Trekking Mt Fuji in Japan: It’s Not That Easy

Think Japan and probably sooner than later Mt Fuji will come up. Legendary as this mountain is we were thrilled about being able to see it, hopefully take some good pictures and maybe even climb it? With this in mind we arrived to Shizuoka, the city with a bullet train stop closest to Mt Fuji, and proceeded to look for our host in town, Mochan. Mochan was our first couchsurfing host ever and if he sounded cheerful enough by phone, he is just as entertaining and fun in person if not more. As soon as we stepped out of the mechanical stairs at the train station I heard my name called by a thin surfer looking Japanese guy who waved us over, shook our hands and happily welcomed us into his car.

What is couchsurfing? For those of you who have never heard of couchsurfing here is a quick insight. Couchsurfing.com is an online community where people (usually travelers themselves) are willing to host for free other travellers when they are looking for budget accommodation. This usually means sleeping on a couch, the floor…but then sometimes not. For more info visit www.couchsurfing.org .

As we walked into his house I realized that there were 5 more people staying there, learning later that the couple was from Denmark, the two brothers from France and that the asian guy was from UK with japanese parents.

While chit chatting with the group Mochan surprised us with a great dinner and then summoned the group to discuss what we wanted to do the following day. It was around midnight and he proposed we go to sleep and he would take us siteseeing the following day and climb Mt Fuji during the night to see sunrise from the top. Ok! As we were standing up he checked the weather forecast and found out that rain was expected the following day, which meant no Mt Fuji, unless we tackled it…right at that moment! Why not?

Woohoo...I made it!

Next thing I knew it was 2 am and we were hiking up the mountain in the dark, already seeing many headlamps up ahead from the many people Mochan said we we should expect. No flashlight, no backpack, no gloves..nothing but a camera.  But then you don’t really need anything else in summer. What I never expected was the massive crowd, which literally kept us in line the last 300 meters not letting us move in any direction. The hike became a nuissance both on the way up and at the beginning of the way down, becasue there are too many people at the top and filtering the crowd in a single line is not easy. What should have taken us about 20 minutes to cover took us well over an hour and a half, and I could not forget that Liza had decided not to climb and sleep instead. Conclusion: Mt Fuji is a challenge because of the steepness and thin air which keeps many people from reaching the top- I must admit that just as I was reaching the top I felt sick and my stay up there (around 30 minutes) was not much fun, but then I had tackled it in three and a half hours when it should have taken almost five or more- but climbing it in peak season is no fun at all because of the crowds. Additionally, most people begin climbing the mountain at around 12:30 to 1:00 AM in order to be at the summit by sunrise, but in our case the quick run up the mountain to watch the sunrise was not rewarded well enough.

We were very much KO for the rest of the day, but nevetheless we still managed some siteseeing. Mochan was very entertaining yet respectful of our fatigue and he prepared a great dinner. An early sleep led to the following morning when everybody took of his or her way. Liza and I were going to Kyoto, where temples and gardens would welcome us with open arms. Right after a brief visit to Osaka that produced a few interesting situations that led us to leave early.

You can reach Mochan and his wish club at http://wish-club.com

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