Before I left Korea I booked a day trip (through Viator at a friend’s suggestion) to Mt. Fuji. I decided that of all the things near Tokyo I wanted to do, a trip to the largest active volcano in Japan, Fuji-san, was highest on the list. The tour I booked was a bit expensive, but it included transportation there and back, lunch, and a guide.
I met my group in the bus terminal in the lower level of the Hamamatsucho station in the direction of the World Trade Center. I was worried it would be difficult to find but it was actually a lot easier than I expected. Plus that seems to be the spot for tour groups to meet. I had my paperwork with me (I printed what they told me to print) and looked around for the Sunrise tours who told me to run to the bathroom first because we were taking a bus all the way to Mt. Fuji and it’d be a long ride. (over 2 hours) Here’s my note for you if you do the tour or any tour that meets at the Hamamatsucho Bus station. Get there early, go to the bathroom somewhere else in the station, then go down and sign in. Because everyone else is going to be running to the tiny bathroom in the bus station and it’s going to take too long. Luckily our tour guide was nice and offered to wait for anyone, but that puts a delay on the rest of the schedule. There’s at least two more sets of bathrooms in the Hamamatsucho station.
I boarded my bus and put on my shiny sticker. I’ve never been fond of being out and about with name tags, lanyards, or little stickers that show you’re part of a tour or conference. In high school I went to the state competitions for BPA and one of our teachers on that trip told us to not wear our competition badges outside of the places we were competiting, especially if we were going out on our own. Why? It’s like a bulls-eye sign to say “Hey I’m not from here” and “Here’s my name” and a ton of other info. That uneasy thought makes me rip off my stickers and badges as soon as I leave a place and shove them in my bag. But this sticker was difficult to remove. I’m use to flimsy papery sticker badges that are going to get destroyed if it rains. But these stickers were ridiculous. They were textured and pretty and totally ripped off parts of the stars on my shirt when I did manage to pry it off on my train ride home. I kept it. It now has a home in my beaten up notebook full of travel notes. If you like to scrapbook it’d probably be a nice thing to keep.
Now as you can see on the sticker it says Mt. Fuji and Hakone. I’m going to break up the tour into a couple different posts because otherwise it’d be too long. We’ll start with Mt. Fuji and the journey there.
I packed my bag for a long trip to Mt. Fuji, somewhat like that of a field trip. I put a water bottle, snacks, and my nook in my bag and was totally ready to start something new after finishing “The Cursed Child” on my way to Tokyo. But instead there was somewhat iffy wifi aboard that worked great for the first half hour and was spotty the rest of the time, and our tour guide was great. I sat near the front (there were assigned seats) as she gave us some history of Japan, history of the Japanese language, and a small tour of Tokyo as we passed through. It was a nice crash course.
Along the way there was one bathroom break, we went to stop at a rest stop but it was too full so we stopped near the enterance of Mt. Fuji. There are bathrooms around the 5th level which is where we were heading at Mt. Fuji but there was no soap, in either the one before we went up or the one on the 5th level. So take hand sanitizer.
Here’s some facts about Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san. Mount Fuji is over 12,000 feet (over 3,700 meters). It’s an active volcano, though it hasn’t erupted since the 1700’s. It’s considered a Holy Mountain (one of three in Japan) and is a UNESCO world heritage site. July and August are the only times it’s open for hiking due to a high number of deaths and extreme weather during other months of the year, this is the only time you can go up to the 5th station too. Buses can go up to the 5th station and from there you can rent a horse to the 6th (if you want) or you can hike. The most popular type of hiking is at night so that you can watch the sunrise from the summit. There are places to stay the night before hiking the rest of the way up. There are 8 peaks around the summit and an option of paragliding on the mountain around the 5th station.
Mount Fuji opens on July 1st and there is a early morning festival in celebration called Kaizansai.
We took a bus to the 5th station. Which had its own moment of magic. There’s a children’s song about Mount Fuji, and the road up the mountain is designed in such a way that when you’re in a vehicle you can hear it sing the children’s song. You can hear the first half of the song on the way up and the second half on the way down. The second half is a bit harder to hear but it’s still a fun unique experience that had our whole bus entranced.
At the 5th station. We were given a bit of time to explore but warned that the weather on the mountain changes fast so to not go too far away and to be back at our bus on time. Upon exiting the bus we were given coupons and led into a gift shop to receive lucky bells. It’s a free gift and not something you need to be on a tour to receive. However in the shop level of Gogeon Rest House it seems if you make any purchase you’ll receive another bell.
We weren’t given a lot of time, but I bought a cute plush of the mascot of Fuji-san (that looks like Mount Fuji) and then went in search of ice cream made with the alpine water from Mount Fuji. A friend told me to search for it and I found it, but I found ice cream one step above magical alpine water. Ice cream with Kokemomo.
Kokemomo is a type of berry that grows on the mountain. It’s like a cranberry or lingonberry. The ice cream shop outside Gogeon Rest House says it used to be very precious because it “was called the fruit of eternal youth and immortality”. It’s 400 yen (~$4). I enjoyed it while wandering around trying to figure out what I wanted to do.
I decided to visit the Komitake Shrine as soon as I finished off my ice cream.
The Komitake shrine is specifically for a Tengu named Komitake-Tarobo-Shoshin a god for opening roads.
There are several areas around the shrine to get a good view from the mountain. However when we went it was cloudy. The entire area around the 5th station was hidden away in clouds. Making for these spectacular views.
After visiting the temple I went to check out all the different “viewing spots” just in case, but it was all the same view of a cloudy wall. With momentary breaks where you could see just a little.
If you go to Mount Fuji, even in summer when Tokyo and the surrounding areas are sweltering hot pack a jacket or sweater because station 5 is chilly and it will only get colder the higher you climb. Something water proof and with a hood in case it rains would be best. I love cold chilly weather so it was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity in Tokyo. There are also plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants around the 5th station if you get hungry or want to take something home. However a ton of towns at the base of Mount Fuji or nearby sell similar things a bit cheaper, so if you want souvenirs and are going to eat lunch somewhere else nearby like we did and aren’t particularly enamored with something specific then maybe wait till later to get your souvenirs. (Except for the lucky bell, go get the lucky bell, it’s small and like a phone charm.)
It was a bit disapointing that the sumit was cloudy and we couldn’t see anything from our time on the mountain but it was still cool to see. On our bus ride to lunch near the mountain our tour guide started arts and crafts with us by teaching us how to make our own little Fuji-san which was fun.