24th Birthday in Japan’s Tallest Mountain, Mt. Fuji

I am finally turning one of my dreams into reality.

Few weeks ago, I shared my first climb in the Philippines way back 2013. Today, I will share my experience in Japan’s Tallest Mountain, Mt. Fuji, which also served as my first solo pre-birthday climb.

It was late July when I chatted Kuya Eric Muñoz, a good friend I met online. We were supposed to climb together last August however our schedules didn’t matched. He taught me everything I needed to know so I can still push through with the climb.

I started climbing since 2013 and I cannot hide the feeling of gratification whenever I reached the summit. From sunrise to sunset, you will see through your bare eyes, your very own lens, how amazing this world could be. I believe that climbing a mountain is like achieving your goals in life, you work hard and you certainly do your best while reaching the top but the road is steep and you will need people to help and guide you. You will realized that this journey is not just about yourself. However, you still have to be cautious with the people you work with. As you grow, you will learn how to find balance in everything you do.

Mt. Fuji Postcards, Photographed by T. Watanabe
Mt. Fuji Postcards by T. Watanabe

Mount Fuji, is a symbol of Japan and one of the most famous mountains in the world. This mountain contributes to Japan’s physical, cultural and spiritual geography. It is also their tallest mountain, standing at 3,776 meters (12, 380 feet). It is an active stratovolcano that is formed by violent eruptions. It has layers of rock, ash and lava.

– National Geographic

Fuji-san is the most popular tourist site in Japan, for both Japanese and foreign tourists. There are more than 200,000 hikers every year during summer season, from July to September, and I am not confident enough to plan my own itinerary so I decided to have my reservation via Willer Express in advance. There were only four dates available for September, so I chose the dates closer to my birthday and that was September 12th to 13th.

I highly recommend Willer Express because they made our tour climb very easy and well organized. I paid for ¥27,800, which includes our roundtrip bus transportation from Shinjuku to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, accommodation at 8th Station, dinner, breakfast, gear rentals optional) and an English speaking tour guide.

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No need for credit card, I paid my reservation

via Family Mart.

WHAT’S IN MY BAG?

I did not expect my parents to grant my request to climb Mt. Fuji on my own. They were worried because of its difficulty and I am not yet able to fully converse in Nihongo, however, Willer Express made it so easy for us. In line with this, I will write another article about how I got my reservation.

WILLER Express
WILLER Express

After making my reservation, it’s time to prepare the things needed for this major climb. Most of my things were bought by my mother, totally my first time to organize my stuff with Mama. Yes, when I was in the Philippines, I was used to doing things on my own. Please do not misinterpret the statement, I am really happy that I am now living with my family. Who wouldn’t want mother’s care? ♥

Mother knows best. ♥
                            Mother knows best. ♥

I brought the usual essentials for mountain climbing such as the following:

1.5L of water toothbrush and toothpaste bonnet
500ml of Pocari Sweat waterproof bag for my phone      (it might rain) small towel
trail food power bank gloves
wet wipes sunblock jacket
soap hat extra pair of clothes & socks

For capturing memories, I have my three years old iPhone4S, Instax Mini8 and Go Pro Hero 4S.

I wasn’t able to bring my hiking stuffs from the Philippines, so we took advantage of Willer Express Gear Rentals. It includes waterproof Berghaus hiking bag, hiking shoes, headlamp with extra set of batteries, two ski poles and rainwear.

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Gear Rentals 

As much as possible I plan to pack light during this climb to avoid too much exhaustion.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?

Aside from planning, it is also very important to know what to wear during hiking. Back then, as long as I am comfortable, it won’t matter. 

However, climbing a mountain as high as 3,776 meters or 12,380 feet is alarming. I am supposed to be ready but I still ended up wearing leggings, t-shirt, hoodie, gloves, bonnet, and an extra leggings and socks to wear for the night. Plus the rain wear I rented, in case of rain and strong wind.

Ideally, you should consider the following:

  1. Various layers of clothing since the temperature on the summit is close to the freezing point. 
  2. If rain occurs, I personally don’t advised umbrella. It’s useless. Rainwear is a lot better to keep you dry and warm too.
  3. To keep you warm, do not forget your gloves, bonnet and scarf.
  4. You can also bring head wear for safety due to falling rocks.
  5. Most importantly, please use a durable shoes. 

DAY 1 OF MT. FUJI CLIMB (September 12, 2015) 

Before I do something or go somewhere, I make sure I made my own research of what to expect. I have read few blogs narrating that they were not able to see the sunrise due to bad weather, and I am really good at overthinking. For one month, I prayed for good weather and strength to survive. I was so excited, I didn’t get much sleep. I am supposed to wake up at 4:30 am, and I was up an hour early.

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J A P A N by Fodor’s

I’ve got the most caring mother, and the sweetest father.

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He woke up early to take me to the meeting place in Shinjuku. We left the house around 5:15 am because we have to be in Sumitomo Building at 7 am. Good thing we left early, train schedules were messed up due to earthquake around 5:50 am. If you noticed, I didn’t mention any breakfast, I am really controlling my bowel movements.

From Shinjuku, it will take a ten minutes’ walk to Sumitomo Building.

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Finally, we arrived around 7:10 am.

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Sumitomo Building

As I checked – in, I was given a piece of paper indicating my bus number, which was 3. Before I proceed in getting my rentals, I said goodbye to Papa and ask him not to worry because I’ll be home tomorrow.

Let the adventure begins. 

On the other room, I was instructed to approach the marshals in yellow vest to claim my rentals. Even though there are a lot of guests, in a minute or two, I was attended already. They provided my gear rentals and asked me to check it. All of the items turned out to be in good quality and clean.

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While transferring my stuffs, I was already seated beside Hune Lin Liu. She’s a student from Taiwan, who is currently studying here in Tokyo. We looked for the assigned bus and was hoping to seat beside each other. However, we were the last to get inside, so I ended up sitting beside a guy from Germany. I hesitated to start a conversation, since I am so nervous about the whole trip. Seriously, I can’t imagine myself climbing with foreigners, but I know I can take advantage of the English language.

We left Shinjuku before 8 am and I can say that all seats for Bus #3 was taken. My eyes were too observant, I can see participants from different countries.

To start the trip, our bus tour guide introduced himself as Ritsu Orihara. He has been a tour guide for Mt. Fuji for two years, I cannot imagine how many times he climbed their tallest mountain. He has the capabilities of a professional mountaineer and he really can converse in English.

On our way to the 5th Station, he even talked to us one by one. He made rapport to everyone. As I made my turn, I told him that I am from the Philippines, however my family is here and my father is a Japanese so I am staying for good. He was very grateful and has a big smile on his face, saying “Thank you for staying.” I appreciate all his efforts, we all know how Japan needs to boost their young generation.

Moreover, we were given reminders such as the following:

  • bring at least 1.5L of water
  • upon reaching Mt. Fuji all trashes must be kept on our own since there are no garbage bins at the mountain
  • commodes are available in every station but make sure to keep ¥100 coins handy for tip
  • food and drinks are available in every station however it will be pricey

Welcome to Mt. Fuji, A World Heritage Site!

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Our initial view.

It took us three hours to reach the 5th Station, including a 20 minutes stop over. We were still inside the bus, and the view was totally breathtaking! At first I hesitated to take pictures but I can’t contain the urge, so I made a few shots. And that’s when Mr. Germany and I, started a small talk. I’m sorry I forgot his name. He asked what my camera was, and I told him it was Go Pro, an action camera you can use for outdoor activities. He told me that this was his first climb, and he mentioned we were both lucky for a good weather. I totally agree.

Finally at the 5th Station (2,305m) by 11 am. It was a special holiday weekend for the Japanese, and I can say that Mt. Fuji was jam-packed.

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5th Station (2,305m)

We were given an hour to eat lunch, go to the rest room and rent a locker if we need to leave some stuff. We were dropped off at Komitake Building. First floor served as the souvenir shop, diner at the second floor and lockers available at the third floor for only ¥300. I leave my backpack and shoes, making my bag lighter. One of Hune Lin Lius friend approached me if she can leave her shoes and I said yes, since I got more space. She handed ¥150 in exchange. I guess we both want to save some bucks.

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Hashtag Selfie. Hashtag Half Face.

At 12 noon, we all meet at the center of 5th Station (Bay D). All along I thought it was only Ritsu who will guide us, however we have additional tour guides and they were Ishida Motoyuki and Yasuko Kitahara. We had some stretching and short briefing of what to expect, do’s and don’ts.

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All of them were speaking English, it wouldn’t be so hard to communicate if needed.

Since there were a lot of guests, we were given a badge attached to our shoes and a green fish bag tag indicating we were from Willer Express. In that case, it will be easy for us to acknowledge our group. Instructions were made very clear. They mentioned that the climb usually take 6 hours to 8th station, however guests that weekend were tripled so it might take a little longer.

They assured us that food and drinks were available in some parts of the trail. Same situation applies with restrooms. On the other hand, the higher we climb, the pricier it gets. For example, restrooms in 5th Station costs ¥100, while in 6th to 8th station it will costs ¥200, and at the summit it will be ¥300.

While discerning my environment, I can see participants from all walks of life – there were group of exchange students, couples, families and surprisingly, there were some adult in their late 50’s/60’s.

For safety purposes, they informed us that we should not hesitate to inform them how we are feeling. Climbing Mt. Fuji can still be dangerous because of the weather condition. The weather can be different in every station, simply expect the worst but stay cautious. If in case someone cannot pursue the climb, they can stay at one of the lodgings in 7th Station and meet us the next day at the 5th Station. Trails are properly identified, no need to worry of getting lost.

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Shoe Selfie, my best friend during climb.

We all know that listening to instructions is very important. It’s not just about my safety, but for everyone I am with during this climb. We have to be responsible enough to follow the rules and respect their culture.

Mt. Fuji is named for the Buddhist fire goddess Fuchi and is sacred to the Shinto goddess Sengen-Sama, whose shrine is found at the summit.

It is the holiest of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains.”

Although especially important to Shintoists, Fuji is also sacred to Japanese Buddhists,

who revere the mountain is a gateway to another world.

Deep inside, I am excited and fidgety at the same time.

Inhale, Exhale.

I can do this with Him. 

In this journey I learned that we all need sometime alone to think and reflect on our own.

We were asked to fall in line. All tour guides were dispersed, Yasuko was in front of the line, Ritsu was at the middle & always does his headcount from time to time and lastly, Ishida or “Gen” at the tail of the line.

We started climbing around 12:35 pm.

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Yellow for Yoshida Trail. Go #TeamRitsu!

There are 4 different trails that lead you up to the summit of Mt. Fuji.

  • Yoshida Trail (Yamanashi Prefecture) – most popular; best route to take for climbers with zero experience
  • Fujinomiya Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture) – shortest distance to the summit.
  • Subashiri Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture) – suited for more experienced hikers
  • Gotemba Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture) – most difficult route

At first, the weather was quite tolerable. I remembered applying sunblock as advised by Kuya Eric, and since I am buddy with Hune Lin Liu, I offered the lotion. My hoodie didn’t have any closed pockets so I asked her to keep it, so we can reapply easily. Yay! Big thanks, Darling! ♥

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w/ Hune Lin Liu

After almost an hour of walking, we reached the 6th Station, where the ascending and descending trail meets. It was foggy and cold, but I can still manage.

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However, we were told that we might reach 7th Station in 2 – 3 hours and there will be no restrooms available along the trail.

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Portable restrooms costs ¥200. Please be reminded that no one will collect fees from using the restrooms. You have to drop the coins at the tip box. As I go inside, it was totally smelly but no litters around. I guess everyone was disciplined enough to follow rules.

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As we continue hiking, trail gets steeper and busier.

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The mighty sun says “Hi” to everyone.

It was getting hotter and I don’t want my usage of Koji soap into waste! So, I didn’t removed my hoodie. If you noticed, I didn’t eat much but I drink a lot. Along the trail, I already finished 500 ml of Pocari Sweat.

Here are some photos showing how ‘konderu’ it was during that day. 

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konderu (混んでいる) means crowded

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As we walked along the sides of Mt. Fuji, we were in awe of the sea of clouds

on our way to the 7th Station.

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It was beautiful and breathtaking.

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Hiking Buddies!

Since it was the last week of hiking season for September, they were expecting thousands of hikers that weekend. Everyone had a smile on their faces, I think we were all excited to reach the 8th station and take a rest.

We walked continuously and I took a drink once in awhile. The water was cold and refreshing. I noticed I am having dried lips, good thing I have my lip balm. 

We reached 7th Station (2,700m) around 4 pm and I was already gasping of air. I made some deep breathing exercisesThe higher we climb, the air becomes thinner. 

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Meet Ishida Motoyuki and  Yasuko Kitahara.

I kept on telling myself “I can do this”. I am thankful I found a good company. They were really nice, including the tour guides who constantly checked on our condition.

Be reminded to replenish with water and few snacks to have enough strength. I was indeed challenged with this climb, aside from the altitude, I was struggling with the cold temperature.

“Gambarimasu” Team Ritsu!

I saw Mr. Germany, and I did not hesitate to take the available seat beside him. We made a small talk. He told me that the pace was too slow, due to traffic jam of climbers. Oh snap! It was absolutely all right for me, on the other hand, it will take us longer hours to reach the top.

Since I drink a lot, goodbye ¥200.

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This restroom was way better than the portable ones in 6th Station, it has flush available and supply of tissue. As advised, we can flush after a few use, since the water supply is limited at the mountain.

At the  7th Station, around 2,900m, you will see the red Torii-gate as the land mark of Torii-So.

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Torii-So at 2,900m

Before we continue walking, our tour guides reminded us that the trail to 8th Station will be harder, steeper and more challenging. Again, I told my inner self to stay calm and be cautious.

Aja! I can do this.

We resumed walking and I bumped into some Malaysian folks. We had a good small talk about mountains and my previous visit in Kuala Lumpur. As much as I would like to join them walking, I needed some rest, so I let them get ahead of me. I found Hune Lin Liu and we walked side by side. She was so kind, and I am very grateful.

I did not noticed I was already walking with Gen and the lady from India. Again, I forgot her name. My bad.

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4 Asians in 1 Photo

Gen from Japan, Lady from India, Hune from Taiwan and yours truly from the

beautiful island of the Philippines.

This photo was taken at 6 pm and we were half way through the 8th Station. 

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My legs were already tired from walking. I remember the lady from India sharing her jacket because I was already shaking. It was a cold, windy night. Participants from Team Ritsu continue their hike, while six of us took a 10-15 minutes rest while waiting for Gen, he was assisting last few hikers from the group.

Aside from my short legs, I am not used to cold weather.

I told myself, ‘Challenge Accepted’.

As soon as he arrived, we continue walking. Gen kept on telling us to walk slowly and perform deep breathing. I saw his heavy hiking bag, but he can still smile and cheer for everyone. He was very kind and considerate. I walked with him so I can push myself to continue.

I had no pictures for the night. Priority: Safety.

We reached the 8th Station First Aid area around 7 pm. Unfortunately, we have to leave some of the members of #TeamRitsu.

7 hours of walking amidst the moody weather, was no joke at all. 

We were just 300 meters away from our mountain lodge. I walked hand in hand with Gen and it was like hiking with your personal coach. He taught of deep breathing and lend me another jacket. We had few small talks, I am not sure if he had been or he wanted to visit Cebu. Little did I know, we were already at Hon-Hachigome Tomoe-kan (本八合目トモエ館). Without his help, I couldn’t make it. I was also grateful, I did not experience altitude sickness.

If you are planning to hike Mt. Fuji next season, you should make your reservation ahead of time. Most of the mountain huts turned out to be full during the crowded season.

For the list of mountain huts, please click here.

We arrived at Tomoe-kan (3,400m) at 8:15 pm. We took some rest until we were called for dinner. I had no picture of the food, but it was hamburger-topped curry and rice. I wasn’t able to finish everything but it was delicious.

They can accommodate up to 250 guests with their bunk beds, with Japanese futon or sleeping bags. If you are hungry, you need not to worry because they are also serving dinner and breakfast for hikers. At the entrance of their hut, you will also see that they are selling noodles, water, energy drink, chocolates, chips, souvenirs and post cards.

These photos from Official Travel Guide Yamanashi were the exact place were I slept with international strangers turned new friends.

Tomoe-kan 2 Tomoe-kan

Hon-Hachigome Tomoe-kan (本八合目トモエ館)

I forgot to mention that you can buy Mt. Fuji stick that will serve as your pole. In each station, you can have stamps on it for ¥300-600. 

fs stick

I am lying comfortably on my Japanese futon at 9:30 pm, while charging my gadgets. FYI, WiFi signal was excellent at Mt. Fuji. I wanted to sleep but my head can’t stop thinking of the sunrise.

DAY 2 OF MT. FUJI CLIMB (September 13, 2015) 

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I woke up around 1 am, it was very cold and immediately went to the restroom. Goodbye ¥200. 

We were supposed to climb the summit at 2:30 am to witness the sunrise at 5 am, but they rescheduled it to 3:30 am due to strong winds. I got cough and colds already.

The long wait is over, sunrise at 5:20 am.

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It was indeed one of the best Sunday Morning I had.

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Meet the Sun and Moon in one picture.

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Goraiko (ご来光) means Sunrise.

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Go has the meaning of politeness and respect. Rai means coming. Ko means light.

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Words are not enough to describe how beautiful you are. 

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My 8th Mountain for my 24th Year of Existence. 

Despite the challenges of this climb, I am still grateful for the opportunity and the people around me. I felt like I am a new person facing a new world and starting a new beginning. My decision to live away from the things and people I am used to will be hard and entails a lot of adjustments, but to live with my family is the greatest.

Last night, our tour guide informed us that we can walk around the crater of Fuji-san for an additional ¥500. 

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However, the weather wasn’t that good after the sunrise contradicting the forecast above. There was strong winds and mild rain.

Before we begin the descent, we had a sumptuous breakfast.

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Gomoku Rice. Salmon. Tamago. All for Mt. Fuji Breakfast.

According to Ed Viesturs, “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory”. I guess no matter how great things turned out to be, we still have to go down and face our own mountain.

We left 8th Station at 8 am. If you think you were strong enough to ascend this mountain, going down was a lot more challenging! It was slippery with pebbles, wind gets colder and stronger with rain. Honestly, this was the the worst part.

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One and Only Photo while descending Mt. Fuji.

I descended the mountain from 8 am to 12:50 pm. I heard myself praying a lot of times, praying for the strong winds to stop. It didn’t stop, even the rain continues to fall and I have to continue despite these challenges. Just like in reality, you don’t let your problems stop you.

We were supposed to meet at Komitake Building at 12 noon. During that time, the Indian lady and I, were still at the 6th Station. I am already exhausted and crying of pain, it was very cold and my body was shaking. Gen and Yasuko, tried their best to assist me while walking. While holding my legs, Gen performed few massage and I can’t help but cry. He knew I am in pain. I saw him talking to some security officials and that’s when he told us that someone will take us to the 5th Station. I don’t know what to say, I am so thankful for this man. I couldn’t make it without him. 

We were late for an hour and felt so sorry for the inconvenience. Again, I am seated beside Mr. Germany, he asked me where I had been and I told him what happened. They arrived at the 5th Station at 11 am and took all the time to rest while waiting for us. This time I did not hesitate to thank everyone.

We left 5th Station at 1 pm and arrived at the Kawaguchiko Lake at 2 pm. We have our option to try ‘onsen’ or rest inside the bus. I chose the latter. I took some rest and arrange my stuffs. No worries, I got my things from the rented locker. We returned the gear rentals at 3:15 pm.

Finally! We reached Shinjuku at 8 pm, it was traffic at the expressway.

That was long, but hey if you reached this part,

THANK YOU FOR READING, I APPRECIATE IT! ♥

Learning doesn’t stop inside the four walls of your classroom, it is a continuous process. I am already 24, and I am still learning a lot in various aspects. Once in a while, you have to do something new, something that will challenge yourself. We all have our own mountain to conquer, each path might be different but it will be worth it. I don’t pray for an easy climb or life, I pray for the strength to carry on no matter how hard, how high it will be.

We’re not cats, we have one life to live, so make it worthwhile.

Reach what you aim to be and I wish you the best. 

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Post Climb Selfie

It was indeed a very memorable weekend and birthday, at

Japan’s Tallest mountain, Mt. Fuji.

“24 Hours in Mt. Fuji for my 24th Year of Existence”

Again, I am forever grateful for the gift of life. 

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