The Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail stretches 19km from Fujiyoshida City (Fujiyoshida-shi) to the summit of Mt. Fuji. Though there are 3 trails to the summit, this one is the oldest. It was first used over a thousand years ago by mountain mendicants, but their favored footpath didn’t make its name until the heyday of the Edo Era. At that time, a belief system called Fujiko arose.
The adherents of Fujiko had a predisposition towards climbing Mt. Fuji, and soon attracted thousands of followers, as well as the attention of the Shogunate. Suppression soon followed, and after a decline in use in the 19th Century, the trail soon began to attract pleasure-seekers of all varieties, including foreigners. The first known Englishman to climb the mountain was Sir Rutherford Alcock, who climbed it in 1859.
A little over one hundred years later, a toll road was built from the base of the mountain to the 5th Station of the Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail (2305m). Since 1964, this has resulted in an increase in the number of climbers who successfully reach the summit of Mt. Fuji. With a daily car, truck, and dusty busloads of thrill-seekers arriving at the 5th Station during July and August, the upper reaches of the Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail have become well known for congestion.
This is especially true during summer nights when young and old press together by the hundred-fold for the summit to watch the goraiko, (Buddha’s Halo) sunrise. The lower 2/3 of the trail, however, is always free from hikers, and for the pure of the heart remains the most ideal way to climb the highest mountain in Japan – in its entirety.
The Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail is the easiest trail to access, has the most facilities, and is the traditional trail to the summit. The climbing season is July 1st – August 27th each year; a fantastic festival on June 30th and a dramatic festival on the 26th and 27th of August (the Yoshida Fire Festival) take place at the base of the mountain to mark the opening and closing of the trail.
During the summer, most hikers skip the bottom of the mountain (fortunately or unfortunately) and take a bus to the 5th Station of the Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail. These buses go directly from Kawaguchiko (at the base of the mountain) and also Shinjuku Station. Private vehicles can also be taken to the 5th Station on the Fuji Subaru Toll Road, but the road is closed to private vehicles during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of August (10th-19th).
To reach the base of the trail, start in Fujiyoshida City (2 local train stops from Kawaguchiko Station). Buses go to Fujiyoshida Station directly every day, year-round from Shinjuku West Bus Terminal, Gotemba, Mishima, and Kofu Stations. From Fujiyoshida Station, the trailhead is just a 15-minute walk uphill in the well-endowed Fuji Sengen Shrine.
The most common problem for climbers is being unprepared for the rigors of climbing to 3700m. It is cold (below freezing at the summit, even in summer), wet (rain that blows uphill in sheets), and there is little oxygen. Packing for the extremes is highly recommended: hiking boots, full rain suit, hat, gloves, layers of warm clothing—be prepared. Food and drink are expensive on the mountain (500 yen for a can of Coke), so bringing your own is advised. Bathrooms are 100 yen and only open during climbing season.
With 3 trails to the summit and 3 descending trails (which, in turn, divided into a grand total of 7 descending trails), it is not uncommon for light-headed hikers to walk down the wrong trail and wind up in another prefecture. To avoid this, watch signs instead of following the crowds.
Outside of the official climbing season, the upper reaches of Mt. Fuji are technically closed, and although you are not required to get a climbing permit from the local police you should leave them your name and climbing route. This naturally does not stop some climbers from attempting to ascend the mountain, but they do face a number of challenges:
- During the winter (November-March) Mt. Fuji is prone to avalanches, and high winds, and should not be attempted except by the most experienced alpine climbers. The mountain is not technically challenging (“you slog up, then slog down again”) winds are said to be as powerful as those found at 8000m. Each year, “slogging” climbers are literally blown off of the mountain to their deaths.
- Although some mountain huts are open from late June into September (Japanese Inn Union of Fujiyoshida: 0555-22-1944), there is no food, beverages, shelter, or assistance available for hikers/climbers beyond the 5th Station. Being caught in a typhoon, breaking a leg or any other unfortunate incident can result in a deadly catastrophe.
- The Fuji Subaru Toll Line is the easiest way to get to the 5th Station from the base. It is closed from November-March each year and is only open during the day during the off-season. Call them for more information: 0555-72-0572.Bus service to the 5th Station is very limited during the off-season and is not conducive to climbing. Generally, between September and July buses depart Kawaguchiko Stn. between 9:30 am and 2:45 pm and depart the 5th Stn. Between 11:00am and 4:50pm. It is possible to take the earliest bus to the 5th Stn. And to descend in time to catch the last bus to Kawaguchiko, but you do risk being stranded for a night on the mountain (or walk down the Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail).
- There are no rental shops for crampons, ice axes, etc. at the base of the mountain. The nearest place to get such things is the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.
- Hike during climbing season. You will have the safest hike and the best weather.
- Hike during the day. It is safer, there are no crowds (except on the descending trails), and you can enjoy the beauty of the mountain.
- Hike the whole mountain. To climb a mountain is to climb the entire mountain, not just reach its summit. Start at the base of the trail, not the 5th Station.
- Be prepared. Though even octogenarians have climbed Mt. Fuji, they still brought proper equipment.
- Enjoy yourself. Hiking Mt. Fuji has been a pilgrimage for thousands of years and remains one of the most climbed mountains in the world. Nevertheless, each hiker experiences it differently.
- Keep the mountain clean. The reason that the trail is no longer strewn with garbage is that hikers like you have become conscious of the negative impact. Take all of your garbage off the mountain, and bring a bag to pick up some that others left behind.
More Our More Detailed Guide On This Route: Real Fuji Climbers hike the Yoshidaguchi Trail
Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail:
General Information (bus times, phone numbers, weather, maps, etc): Fujiyoshida City Hall 0555-24-1236 English and Japanese. M-F 9:30-5:15 or
Bus: Shinjuku to Fujiyoshida/Kawaguchiko or the 5th Stn: 03-5376-2222 Kawaguchiko Stn to the 5th Stn: 0555-22-7131
Other directions: 0555-22-7131
Mt. Huts: 0555-22-1944 Fuji Subaru Toll Road: 0555-72-0572
Gotembaguchi Climbing Trail and Subashiri Climbing Trails:
General Information: 0550-82-1333
General Information: 0545-71-2495
Fujiyoshida City Int’l Affairs Desk: (+81) 555-24-1236 [Native English Speaker]
Tourist Information Center: (+81) 555-22-7000