Prior to booking my ticket to Japan, I had no desire to hike to the top of Mt. Fuji. I had seen photos of it on travel programs, thought the snowy peak looked quite nice from the comforts of my warm abode with functioning amenities, but never really thought to myself, “I need to be on top of that.” Proximity sure is a son of a bitch.
Once I realized where the mountain was, and the seemingly smallish effort it would require to attain this summit, the seed had been planted. There was no turning back. “I enjoy hiking,” I thought to myself. This will certainly be a grand way to spend two days in Japan. Travel and outdoor adventure. What a perfect pairing of things I enjoy! Oh, even better, the hike is rated as moderate. In hindsight, this statement does contain a smidgen of accuracy when looked at through a glass full of vision distorting oil.
My journey began leaving out of Tokyo. Feeling a bit citied out, I found myself on a train bound for Kawaguchiko, where I could catch a bus up to the 5th station to begin my hike. It was my first train ride of any sizable distance, and I was enjoying being able to utilize my JR Pass for the first time, and watch unfamiliar countryside zip by. I had checked the weather report before departure, and I knew that there was a chance of encountering rain. Approaching the mountain, this chance imperceptibly morphed into a gray certainty of hovering precipitation. It was going to be a wet day for walk up a mountain.
Arriving at the 5th station, there was already limited visibility. Having condemned myself to lugging boots and a heavy jacket around for this specific endeavor, there was no way I was going to back out of this. I prepared my gear, worriedly purchased water (did I have enough?!), and bid adieu to the dry warren of the station buildings. Helllloooo, Mt. Fuji!
Aside from the moisture, I didn’t think the beginnings of the hike were all that bad. In a way, the mist and rain was pleasant (I told myself), because I became so scorchingly hot inside the shell of my jacket from labored physical activity. Watching people pass in the opposite direction, I wondered what they knew, that I didn’t.
I opted to hike up the Yoshida trail, which by and large is the most popular trek. I had arranged for overnight accommodations at a mountain hut at the 8th station. Leaving around 3:00p, my only goal was to arrive before sundown, which thankfully I did. That’s where things kind of began to take a turn.
In my mind, once I reached the 8th station, I had 30 minutes left beyond that to make it to the summit. All of the articles I read talk about staying overnight to acclimatize, and give yourself a rest and warm meal, in order to pleasantly continue to the summit to watch sunrise. Arriving to my hut around 5:30p, I was proud of what I had accomplished; albeit, a bit soggy. I had found my lodging despite rain and language barriers, and I was able to watch the shadow of Mt. Fuji grow against the horizon as the sun went down. When double checking what time I needed to leave in the morning to catch sunrise, I was told 1:30am. Wait.