A Hike up Mount Fuji Japan

July 2004

All Text and Images Copyright © 2004, Kathryn Harrington and Marc San Soucie 

With my brother Michael (formerly known as “Major Mike” but for some time now “LC Mike”, as in Lieutenant Colonel) stationed in Tokyo Japan (Yokota AFB), it seemed like the perfect opportunity to hike up the highest mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji (12,388 feet, 3,776 meters.) It is always special to do a notable hike/climb with friends and loved ones. It was pretty neat to do this with my big brother! We had a wonderful hike on Thursday-Friday July 8-9, 2004. We did a nighttime hike, up the popular Kawaguchi trail, starting at 5:30pm at the 5th station (~7562 feet, 2305 m), which enabled us to hike most of the way to our nighttime rest hut goal during daylight.  

Once the sun went down, we had a spectacular light show, with a huge thunderstorm off in the distance throwing lightning in the clouds for hours. Hikers that we met when we awoke at the hut at 2am said that the storm finally dissipated at about 1am! It was warm and humid on our way up, but got cooler once we got higher and the sun went down, so we pulled on long sleeves and pant legs. Since we had started before the typical nighttime hiker start time, and after the daytime hikers were done, we had the whole mountain to ourselves. The typical hiking season runs July 1 through August. The annual trail maintenance was quite noticeable with freshly laid pumice stone on the “bulldozer” road/path the whole way up (well, except for the multiple stretches of boulder rocks and steps to climb up.) This is a very well maintained trail to accommodate the crowds that hike up it each year (and likely to keep up with erosion too.)  

 We arrived at our hut destination at 9pm, after having stopped at each hut station so that Mike could get the ascending stamps burned into his walking stick (a traditional souvenir for hiking Mt. Fuji.) There are many huts on the route up, complete with diesel generators (in excellent muffler buildings), toilet facilities, comfort food and drinks, and bunk beds for tired hikers (including those doing the nighttime route as we were.) We slept at the Fujisan Hotel (a multi-level hut ~10800 feet, 3300m) on the massive wall of bunk beds with futon pads and comforter type covers as well as Japanese pillows. I enjoyed over 4 hours of sleep until our 2am wakeup call, when we got up, had something to eat and started our way up the final stretch at 3am.

 

It was only about 3/4ths of a mile to the top from there, which we reached at 4:10am. Being during the week and early in the season, there were only a small number of hikers with us on the trail. Website reading before hand had warned us to expect large crowds, groups, and single file traffic jams up the hill. Thankfully, we experienced none of this. It was a bit chilly (and my body wasn’t generating any heat) so I piled on the layers and drank down some hot Miso soup at the summit huts.

 

 The sun rose as a red ball at 4:40am.

   

We got the summit stamps burned onto Mike’s walking stick and headed down at 5am. We warmed up pretty quickly going back down to shorts and short sleeves by 6am. There are separate ascending and descending trails, and we were in the front of the descending night population.

 

 

By 7:45 am we were at the car, having taken our sweet time on the way down, including some rests. We had about a 1.5 hour drive back to the base (Yokota AFB) and though I tried hard, I was not able to stay awake at all!

On Saturday and Sunday we participated in the weekend hash runs (Sumo Hash House Harriers.) Going on hash runs is a tradition when I visit Mike. I’ve done them in Tampa Florida (’91), Phoenix Arizona, Hawaii, and on each of my two trips to see Mike in Tokyo Japan (Nov '02, July ’04). Sunday was a family hash (my first). Seeing the kids run along looking for the route was a wonderful site. Doing these three different hash runs in Tokyo provided an interesting way to see life in Tokyo, how/where people live, the various parks and green areas in the city, and a diary farm of all things, right there in the city. It was also nice to have conversations with the various Japanese folks during the on-after parties/dinner. A nice community experience. Mike tells me that there is no hash group in New Hampshire (not that he’ll have time for that when he gets back to his family!)