WE CLIMBED MT FUJI! Our Unique One Week Trip Through Japan.

If you follow us on Instagram @haylsa @kyle_hunter, you would already know all about our recent trip to Japan and our challenging 2 day trek to the summit of Mt Fuji! After we received an inviation from Japan Tourism Australia to travel to Japan & conquer the monumental Mt Fuji we were immediately in!  So we packed our bags and made our way to Japan where we spent a week in total exploring unique locations throughout the Kanto region and north island of Japan.

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HAKONE

Hakone is a mountainous forest region situated 1.5 hours southwest of Tokyo and is known for its incredible natural beauty, relaxing hot spring resorts and breathtaking Mt Fuji views across its peaceful Lake Ashi.

After visiting Hakone myself and experiencing its landscape and traditional way of life, I was left wanting more. Everyone dreams of having that authentic Japanese experience, and Hakone is the perfect place to indulge in that.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Visit the Hakone open air museum 

  • Ride the world’s second largest cable car up Mt Owakudani, passing over suflur fumes and hot springs

  • Take a trip on Komagatake Ropeway if it’s open (it can be closed frequently due to volcanic action)

  • Board the Hakone Pirate Ship and set sail down Lake Ashi until you reach Hakone torii gate

  • Wander through Hakone Shrine and stop to get a photo at the famous lakeside red shrine

  • Book a stay in a quintessential Ryokan inn and enjoy a Kaiseki dinner

HOW TO GET AROUND

  • Hakone Free Pass – This pass allows you to travel on the regular limited express from Shinjuku (Tokyo) to the Hakone region and also allows unlimited access of Odakyu-affiliated buses, trains, boats, cablecars and ropeways in the Hakone area.

  • A separate limited express ticket is required to use the Romance car the option we decided to take.

  • From Shinjuku to Hakone — Yumoto, a one way limited express ticket is 1,090 yen.

More info here

WHERE TO STAY

The best part about this region are the many traditional Ryokan inns where you can experience the traditional Japanese way of life including Tatami mat flooring, futon beds, sliding shoji paper doors, and onsen hot spring baths. An experience one would not want to miss when visiting Japan.

Our night was spent at Ichinoyu Honkan inn, in a private room with its own open air onsen. Did I forget to mention it was right next to a beautiful flowing river and was unbelievably relaxing and peaceful. We then enjoyed a traditional Kaiseki dinner in our robes before heading to bed on our shikibuton beds (futon beds).

Open Air Cinema
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Hakone Shrine

Hakone Shrine

Enjoying our Kaiseki dinner at our Ryokan home

Enjoying our Kaiseki dinner at our Ryokan home

Kaiseki dinner

Kaiseki dinner

Hakone Shrone

Hakone Shrone

CLIMBING MT FUJI

Is there any better feeling than standing 3700m high above the whole of Japan?! If you enjoy hiking and adventure, this is a travel endeavour you must add to your bucket-list. If you are planning to tick this off your list in the near future, here is all the information you will need that we have gathered from our own personal experience.

Although it was a challenging, it was incredibly rewarding, and we encourage everyone take the adventure and conquer the highest mountain in Japan!

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HOW LONG DOES THE HIKE TAKE?

On average the climb can take between 5-8 hours from the 5th station, and another 2-3 back down. It is recommended to spend the night in a mountain hut (reservations necessary) to break up your trip to prevent altitude sickness. It is quite common to get altitude sickness so take your time climbing, stay hydrated and takes lots of breaks.

It personally took us 4 hours to climb to the 8th station (where we slept) with lots of rest for photos and food, and then another 1.5 hours to reach the summit for sunrise after spending the night in a mountain hut.

Please note it is forbidden to sleep in your own tent. Reservation for a mountain hut bed is necessary if staying the night.

WHAT TRAIL TO TAKE?

Mt Fuji is divided into 4 main trails (Yoshida Trail, Fujinomiya Trail, Gotemba Trail, and Subashiri Trail) all ranging in length and difficulty. Most trails start at the 5th station which is accessible by car and bus.

If you are traveling from Tokyo by train, the Yoshida trail is the most accessible and popular trail from Tokyo city. We took the Fujinomiya Trail and cut through to the Gotemba trail to reach its 8th station. Our guide recommended this as we were spending the night in the 8th station on the Gotemba trail, but the Fujinomiya was an easier and shorter climb. Something we would have not known without a guide.

More info here.

Do you need a guide?

Now it’s not compulsory to have a guide, but it’s highly recommend having one. The trails can be confusing and easily mistaken if you’re on your own. Guides will also help with communicating between the locals at each station, as a lot of the Japanese don’t speak English.

We had a guide the entire time and felt he was extremely helpful with adjusting to the altitude, guiding us along the best trails and of course making sure of our safety. You can book your guide here.

How do I book a mountain hut?

Firstly you want to find the hut you would like to stay in. Preferably the highest hut along the trail you wish to follow. Here is a list and information of all the mountain huts.

Secondly, you will need someone to book the hut who speaks Japanese, as majority of the staff at mountain huts don’t speak English. This could be a hotel receptionist, or your guide if you decide to take a guided tour.

Thirdly, you want to try book in advance if you are climbing over a weekend. The price is around 9000 yen including dinner and breakfast.

What is it like sleeping in a mountain hut?

  • Some of the huts can sleep up to 100+ people, leaving you only a tight sleeping space of only 1m.

  • Make sure to pack eye mask and ear plugs to help you sleep as it is loud throughout the night

  • You are provided dinner and breakfast which is usually a serving of curry and rice. If you are vegetarian bring your own options.

  • There is no tap water on site, so washing your hands or face, or refilling your water bottle isn’t possible. If you need more water you will need to purchase bottled water at the hut.

WHAT TIME OF YEAR TO CLIMB?

Mt Fuji is only open to hikers between early July to early September, and peak time being between weekends. These dates are due to the weather conditions being safe for travellers.

IS IT CROWDED?

Climbing Mt Fuji is a very popular activity in Japan, not only for tourists but for many Japanese themselves. The busiest time to climb is Mid-August during Obon week

WHAT LEVEL OF FITNESs is NEEDED?

I think to tackle Mount Fuji a decent amount of fitness is needed. Now while it wasn’t the hardest hike I’ve ever done it certainly wasn’t the easiest. There are parts of the hike that are extremely steep with slippery terrain which proved to be challenging at times.

From our experience, the hike down was much harder due to the slippery terrain.

Will I get altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness is very common climbing Mt Fuji, but is easily avoided. To avoid getting sick it is advised to take the climb slow. Make many stops, drink plenty of water, and stay the night in a hut to break up the climb.

DOES IT COST TO CLIMB?

While it doesn’t officially cost to climb the mountain a donation will be requested for you to make at station 5. 1000 yen is usually the amount that is donated ($9USD). It is also advisable to bring a handful of 100 yen coins as the toilets are not free to use.

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Mountain hut bed

Mountain hut bed

Sunset at our mountain hut

Sunset at our mountain hut

HOKKAIDO

Next stop on our trip was to the beautiful north island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest island and the most northern of the main islands. It is famous for its alpine ski resorts, vast mountain ranges, active volcanos, fields of beautiful flowers and lavender, its local and authentic cuisine (seafood and dairy products) and stunning lakes.

Whilst we were in Hokkaido we visited the beautiful flower fields of Furano, experienced the freshest seafood in Otaru, and explored the peaceful mountain region of Lake Toya.

TOP THINGS TO DO

  • Visit Hokkaido’s capital city, Sapporo

  • Take a trip to Furano to witness the beauty of its massive and vast fields of flowers

  • Visit a lavender farm whilst in Furano

  • Visit the many hot springs the island has to offer

  • Travel to Lake Toya and take a sight seeing cruise around the lake

  • Take a day trip to Otaru and visit its famous canal

  • Eat sushi in Otaru- it was the best that we had in Japan!

furano

Furano is most famous for its lavender fields, attracting thousands of tourists during the summer (blooming season) every year. The blooming season usually begins late June, reaching its peak mid-July to early-August. Not only does this region boast lavender fields, but also other flower fields of all types and colours! If you miss out on the lavender in full bloom, you still have the opportunity to experience other beautiful fields of vibrant flowers that stay in bloom until late August. We were unfortunate to miss the lavender fields, but lucky enough to experience the many other endless vibrant fields.

Seeing these flower fields in person was definitely a highlight for us while in Hokkaido. We visited 2 flower farms that day, One was called Farm Tomita and the other was called Shikisai no Oka, which on a clear day gives you views of the Mount Tokachi Range! Both of these places are free to enter, they will be crowded (once you see how amazing the flowers are you’ll understand why) and have cafes located on-site. While I was there I ordered the lavender ice cream and OH MY GOD it is worth the trip to Hokkaido alone just for that!

Farm Tomita

Farm Tomita

Lavender ice cream at Farm Tomita

Lavender ice cream at Farm Tomita

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Shikisai no Oka farm

Shikisai no Oka farm

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Tasting the famous melon and ice cream at Popura Farm

Tasting the famous melon and ice cream at Popura Farm

Slurping through the regions famous soba noodles

Slurping through the regions famous soba noodles

OTARU

Whilst in Hokkaido we also got the chance to visit the charming town of Otaru. Only a short 35 minute drive or train ride from Sapporo, it’s a great place to take a day trip. We first went to see the famous Otaru Canal, a popular tourist spot in the city. It was originally built to built to let small boats take goods into warehouses along the canal and it’s now a thriving area of Otaru lined with cool bars and restaurants on the canal.

Another place that we visited was one of Otaru’s fish market called Sankaku fish market. The sea food here is so unbelievably fresh and tasty; we tried octopus sashimi, oysters, fried fish and scallops. After we had stuffed our bellies there it was time to eat again! Our guide took us to a local sushi restaurant for lunch called Hatta Zushi and it was the freshest most tastiest sashimi/sushi we have ever tried. A meal to remember! A must if your planning a trip to Otaru!

Otaru is also famous for its local beer, offering breweries along the river for you to sit down and enjoy.

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Lake toya

Our last day in Hokkaido was spent along the shores of Lake Toya, which was formed by the collapse of a large volcano thousands of years ago. The lake is located in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park and is a great family day out. This region is also known for its hot springs and active volcano, Mount Usu, which recently erupted in 2000.

The best ways to experience the lake is to first stop over at Silo Observation deck for the best views of the lake and on a clear day Mt Yotei, or take a relaxing cruise aboard the see side ferry and explore the nearby Nakanoshima Island. Don’t forget to take the Usuzan Ropeway to the summit of Mount Usu. Atop the mountain volcano you can experience panoramic views of Lake Toya’s neighbouring towns.

Unfortunately during our time in Lake Toya we had bad weather with no visibility, so weren’t able to experience it in all its beauty. We did however visit a famous ice cream store, Lake Hill Farm, that sells rather peculiar flavours of gelato including pumpkin, milk tea, sweet corn, black bean and many more!