七転び八起き – Fall seven times and stand up eight

Climbing Mt. Fuji


The title says it all; I climbed Mt. Fuji two days ago. And honestly, words can’t quite sum up my experience, but I’ll still try my best.

I started my journey in Nagoya in the afternoon. I took a Shinkansen to Mishima (90-minute ride, one-way cost: around ¥4000, but the Shinkansen is included in the Japan Rail Pass) and that was already amazing, because I’ve never traveled by Shinkansen before (but I’ve always dreamed of it). The trains are very spacious and comfortable and you hardly feel a thing as you speed through Japans beautiful scenery. From Mishima I took the Fuji Kyuko Bus to Kawaguchiko Station (one-hour ride, one-way cost: ¥2100) and from there I took another bus to Mt. Fuji’s fifth station (55-minute ride, round trip cost: ¥2100). It was in this bus where I found my first new friends. A couple of women who also planned to hike up Mt. Fuji at night. We quickly agreed to leave the fifth station early and hike up the mountain together.

At the fifth station I bought myself the token Mt. Fuji walking stick (middle-size, cost: ¥1300) and I paid the entry prize for Mt. Fuji, which is ¥1000. So why do I keep writing about the costs so much? Because my budget is around ¥2600 a day and this trip fucking blew it. Mt. Fuji is so expensive and I wasn’t prepared for the costs, so I want to write about it, to hopefully prepare some future mountaineers.

And so our trip started at 8pm. Oh boy. We took the Yoshida trail up the mountain, which is said to be the easiest trail and the most manageable. The sun had already set (so be sure to bring a headlight or else you’ll see nothing!) and since there weren’t any trees, we had a beautiful view over Kawaguchiko and Fuji-san City at night. We arrived at the sixth station after an hour and were pretty pleased with ourselves, because it seemed easy and it wasn’t cold. We were such idiots. After the sixth station the trails curves slightly and you’re confronted with the first stairs and that’s when you realize that you’ve made a big mistake. At the sixth station I also got my first stamp for my walking stick, which cost ¥300.

It took us around 80 minutes, I think, to reach the seventh station and that’s when I started freezing. I bought myself some gloves for ¥300 and the others bought themselves something to eat and we sat inside the station for a while to warm up. Problem: I didn’t buy myself something to eat, so they kicked me out of the station (it was really expensive, even drinks cost around ¥600, and I wasn’t even hungry). I told the others that I would wait outside, but I started shivering and freezing and they sure did take their time to eat, so I ditched them (because I’m an asshole) and joined two dudes from Belgium instead. Their names were Abdil and Frédéric and we hit it off instantly.

Abdil, Fred and I steadily climbed up to the eight station, which took us a lot of time and I spent around ¥1000 for more stamps. The trail from the seventh to the eighth station was the worst. It reminded me more of free climbing than of hiking. So if you decide to climb Mt. Fuji, be sure that don’t pack too much stuff, so that you’ll be able to climb as well. I did kind of regret buying my walking stick at that point, but it was manageable.

When we arrived at the eighth station we were exhausted. Fred was the fittest of our group and he went ahead of us, with me closely behind him and Abdil falling behind us. At every mountain hut Fred would wait for Abdil and me before continuing. By this point I realized that it was a good idea to join them, because our pacing fit well together and we had a good chemistry and that’s important when you climb a mountain that’s nearly 4000m tall.

The climb to the ninth station took forever. Abdil fell behind more and more and I didn’t feel my toes anymore because of the cold. At some point we were so exhausted that we decided to spent some money on food (even though we had brought plenty ourselves) to rest inside a hut for a while. We got ourselves some instant corn soup in a plastic cup, which cost around ¥500, and were allowed to sit down inside for 15 minutes (but they didn’t close the door so it was still pretty cold). Abdil took a short 15-minute nap and Fred gave me one of his hoodies, because I had already put on all of my prepared clothes but was still cold. He even gave me one of his spare pants, but I didn’t fit into them because he’s got thin legs like a chicken unlike me.

It was already 4am when our short break ended and the sun would rise at 5am, so we had fight our way up the last part of the trail to make it in time. And boy did we fight. Fred sprinted ahead and I could only concentrate only on the next step. Abdil and I stayed together for a long time, but at some point he just sat down and hugged his backpack and told me to go on without him, which I did (again, because I am an asshole).

I was alone and could already see the summit at this point. People were queuing at this point, because everybody wanted to reach the summit for the sunrise. 200m before reaching the top, there was already staff telling everybody “another 200m! If you continue now without stopping, you’ll reach the summit in time for sunrise! Fight on! It’s just another 30 minutes! You’ll make it!” All I could think about was how wonderful a hot shower would feel like. I was still another 100m away from the summit when the first sunrise lights illuminated the sky in a red color and I thought to myself: “no. I didn’t climb this mountain for nine hours to give up 100m before reaching the top” and so I rushed up the last part of the trail and reached the gate to the summit. I sat down there, took out my camera and that’s exactly when the sunrise began. That’s also when I started crying. After three years I had finally returned to Japan and after half a year of planning and preparing, I, a tiny weak asthmatic nerd, actually climbed Mt. Fuji. It hit me hard and I silently cried as I watched the sunrise.

After the sunrise I looked for Fred at the summit and found him after a couple of minutes. We grinned like to complete idiots and hugged. We made it. We continued to stand at the railing for some time to watch the sky turn blue slowly and after another 20 minutes or so, Abdil joined us as well. We also hugged and laughed and took a lot of pictures. After Abdil the women from my first group arrived as well and we also happily and proudly smiled at each other.

I got myself the special sunrise stamp for my walking stick (¥400) and we looked at the volcano crater. With the first beams of sun, it instantly became warmer, which was such a relief, because my whole body was shaking and my finger tips had already turned blue.

We didn’t stay at the summit for long and we also didn’t walk around the crater (which would take more than an hour), because we were all so drained and exhausted. Abdil, Fred and I returned to the fifth station. The downwards trail is different from the upwards trail and it took us four hours to get down. The way down is a slippery slope and I tripped and fell two times. At 10am we arrived at the fifth station. We quickly bought ourselves some food and took the bus back to Kawaguchiko. The guys fell asleep instantly, but strangely I wasn’t that tired.

Our ways parted in Kawaguchiko, but we agreed to stay in touch and joked about meeting in Japan every year from now on to climb Mt. Fuji. It may have been exhausting, but seeing the sun rise over Japan was worth it. I’ll probably do it again in the future. Because I am an idiot.


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