Mount Fuji or Fujisan is Japan’s highest mountain. The peak lies at 3776 meters which translates to 12,388ft. Its conical form, often snow-capped can be seen from both Tokyo and Yokohama providing of course the weather is clear. The shape is the clue, because Fuji, the Spiritual Mountain is a volcano. The last eruption was in 1708 so we can safely say Mount Fuji is presently dormant.
For the traveler who is perhaps using Japan as a stop over on a flight from either the US or Europe to Australasia time is probably in short supply. However, your stop-over will probably act as a foretaste of this incredible land of rugged terrain and rocky coasts, and not forgetting the fact that Japan is one of the few places in the world that enjoys four seasons. The easiest way to catch a good glimpse of the mountain is to take a train from Tokyo to Osaka. The Tokado line runs from the capita to Osaka via Nagoya and Kyoto; all places worth visiting during your stay in Japan. Approximately 45minutes after leaving Tokyo the train comes to Shin-Fuji station. This is the place to take photographs, so be sure you are on the right hand side of the carriage in order to see the towering, often snow capped peak of Japan’s premier mountain. Japanese trains are fast and efficient so the stop at Shin-Fuji will be brief and you will need to be quick in order to get your photographs. Unfortunately, too, the view can frequently be marred or even obscured by haze or cloud cover. this is especially so during the warm summer months, so maybe the best time to visit is the winter!
However, for those with more time, head out of Tokyo to the Fuji Five Lake Region that hugs the lower reaches of the mountain at an altitude of 3500 ft. This is a good base for climbing the mountain. To benefit from better weather conditions this is best done during the summer months of July and August.
Another alternative is to proceed to the hot spa resort of Hakone. Hakone is a favorite getaway spot from the hurly burly of bustling Tokyo, so expect the town to full at week-ends and during holiday time. From this lovely place with its lakeside setting you will get breath-taking glimpses of the upper reaches of a mountain that has inspired artists and sages over the centuries. If you want to go to the top, there is a motor road that goes half way up so you don’t need to get into training before heading off to Japan. Oh, yes, the best time to visit Hakone and the 5 Lake Region is during the month of June when the hydrangeas are in bloom, enjoy your trip!
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Some quick facts about Mt Fuji include that it is 3776 metres (12290 feet) high, approximately 161km (100 miles) south-west of Tokyo and that the last eruption of Mount Fuji was about 300 years ago, in 1707.
The busiest time to visit the mountain is July, when with Japanese schools have their holidays, however about a third of all climbers are foreigners. The snow capped pinnacle can quite treacherous outside of these months with freezing temperatures, avalanches and strong winds. When the snow melts in warmer weather it more resembles a lunar landscape covered with black volcanic rock.
Although many people have seen the well known photograph of Mount Fuji with the shinkansen bullet train barrelling through the fields in the foreground, perhaps the easiest and best way to get to Mt Fuji from Tokyo is by bus which only takes a few hours. The highway bus departs from Shinjuku station, however you may need to change buses at Kawaguchiko station. The official climbing season runs from July to August and crowds of young and old make the ascent each day. During this period there are around 15 buses each day leaving from Shinjuku in Tokyo. At other times transport can be limited and climbing Mt Fuji is not recommended anyway.
Even in the summer high season it is important you prepare for climbing Mt Fuji properly. Climbing experience is not required and you will see many small children and elderly folk along the way. Good study shoes, some water and energy snacks are a must, along with a raincoat, torch, hat and warm clothing if you intend to hike at night. Even in the warmer months the temperatures at the top can drop to around 6°C (43°F). If you are unsure about heights you may want to consider picking up some altitude sickness tablets and even some 'canned' oxygen which is available for purchase on the mountain or beforehand from stores in Tokyo like Shinjuku's Tokyu Hands.
The way up is divided into 10 stations or checkpoints. Generally visitors elect to start climbing about halfway up Mount Fuji on the Kawaguchiko trail at station 5. They arrive by bus or car and the climb takes around 7 hours to reach the summit and then another 4 to get back down again. The round trip can be completed in a very long day. Many people choose to begin their trek at nightfall and time it so they and arrive at the peak at dawn.
During July and August there are huts, toilet facilities and food stops open on the mountain in case you need to rest or take some time-out. But be warned, they can be rather pricy and a bit primitive so make sure to take a bit of cash with you too.
There is a famous Japanese saying that goes -- "You are a fool if you don't climb Mount Fuji, you are also a fool if you climb it twice."
On a clear day seeing the sunrise from this highest point in Japan is quite a breathtaking spectacle and is sure to be the highlight of your sightseeing in Japan. It's definitely a worthy side trip from Tokyo and the view from the top of Mount Fuji will be forever be etched in you mind. This is one experience that you do not want to miss on your visit to the land of the Rising Sun.
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