During my internship, I could not miss the opportunity to climb one of the world’s most famous mountains in Mount Fuji. Not knowing any specific information about the climb, I was surprised to learn that most climbers choose to take a bus up to the fifth of the mountain’s ten stations to cut the hike short. I also learned that a previous intern had succeeded in making the hike from the bottom of the mountain which inspired my sense of adventure to take on the challenge.
Upon emailing said intern, I was further intrigued, and a little intimidated, by the details she provided me. She described that overnight hike as an increasingly steepening 12 hour trek to the top to see the rising sun. She also pointed out the massive temperature changes, saying that at the base she was sweating in shorts while at the top she was cold under 2 layers. After hearing this account, I was motivated to take on that hike and saw it as a tremendous personal challenge and truly unique Japanese experience.
So, I took a train to Tokyo on a Friday evening in late July and then transferred to a bus that took me to Kawaguchiko, one of the towns at the mountain’s base. That evening I stayed in a capsule hotel, and the next day I stopped by an onsen to relax before I began the hike.
I then began hiking from the onsen at around 4:30. I followed a main road and eventually another road, reaching the start of the trail within about an hour. During this time, the sun had began to set and twilight descended. It was near fully dark at around 7, during which time I was guided only by my headlamp in the woods for about 2 and a half hours. It was a somewhat eerie yet peaceful experience I can’t say I’ve experienced an equivalent to.
Eventually, the forest cleared and I stopped at a station featuring an overlook and a shop selling snacks. There, I bought a chocolate bar which is one of the best things I have ever eaten given how tired I was. At that point I was beginning to worry that it may be difficult to complete the hike. However, I was determined to see my goal through, reminding myself to continue to pace the hike.
While the forest part of the path featured many steps, the next part became significantly steeper and was coated in gravel, making progress much slower. This was especially disheartening after I realized how tired I already was at that point. After reaching the next station, I was surprised to see signs indicating that the top of the mountain was only 5 km away. As a high school cross country runner, I had to walk many 5ks on pre race course tours, which generally took only 45 minutes to complete. Knowing that I wasn’t supposed to arrive for 6 hours, I was worried about what lie ahead.
At this point, the area was lit up by fellow hikers and their headlamps. The whole trail was covered in hikers and the path to the top was completely illuminated. However, at this point the trail wasn’t so congested; it was possible to hike around slower walkers. This would change; if memory serves it took me over an hour to cover the final kilometer. The trail became extremely congested to the point where I spent long periods of time just standing still in line.
My arrival was worth it. I received a major sense of accomplishment upon the completion of the hike. While the sunrise was partially covered by clouds, the view was still spectacular and my tiredness made it all the more satisfying. In addition to the view, the top of Mount Fuji itself is a spectacle to see. Hiking trails circumvent the volcano’s crater and the ground is covered in very distinctive red volcanic dust. It also features a Ramen shop, which after completing my hike, proved to be some of the best Ramen I had in Japan.
I am very happy that I went through with this hike as it has proved to be one of my proudest accomplishments. If any readers ultimately end up interning at ICU and would like more information about the hike, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.