I’ve enjoyed several days exploring the lakes, the forest, the ice caves and seeing Mount Fuji with its perfectly shaped cone from all angles but today was the day for the final climb to the summit.
Shortly after leaving the 5th Station I reached a fork in the trail. To the right was the trek to Fujiko. Heading left, I soon arrived at the Komitake Shrine, named after old Komitake Mountain which is now buried deep beneath Mount Fuji. The Shrine is important to many worshippers who each year on 1 July attend the Kaizansai festival and celebrate the opening of Mount Fuji.
From here to the 7th Station the trek weaved its way through a shady and dense forest. On hot summer days the forest provides a welcoming relief. The path itself was narrow and rough with rocks jutting out and tree branches stretching across the pathway. As with any climb sure-footedness was essential alongside some duck and weaving around branches. There were trail sections resembling carved out channels instead of just flat paths. I can imagine on foggy days this trail would be quite challenging with low visibility and for those who climb at night in order to catch the sunrise at the summit could run the risk of getting lost if not careful. Thankfully ropes line the route providing guidance and assistance up the mountain. Occasional openings in the forest canopy gave me glimpses of Fuji’s peak, like small teasers of what is yet to come.
Leaving the forest zone behind, there were no more trees, just very low shrubs with small white flowers. The ground became more rocky and gravel-like, making it looser underfoot. It makes me realise that although Mount Fuji is not a technically difficult climb, it does however, present its own set of challenges such as a sudden change in weather, the steep inclines, long switchbacks and more importantly the potential for altitude sickness because the oxygen density is only two-thirds of the normal oxygen thereby making it more difficult to breathe.
I forged my way onto the 8th Station where my trail merged with the very popular Yoshida Trail. As expected it became quite congested. Taking a slow and steady approach it was time for the final push. The terrain here was barren, vegetation seemed non-existent.
I knew the summit was near when I made my way through the white Torii gate, which stood proudly on a set of steps signifying that “heaven on earth” is within my grasp.
Reaching the summit though was not the end, yet. The final part was a walk around the crater on the Ohachimeguri Trail. The crater has a 2,560ft (750m) surface diameter and a depth of 790ft (240m). With its jagged edge, the crater is encircled by eight sacred peaks, each with their own name: Oshaidake, Izudake, Jojudake, Komagatake, Mushimatake, Kengamine, Hukusandake, and Kusushidake.
My quest ended at the Kusushi Shrine near the last station. Here I stood to absorb the aerial views, reflecting on my journey and contemplating my descent but that’s a story for another time.
On a final note, did you know that the top 1,312ft (400m) of Mount Fuji is actually private property? Here’s an online excerpt explaining how this ownership evolved:
“… belongs to Fujisan Hongu Sengentaisha, a Shinto shrine. The land originally belonged to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate (1603 – 1867), and the area of Mt. Fuji from the 8th station to the top is said to have been given to this shrine as a gift by the Tokugawa clan in 1779. The land was re-designated as national property for a time after 1871, when the Tokugawa Shogunate relinquished power to the Imperial Court, but has since been returned to the Fujisan Hongu Sengentaisha. The Hongu (Main Shrine) of the shrine is at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and the Okumiya (Rear Shrine) is located at the mountain peak.”