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.
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 sightseeing 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?
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 nuisance both on the way up and at the beginning of the way down, because there are too many people at the top and filtering the crowd in a single line is not easy.
Mt Fuji should be part of any 7 day Japan itinerary , but I guarantee that taking pictures from a fair distance and trying to make it to the summit are not the same thing.
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.
You can reach Mochan and his wish club at http://wish-club.com