Climbing Fuji-san

Honshu, Japan


Mt. Fuji

Even if it's the first thing you see everyday, you haven't seen a real sunrise until you've seen it from atop Mt. Fuji. Not only is it rewarding because you're on top of the highest mountain in Japan, but you had to climb the mountain to see it. If you don't know the meaning of grueling, Fuji is active learning. The climbing season is only two months of the year and at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet), Fuji will school even the most athletic individual in the subjects of oxygen deprivation, blisters and religion. But, I bet you have never seen the curvature of the earth without the aid of an airplane!

My climb started at 10 o'clock on a warm August night and ended the next day at noon. On the way to the top, there were shacks bearing the misnomer of "stations" that marked the long hike up. Little more than huts in which hikers can pay to take a rest and benches that tempt weary walkers to sit down (a mistake since it's a matter of momentum in getting to the top), the stations only served as indicators of how close one was to completing the climb. What began as a warm evening at the bottom stretched into a blisteringly cold night near the top. The wind chill factor was formidable and no amount of clothing could have sufficiently protected us from the cold. If I had been one of the many who suffered from altitude sickness the purgatory of climbing would have been absolutely hellish. But, the purgatory was eventually rewarded with a blissfully beautiful sunrise over the misty hills and lakes below.

After a brief rest in a lodge, slumped on wooden benches clutching hot drinks in our stiff, frozen hands, we began the never-ending walk back down the mountain. Although the walk up is tough, there is the anticipation of sunrise pushing you to complete the climb, but the walk down is a miserable, dusty, blistering slog through lava gravel that is a mind-f*ck of multiplying switchbacks. The only proper reward for all of the punishment is an onsen, which I indulged in gratefully after Fuji-san for a solid five hours. Mt. Fuji is a ritual which one is wise to do once, but one would be foolish to do least in the same year.


I don't use drugs, but I enjoy getting a little high. When the buzz of Tokyo started to wear on my nerves, I escaped the city and found a different kind of buzz at 3,600 meters. There is no feeling quite like dragging yourself to the literal top of Japan under the brightest stars the Shinto gods could create.

From the Photo gallery

Click here for the Fuji-san photo-set.