to retire, start traveling now. Really? Never so happy? Must have been HTC influence. LOL. Yes, must be the wife. Take care in Arizona.
Mahalo

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Sailing October 10, 2018 at 7:52 pm

Wow very beautiful pictures and very awesome blog Kenji!
I just like watching a really wonderful and romantic hiking movie through your blog Kenji!
Thank you and your amazing wife Mari sharing this! ?????????????????????

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kenji SAITO October 10, 2018 at 11:14 pm

Aloha Sailing,
Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the post. Stay tuned for the sequel coming up next year. LOL.
Mahalo

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Sandra October 10, 2018 at 10:20 pm

Scenic views.

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kenji SAITO October 10, 2018 at 11:51 pm

Aloha Sandra,
Thanks, yup we had some outstanding views.
Mahalo

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Menchie JB October 11, 2018 at 7:29 am

Aloha Kenji, what a wonderful hiking trip again to Mt. Fuji. Very inspiring to see a couple doing this hike together. Thank you very much for sharing. Your wife Mari did a great job, 5x! Wow!
I am planning to visit Okinawa next year where we used to live for almost 8 years, planning to do Mt Fuji before I go Oknawa with my hubby. What is the best trail for Mt. Fuji? Planning to do overnight too, to see sunrise. Isn’t it open from July-August? Thank you, any info will help me to prepare.

Respectfully Yours,
Menchie

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kenji SAITO October 11, 2018 at 8:33 am

Aloha Menchie,
Thank you. Yes never thought we would be doing this 5x after we did it the first time. Yoshida-trail is usually the more popular which also means the most trafficked. Climbing season is from July to August. I can give you more info as the date approaches.
Mahalo

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Chris October 12, 2018 at 8:55 am

As always awesome write up and what a memorable trip..good job guys!!!

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kenji SAITO October 12, 2018 at 9:54 am

Aloha Chris,
Thanks! We gotta hit a trail together one day!
Mahalo

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LOREN P AKANA October 24, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Kenji & Mari,
wow great pics. Mari you did great from being injured & having to train to be able to do the hike. looks like the weather was good this time too.

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kenji SAITO October 24, 2018 at 9:05 pm

Aloha Loren,
Thanks! Yes she was a trooper that saw it to the end and we were blessed with overall good weather.
Mahalo

Reply

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