I have been planning a trip to Mt. Fuji and climbing it with my dad for almost two years now and now the time had finally come!
Day 1 –
Arrived in Tokyo. First thing was to get our rental car. My dad had flown in the night before and was at his hotel waiting for us to pick him up. After picking up the car I took the wheel and drove the streets of Tokyo, the most populous city in the world. Keep in mind 38 million people live here. That is 13 million more than the next closest city. Driving was crazy! We found my dad and then headed straight towards Mt. Fuji which is west if Tokyo and is about a 2 hour drive.
When we arrived in our city called Fujiyoshida our first stop was food. Then we went to the Mt. Fuji world heritage center. It was basically a visitor center for Mt. Fuji. Things about Fuji:
1) about 500,000 “climb” the mountain every year
2) it is over 3700 meters high
3) it is an active volcano erupting over 1,000 years ago
4) you can predict the weather at the top by the cloud configuration surrounding it
5) the mountain is considered sacred by the local people. Symbolizing heaven and the path towards God.
The local guide at the world heritage center told us about an amazing shrine to go and visit in town. It is one of oldest ones there. Plus it has the trail that was begun hundreds of years ago to climb Fuji. It was a beautiful shrine.
Once we finished at the shrine we wanted to go over to a lavender festival that was being held at this time of year. We had heard about it at the world heritage site.
The lavender festival was right on the side of a lake. The lavender flowers were very pretty but the cloud cover that day was really bad. We were there the first day and then went back for another go ’round when the actual festival was going on and Mt. Fuji was visible.
They had singing and dancing. They had booths and art. There were a ton of people out the second day all out to admire the amazing v
We then headed over to another shrine and finally to dinner where we ate Japanese style on the floor. I thought my dad was gonna die! He hates sitting on the floor.
My favorite photo of the day was at the last shrine we visited just before dinner. I took what I call a “photographerselfie”. Basically I put myself in the photo.
I love the huge pillars with the lanterns inside. The stand tall to light your path as you approach the door of heaven. How rich in symbolism can you get!
At the outset of the trip I had two goals. First to capture Fuji by photograph. Second was to conquer it by climbing to its summit.
Sunrise that day was at 430 AM. I didn’t really want to get up that early. But if it meant I’d have a chance to photograph Fuji I was gonna do it.
The clouds from the day before had slightly dissipated. I could at least see that there was a mountain. My dad and I hiked to this shrine together. I had an image in mind of what I wanted to do. I had been inspired some an awesome photographer name Elia Locardi. I came to this place and settled in for the morning.
There are moments when you feel like you soul wants to take in the sights, sounds, smell, taste of everything around you. When you can literally feel the moment seep deep into your flesh. This, and this same evening for sunset, was one of those moments. I always want to raise my hands to the sky and let it all come in. I never want to forget what it is like. The other thought is that I look down on a city and think. Why are all of you people sleeping? There is so much in the world to see? You are missing life and the beauty right in front of you!
After we got back from our sunrise adventure we went to a village that was north west of the mountain. They have very old traditional village with huts there. It is a pretty sweet little spot. They had many people dressed in their traditional clothing. Shops selling souvenirs. It was a great spot and we wondered around their for a while before heading out.
At the village we were able to spot Fuji in the back ground. I found some souvenirs for the kids. Something ornaments that they could paint and hang up. They had fresh fruit growing there that was delicious. I haven’t had a fresh peach in two years. Seriously that is not a joke nor is it an exaggeration. It was sooo good and juicy. It was perfect.
My friend and I decided we better go up to the base camp of Fuji and scout it out before headed up there tomorrow morning. We did and talked to a few people that the just got down and completed the hike. A few things we learned:
1) It is difficult
2) It is long.
3) it is windy and cold at the top
With our newly acquired information we made our game plan for the hike.
At sunset we went back to the same location as sunrise to see if we could get any better colors, or clouds. We were rewarded! It was a fantastic sunset and a beautiful evening. Just the picture I want to hang on my wall in a huge metal print.
I did get many mosquito bites while waiting at sunset. But I got the photo I wanted and it was awesome! Super stoked with everything that night.
Now I was ready to scale to the summit!
Bags packed. Food ready. Water ready. Bedtime.
3:30 Dad wakes up ten minutes before my alarm goes off. Why did I set the alarm anyways?
3:55 drive to the base camp fifth station of Mt. Fuji.
4:30 eat something of a breakfast, bathroom and acclimate to the elevation.
5:00 AM – Begin the hike. The sun was beginning to break over the mountains and we were treated with an amazing sunrise as we started the hike. Those moments were fuel for the rest of the journey.
A few thoughts in hiking as we climbed. We took our time. There are a lot of “huts” along the path. We stopped at everyone for at least 5-10 minutes. This gave us a break and allowed our lungs to acclimate to the elevation. Speed up the mountain causes serious altitude sickness.
We decided that no matter who was the slowest we were gonna stick together. We didn’t want anyone to be left behind. This allowed us to keep a steady even pace without killing ourselves.
As you begin your ascent it is tradition to purchase a walking stick. As you ascend they burn stamps into the wood. Each hut has a different and unique stamp. These huts as well as the stamps gave me serious motivation. I kept telling myself when it was hard, ” just make it to the next hut.”
We climbed higher and higher. The views didn’t really get any better as we went. But we did start to notice the clouds were getting to be eye level. We noticed breathing was harder. We noticed our legs wanting to cramp a little more quickly.
As you climbed there are certain stations along the way they have food and you can even sleep there if you make reservations. We started at the fifth station and the last station is the ninth station which is just below the summit.
As we neared the summit after the ninth station the trail began to be more and more difficult. The last 200 meters were probably the hardest of the trail. You are tired. You can’t breath. The path is so rocky that you are scrambling up on all fours.
I passed the ninth station and could practically taste the summit. I told myself you just have to push it to the end. I went for it. I kept climbing and pushing and finally reached the summit. The feeling was one of exhilaration and exhaustion. The clouds were so thick on top that you couldn’t see anything below. It was completely covered in clouds.
They have several tori gates along the way but the final one was by far the most rewarding to walk through. They believe that torri gates are symbolic of passing from earth to heaven. As Mt. Fuji is a symbol of heaven itself. This had deep rich meaning for me.
10:30 AM – arrived at the summit of Fuji. I ate a jam sandwich a snickers bar and drank my water. We walked over to the crater but it was so cloudy I couldn’t see it.
Life lessons from Fuji:
1: Endurance is about the direction you are heading. Not the speed. One foot in front of the other. Sometimes climbing on all fours is necessary.
2: Some people move faster than others. But in the end of you make it to the top it doesn’t matter in order you arrive. Some people it takes longer to reach the summit. Others they sprint all the way up the mountain. All that really matters is that moment when you pass through the tori gate.
3: friendly words lift your spirits and help you keep climbing. We tried to talk to a lot of people along the way. A smile, an encouraging word propels people upward. Your all on the trail together. Words of kindness and friendship can lift others and give them courage to finish.
I could add a few more:
Always bring enough water it is your life blood!
Have something to keep your grounded and help stop you from stumbling of the small things.
Symbolism can cause motivation to do what you never could. It also burns ina memory so deep it will never leave.
It is always good to climb with others. People who care and who want you to make it.
Preparation is more than half the battle.
11:00AM begin our descent down the mountain. Going down the maintain was easier on our lungs. But our legs were jello. We descended over rocks and rocks and boulders and boulders. There was chains along the way. We got lower to the eigth station and said to ourself, “alright guys that was the hard part. The next station was easier.” Then we began to descend and got to the seventh station and looked at each other “okay that was the hard part. The next section was easier.” We began to climb down going over rocks and more rocks, boulders and more boulders. We stopped at the sixth station and said ” Guys I’m sure that was the hard part. The next section should be easy.” As we approached base camp fifth station and the finish of our hike. We were in shock of how hard thebhike actually was. We had forgotten all of the difficult sections. Honestly if you would have asked me to hike it again the next day or the next week I’d say no. I got my stamps. I conquered Fuji. Maybe I’ll hike it again when my sons are 31 and ask me to come up with them.
2:30 PM arrive at the fifth station. Conquering of Fuji – complete.
Here is the video and final countdown of the hike:
That night we ate at a Korean BBQ and then watched the sunset.
That night there was an explosion of colors and I was so glad that I was able to capture it!
The last day we spent driving around Tokyo. Hit Shibuya crossing and went to a downtown neon district that would have been crazy at night.
Well that is the end of the events!
Thanks for coming by and checking out the blog! We have more adventures to come.