Mt. Fuji may be the most recognizable symbol of Japan. Not only is it the highest mountain in Japan, it is also the most climbed mountain in the world. Fuji-san, as it is known, has been a spiritual symbol since ancient times. There was a religious sect called Fujiko, in which devotees considered Fuji-san the object of their pilgrimage. Furthermore, women were not allowed past the second station until 1871 (evidently their presence bothered the god and would cause bad weather). At 12,385 feet, this dormant volcano is known throughout the world for its symmetry as it majestically rises out from the valley. Located between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, Fuji-san is the main attraction of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
This sacred mountain has been climbed for many years. In 1892, Walter Weston, the pioneer of modern climbing in Japan, reached the top. Since then thousands of climbers, regardless of age or gender, have visited the summit.
Climbing season runs from July 1st to August 26th, during which, all the huts are open and the buses are running. The gates are closed and preparations for winter are made after the Fujiyoshida Fire Festival in late August. Snow can be found above the fifth stage (2400 meters, 7872 feet) until the end of June.
The temperature at the base of the mountain and at the summit can differ greatly; it is advised to bring sweaters, fleece and/or a heavy jacket. Parts of the trail have loose rock, so hiking boots and heavy socks are also recommended. Food is available at each cabin, but it is a good idea to carry some and at least a liter of drinking water.
Climbers should stay on the designated paths, (especially in bad weather when visibility can be impaired), and stay in a cabin or descend the mountain if they are feeling sick. There is a First Aid Station located at the 7th station along the Yoshida Route. In addition you can get information about weather, clothing, climbing schedules and route confirmation at the Climbing Safety Guidance Center between the 5th and 6th stages.
Minami Alps National Park
Minami Alps National Park, established in 1964, extends across Yamanashi, Nagano, and Shizuoka Prefectures. With many peaks near or over 10,000 feet, these mountains attract many alpine enthusiasts. Kitadake, at 10,370 feet, is the second highest mountain next to Fuji-san. The magnetism of its dense forests, size and beauty make it irresistible to climbers and hikers. The Southern Alps are reputed to be the most rugged, and least hospitable of the three mountain ranges. This may be a turn-off for some, but if you are really looking to get away from crowds and other hikers, this is one of the best areas to do it.
Prefectural Minami Alps Koma Nature Park
Not to be confused with the former, this park is situated in front of the Minami Alps National Park. Magnificent waterfalls, including Shojin-no-taki (279 feet), are interspersed throughout the canyons. Amariyama is best known for its panoramic view of the Southern Alps. From mid-June to early July, many hikers come to see the azaleas in bloom. Kushigatayama boasts the largest field of irises growing naturally in Asia.
Yatsugatake Chushin-Kogen National Park
This wide park spanning Yamanashi and Nagano Prefectures boasts lakes, forests, white birch trees, and alpine plants. Stand atop Usukushi-no-mori and enjoy an incredible panoramic view of Mt. Fuji, the Southern Alps and Okuchichibu. The foothills of Yatsugatake are used for diary farming and agriculture. Many vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce are suited to the high elevation.
Chichibu Tama National Park
Extending through Yamanashi, Tokyo, Saitama and Nagano, this park claims more than 20 peaks over 6500 feet, but no volcanoes. Kobushigatake (8144ft) and Kumotoriyama (6619ft) offer challenging climbs even for experienced climbers. Daibosatsurei (7314ft) made famous by a novel by Kaizan Nakazato, has routes for mountain climbing and hiking. Here you will also find two of Japan’s most beautiful ravines, Mitake Shosenkyo and Nishizawa Keikoku. Chichubu-Tama National Park, easily accessed from the Tokyo area, is an ideal place to observe over 2800 plant species and many animals, including deer, monkeys squirrels, and birds in their natural habitat.
Mitake Shosenkyo Ravine
Steep precipices, giant rocks, and crystal clear streams distinguish Mitake Shosenkyo Ravine as one of Japan’s most beautiful sites. It was formed by the gradual erosion of granite rock by the Arakawa River flowing from the Okuchibu Mountains. Since completion of the toll road, the Shosenkyo Green Line and the walking path, everyone can enjoy this spectacular area in any season.
Nishizawa Keikoku Ravine
Here you will find tiered waterfalls, (Nanatsugama-Godan-no-Taki), and a huge cave formed by the raging water from Oketsu. You can also enjoy the thrill of crossing the wooden bridge high above the falls. The new flowers of spring, rhododendrons in summer and the beautiful fall colors make this a special place all year round.
Kawaguchiko Weather Station Kawaguchiko: (0555) 72-0044 Fuji Subaru Line Toll Gate Kawaguchiko: (0555) 72-0572
Kofu Meteorological Observatory Kofu: (0552) 22-2347
Yamanashi Red Cross Hospital Kawaguchiko:(0555) 72-2222 Fujiyoshida City Hospital Fujiyoshida: (0555) 22-4111
Yoshida Public Health Center Fujiyoshida: (0555) 22-3225
Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko (Chuo Line-Direct Express): 2 hrs 6min Shinjuku to Gotemba 1hr 30min – Gotemba to Yamanakako: 37min by bus
Tokyo to Gotemba (Tokaido Line) – Gotemba to Yamanakako: 37min by bus
Tokyo to Mishima 1hr 7min – then Mishima to Yamanakako: 1hr 26min by bus Shin Osaka to Mishima 2hrs 4 min – Mishima to Yamanakako: 1hr 26min by bus
Shin Osaka to Shin Fuji 3 hours – Shin Fuji to Motosuko: 1hr 14min by bus
Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko Interchange (Chuo Expressway): 1hr 20min (85km) Tokyo to Gotemba Interchange. (Tomei Expressway) 1 hour (83km) Gotemba IC to Subashiri 15min (10km) – Subashiri to Yamanakako 15min (9km) Osaka to Nagoya (Tomei Expressway) 2hrs 30min (149km) Nagoya to Fuji Interchange 2hrs 40min (187km) – Fuji IC to Shiraitonotaki 30min (27km) — Shiraitonotaki to Motosuko 20min (20km)
Nagoya to Gotemba IC 3hrs 40min(225km) – Gotemba to Yamanakako 30min (19km)
Japan National Parks By Biodiversity Center: http://www.biodic.go.jp/english/jpark/jpark1R_e.html
National Parks of Japan By Ministry of the Environment: http://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/parks/index_4.html
Yamanashi National Parks by Yamanashi Prefecture Tourist Association: http://www.yamanashi-kankou.jp/foreign/english/english016.html