“He Who Climbs Fuji is a Wise Man”
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A wise old man in some corner of Japan once said, “He who climbs Fuji is a wise man. He who climbs twice is a fool.” It’s been almost one year since I myself made the ascent up Japan’s highest peak, and perhaps it is my foolish intention to reach the summit again this August.
I often find myself reminiscing about this first GAJET outing after arriving in Japan. With my surroundings still fresh and new, and many faces yet to meet, I set off on what proved to be one of the best events of the past year! The friendships we made on this trip are still strong today and we often find Fuij stories popping up at every ALT gathering! GAJET will be running a Fuji trip this August, and if you are up for the adventure, I highly recommend joining up for this rare opportunity.
Towering at 3,776m above sea level, Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest peak and arguably the most famous and beloved mountain in Japan, popping up in artwork and postcards alike. Thousands of people summit Fuji every summer, and making it to the top of this active volcano will not only give you talking points, but earn you mad respect with your Japanese friends and colleagues.
Fuji can only be climbed until late August as weather conditions begin to deteriorate as winter approaches. The most popular way to climb is through the night with the intention of watching the sunrise from the peak in the morning. Nights on Fuji are cold and dark, but the many base stations scattered throughout the ascent offer a glimmer of hope, warmth, and bathroom breaks during the six hour hike.
Dressing appropriately is key to your success as the weather can change in an instant and the cold and wind can be relentless. Dressing in layers and slowly adding as you go is best. Rain gear is probably good to have on hand. Good hiking shoes are essential and my fellow friends with ankle problems probably want to sport some ankle supports as well. Make sure to have a good comfortable bag and strap on a head-lamp to free up your hands!
“Pace yourself. Altitude sickness sucks.”
At the starting point there are many gift shops where you can stock up on water and food, but be cautioned that you will pay extra for the convenience! The higher you go the more you will pay — I recall dropping 700 yen on cup noodles at the peak! There is absolutely no water available on the decent route and it is hot and dusty as hell, so pack accordingly. Make sure to grab a wooden walking stick and get it stamped at every base station as you go!
Pace yourself. Altitude sickness sucks. Find a climbing buddy that matches your pace and stick with them. You’ll need that ass-kicking every once in a while! And if you feel like you can’t go on, just pull up a boulder and rest your weary head.
Those last few zig-zag steps to the summit are slow and brutal. You will be tired and hungry and sore and every step will be feel like the most difficult thing you could ever do.
And when you reach the top and watch the sun peak out over the horizon, all the pain and cold and frustration you once felt will melt away. Now you can sit back and enjoy the view — you earned it after all!
Another hour’s hike and you can circle the crater, and step foot on what is technically the highest point in Japan. I vouched for 700 yen cup noodles in a crammed shelter instead, but to each their own!
The zig-zagging hot and dusty shale decent is arguably the worst part of the hike, and likely what makes you a ‘foolish sucker’ for enduring this hike a second time, knowing what you’re in for. It is not a memory I would like to recall, so let’s skip ahead to onsen, shall we?
After re-assembling in the parking lot and dragging your sore and battered body to an onsen, you will scrub and soak until you are no longer a walking red dust monster, but once again a sort-of functioning entirely exhausted human being, ready to be scared shitless on some of the craziest roller-coasters in the world at Fuji-Q Highland!
So if you feel like you are up for the challenge and for one of the most memorable trips in Japan, consider signing up for this year’s Fuji trip. I promise you will never look at that mountain the same again …