I am no stranger to hiking. I have backpacked through mountains in southern France, hauled myself up cables during the night to watch the sunrise from Yosemite’s Half Dome, climbed dozens of other various sized mountains and tried my hand at other types of long distance hiking. Therefore, I was not worried about Mount Fuji, the mountain that has always been touted as the mountain anyone can climb. I heard the mountain gets so congested with hikers that most of the time taken to go up the mountain is spent waiting in line behind all the other eager hikers looking for a decent view of Japan. I heard there were lodges and bathrooms on the mountain, which is pretty absurd for anyone who has climbed less touristy mountains. How hard could it be?
The view from the bus on the ride up to the Fifth Station was spectacular. I could almost forget that one jerk of the wheel or nudge from an oncoming car would send me and 16 other JETs plummeting to our deaths. The clouds stretched out below us like snow, except for the patches brown and gray of the cities below. I had never been so high up in anything but an airplane. If we were so far up Mount Fuji, how much was really left to climb?
The fifth station was a quaint little area. There was a large wooden lodge with the clouds as a backdrop and a cluster of restaurants and gift shops set in a semicircle. By the time we stepped out of the bus after a long ride from Fukushima City, Koriyama and Iwaki, the sun was already beginning to set.
“That’s not what we are climbing, is it?” One friend pointed to a small, brown mountain that rose behind a gift shop opposite of the setting sun. “No, no, that can’t be it. Maybe it’s behind that?” We spent the next several minutes debating whether that was the mountain we would climb or if the real mountain was hidden behind it. The mountain we were discussing looked like we could get up it in an hour or so, not the estimated 5-7 hours. We laughed about it and decided we should get a few bottles of sake as a victory drink for the summit.
We had some time before the hike, so we bought some Fuji walking sticks. I didn’t want one, but my incredible boyfriend luckily insisted on buying me one, which turned out to be a very useful investment. Whether you have your own walking stick or buy a Fuji one (1,000 – 1,300 yen) and get it stamped along the way (200 – 300 yen per stamp at various stations), I highly recommend it! It saved my ass several times going up and down the mountain. Read more
Spring is in the air! And despite Japan’s claims of it’s four unique seasons… we all know thtat spring lasts all of a month before the bugs and the humidity and the heat of summer is upon us. Let’s make the most of this while we can and get our hiking on! How? With these awesome FuJET events! Everyone is free to join us for the Oze National Park and Mt. Bandai hikes. Mt. Fuji will require reservation (details on Fuji to follow soon!).
We’ll take the Happodai Trail (八方台) to the mountain’s peak and get a great view of the recently planted rice fields all over the Aizu valley. We’ll leave early in the morning and for more information, check out the event page or send an email to email@example.com! We’ll end the day with a nice onsen at Aizuwakamatsu Station’s Fuji no Yu! (Their sauce katsu is amazing)
Japan’s 29th National Park, Oze, spreads across four different prefecture– Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, and Niigata. The Oze hike is a bit more difficult than Bandai but arguable more rewarding, in the middle of pristine Japanese nature. If you have any questions, please again– ask them and we’ll do our best to answer them ASAP! Just drop us a message at our Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Height: 1816m Date: Saturday, June 14th, 2014 Start Time: 9am Ascent: 2 hours Descent: 1 hour Description: Mt Bandai is a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1888. Before that eruption, it had a conical shape, which earned it the nickname of Mt Fuji of Fukushima. Due to the eruption, the mountain now has a double peak and many surrounding multi-coloured volcanic lakes (Goshikinuma). Don’t miss out on climbing Fukushima’s most famous mountain! RSVP: Not required! Just click “going” on the Facebook event page! Cost: Free! However, please pitch in for gas money if you accept a ride from another climber. Facebook Event Page
Height: 2356m Date: Saturday, June 28th, 2014 Start Time: 7am Ascent: 3.5-5 hours Descent: 2.5-3.5 hours Description: Part of a huge national park deep in the countryside of Minami Aizu, Oze is famous for its beautiful natural scenery and highland marshes. The hike is characterized by steep climbs interspersed with flat marshy plateaus. Be sure to look for Oze’s famous white flower, misobasho (“Japanese skunk cabbage”) which is rare elsewhere in the country, but plentiful in Oze. RSVP: Not required! Just click “going” on the Facebook event page! Cost: Free! However, please pitch in for gas money if you accept a ride from another climber. Facebook Event Page
Height: 3776m Date: Saturday, July 12th, 2014 Start Time: 7pm Ascent: 4-8 hours Descent: 2-4 hours Description: A world-famous Japanese landmark, Mt Fuji has recently become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Climbs have become more restricted with higher entrance fees in order to reduce the impact of visitors on the mountain, but it is still well worth the climb to be able to cross it off your bucket list. What better way to experience Japan than to watch the sunrise from the peak of Mt Fuji? Remember, you’d be crazy to climb Fuji twice, but you’d be crazy to not climb it at all! RSVP: Required! Please email FuJET at email@example.com as soon as possible to reserve your spot! Cost: Approximately 13,000yen for transportation and climbing fees. Facebook Event Page
You can never be too prepared to climb a mountain! Here is a list of some essential gear:
Hiking boots – You will need a good pair in order to tackle these mountains. Good ankle support and traction for the rocky slopes is necessary.
Warm clothing – While the bottom of the mountain may be shorts-and-Tshirt-weather, the top of the mountain can drop up to twenty degrees. Particularly the peak of Mt Fuji can drop below zero even in July. It is best to dress in layers, and put on more layers as you climb, and take off layers as you descend. IN PREVIOUS YEARS, CLIMBERS ON THE FUJET TRIP CAME DOWN WITH HYPOTHERMIA DUE TO LACK OF WARM CLOTHING AND HAD TO BE HELPED DOWN THE MOUNTAIN BY RESCUE SERVICES! MAKE SURE TO DRESS WARMLY!!
Backpack – Bring a comfortable pack to carry all your gear. Remember Goldilocks, and keep your pack not too big, not too small, but juuuust right.
Gloves – There are certain steep sections of the climb that will require you to use your hands. Bring a good pair of work gloves to help you out. Also, it can get cold on the top of the mountain, so save your fingers from the chill!
Hat – It gets cold on the climb, so bring a hat to protect your head from the weather!
Water bottles – That’s right, multiple water bottles. It is vitally important to keep hydrated on your climb. I find it better to bring multiple smaller PET bottles, and crush the empties to save space in my pack.
Rain gear – The FuJET climbs will go on, rain or shine, so prepare for inclement weather by bringing a rainjacket, rain pants, and a waterproof hat or hood. There’s nothing worse than being caught in a sudden rainstorm and having to climb the rest of the mountain soaking wet, so be prepared! You will need your hands for the climb, so umbrellas are not recommended. Also consider gaiters to protect your pants from the mud.
Sunscreen and Sunglasses – Conversely, if we’re lucky, we will have beautiful sunny weather for all our climbs! Be prepared with sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself! Remember that even sunny weather can get cold at the top of the mountain though, so still DRESS WARMLY!
Headlamp – Particularly for Mt. Fuji, we will be climbing throughout the night, and you will need your hands free, so a headlamp is necessary. Last year during the Mt. Oze climb it was also getting dark by the end, so it would be helpful to bring in case of delay on the descent.
Towel – Wipe that sweat off and keep your neck dry with a towel.
Food – These climbs will be long and will take all day or all night. Supplies are limited on the mountain, so bring your own lunch and snacks to keep you going.
Garbage bags – Don’t leave your trash on the mountain! Bring it down with you! Garbage bags can also double for a seat if you don’t want to get your butt dirty sitting in the mud.
Wet Wipes and Tissues – Incredibly useful throughout the climb, as there usually won’t be running water to wash your hands.
Extra Socks – Keep your feet warm and dry with an extra pair of socks.
Coins – On Mt. Fuji, the washrooms cost a few hundred yen to use. Don’t be caught in the lurch! Make sure to bring enough change!
Hiking poles (optional) – Particularly for Mt. Fuji, it can be a great help to bring along some hiking poles. You can also buy a wooden pole at the 5th station to get commemorative stamps at each of the stations for that unique souvenir.
Oxygen Canister (optional) – Altitude sickness can be a problem for some climbers, particularly those with low blood pressure. Small canisters of oxygen can be bought at the 5th station to combat this, but the only reliable way to fight altitude sickness is to take frequent breaks to adjust to the altitude, and to climb down if symptoms persist.
A Change of Clothes – Bring a change of clothes for the onsen after the hike! No one wants to change back into their sweating hiking clothes after visiting an onsen!
Camera – Make sure to capture your experience for all time! Pics or it didn’t happen!
As part of a training run leading up to the Mount Fuji climb, a group of us FuJETs climbed Mount Hiuchigatake in Oze National Park. Oze is a beautiful nature park located in Minami-Aizu, as far southeast as you can get and still be in Fukushima prefecture.