To climb the symbol of Japan, the beautifully shaped Mt. Fuji, was my dream for several years. Mt. Fuji is has been the most sacred Japanese mountain for centuries. Unlike the Europeans in Middle Ages who were afraid to climb high mountains, ancient Japanese people make pilgrimages to the summit of Mt. Fuji for at least last one thousand years. The first known ascent of Mount Fuji was by a monk in 663. This symmetric, graceful conical and usually snow capped volcano became famous throughout the world and is considered the sacred symbol of Japan. Thanks, to a great extent, to the ingenious 19th Century painter Hokusai. His famous wood-print painting Great Wave, depicting boats fighting against giants waves with Mt. Fuji at the back, is part of the series Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji.

Hokusai great wave Fuji

Famous Great Wave by Japanese painter Hokusai

Mt. Fuji is open to public only two months a year, in the summer. If you wish to climb it, you have to come to Japan in July or August, the hottest and most humid season. My luck came in July two years ago, when I was invited by my Japanese friends to join their annual trip to the volcano top.

Japan Fuji

Sunny weather held the whole day

I was given a lot of instructions what to wear and bring with me, which I light-headily didn’t listen to. Partially, it payed-off, partially it backfired on me. The main worry was about the weather. It will be sunny at the foot of the mountain, raining during the way up and very cold and windy at the top, everybody was saying. Well, I guess, we were really lucky because it was a sunny day with beautiful blue sky stretching to the horizon all the way up and down again.

Mt. Fuji

A tractor slowly climbing the slope of Mt. Fuji

The various paths leading to the peak are not difficult. At least not technically. It is more walking than climbing. The real challenge is the increasing altitude. Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan towering 3,776 meters above sea level. It was my first experience with high altitude hiking and it hadn’t been that easy. I was soon breathing heavily as an old steam locomotive. My legs became felt like made from lead and I yawning every few steps with the only desire to lay down and sleeeep…

Experiencing these unpleasant syndromes, it felt like from another planet to meet fresh looking athletes running up the top and back. Yes, running! There is an official race The Summit Course which is a 21K race from the City Hall of Fujiyoshida to the Peak of Mt Fuji. The race starts at an elevation of 770 meters and finishes at an elevation of 3,776 meters which is the elevation of the peak of Mt Fuji. The cut-off time at the Finish Line (Peak) is 4:30 hours. Well, next time, maybe…

Mt. Fuji runners

Mt. Fuji runners having a short break…

The view from the top was absolutely amazing! It felt like the true seat of gods. The crater’s diameter is 500 m and depth 250 m. On its rim you can find simple dormitories where you can spend a night and enjoy the beauty of the morning sunrise. You can even find there a monastery with monks and a real post office where you can send a postcard home!

Mt. Fuji

At the summit of Mt. Fuji, finally…

It was a great experience, which exceeded all my expectations. And I hope to climb to Mt. Fuji again in the near future…