Updated February 18, 2019
Mount Fuji or Fujiyama is Japan’s most iconic place. However, most visitors do not include it in their itinerary, what, though it may seem strange, it’s probably a good idea. See the Fuji on a trip to Japan is almost equivalent to see the aurora borealis on a trip to the Nordic countries: if you are lucky you can see it and enjoy this natural wonder, but no one should plan the trip thinking about seeing the Fuji. In Japan there is a saying: Fujiyama does not exist.
The explanation is simple: most of the year is covered by clouds. In fact, on a clear day, the Fuji can be seen from Tokyo; simply go on a high viewpoint, such as Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree or Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, but it should be visible even from Odaiba waterfront. Easier still, the Fuji can be seen from the Shinkansen on its way from Tokyo to Kyoto; almost 100% of tourists in Japan made this return route, and almost no one notices.
No doubt, go the day the weather forecast guarantees you a bright day. Apart from this, any season is good for pictures.
Undoubtedly the best pic you can get is during the cherry blossoms (Hanami), but this phenomenon only lasts two weeks. On a clear day, the Fuji is one of many breathtakingly beautiful images of this country. When combined with flowering cherry trees or any other flowers, perspectives from temples, or deciduous landscape in autumn, it becomes an image hard to forget.
I’ve never gone up. The official season is only during the months of July and August when all kinds of services are enabled: lodging, food vending machines and even free WiFi connections. The crowd of Japanese tourists climbing in summer is estimated at around 150,000 people. From May to October there are buses from the main towns to the 5th station, at 2300 meters altitude; beyond, the road ends. The rest of the year the facilities are unattended and climbers must face on their own and risk the ascent of 3776 meters (2.3 miles), usually in conditions of snow and wind at the summit.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most visitors make it a day trip from Tokyo.
- Hakone, a town southeast of the mountain, is the main entrance to visit the Fuji. The typical image in the background is the volcano with Lake Ashi in the foreground.
- The Odakyu Limited Express “Romance Car” departs from Shinjuku and takes an hour and a half to arrive. It costs from ¥ 1090 one-way ticket; there’s a train every 15-20 minutes from 7 a till 6 pm; should be booked on advance on its official website. JR trains do not reach Hakone, so you cannot use the Japan Rail Pass.
- Hakone has become a favorite place to spend the night in the vicinity of Fujiyama, due to the presence of onsens and traditional lodging (ryokans).
- Another popular area to see the volcano is from The Five Lakes Area, in the north (is where I went).
- Buses from Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal end in Kawagochiko, takes 1 hour and 40 minutes and cost ¥ 1750 each way. There’s a bus every 30 minutes from 6:05 am till 11:25 pm. You can’t use either the Japan Rail Pass.
- It’s more expensive and you’ll need more time to get there, but from here you’ll be closer to the volcano.
As a curiosity, I’ll mention that Mount Fuji can be seen at night, at least from the Kawaguchiko area, due to light pollution.