Mount Fuji (富士山, fujisan) is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 m (12,388 ft). A dormant volcano that last erupted in 1707-08, it straddles the boundary of Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures just west of Tokyo, from which it can be seen on a clear day. It is located near the Pacific coast of central Honshu. Three small cities surround it: Gotemba (east), Fujiyoshida (north) and Fujinomiya (southwest).
Mount Fuji's exceptionally symmetrical cone is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers.
The most popular period for people to hike up Mt. Fuji is from 1 July to 27 August, while huts and other facilities are operating. Buses to the fifth station start running on 1 July.
There are four major routes from the fifth station to the summit with an additional four routes from the foot of the mountain. The major routes from the fifth station are (clockwise) the Kawaguchiko, Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya routes. The routes from the foot of the mountain are the Shojiko, Yoshida, Suyama, and Murayama routes. The stations on different routes are at different sea levels. The highest fifth station is located at Fujinomiya, followed by Kawaguchi, Subashiri, and Gotemba.
Even though it is only the second highest fifth station, the Kawaguchiko route is the most popular route because of its large parking area and many and large mountain huts where a climber can rest or stay. During the summer season, most Mount Fuji climbing tour buses arrive there. The next popular is the Fujinomiya route which has the highest fifth station, followed by Subashiri and Gotemba.
Even though most climbers do not climb the Subashiri and Gotemba routes, many descend these because of their ash-covered paths. From the seventh station to near the fifth station, one could literally run down these ash-covered paths in approximately 30 minutes. Besides these routes, there are tractor routes along the climbing routes. These tractor routes are used to bring food and other materials to huts on the mountain. Because the tractors usually take up most of the width of these path and they tend to push large rocks from the side of the path, the tractor paths are off-limits to the climbers on sections that are not merged with the climbing or descending paths. Nevertheless, one sometimes see some people riding a mountain bike down the tractor route Mt. Fuji from the summit. This is particularly risky, as it becomes difficult to control speed and may roll some rocks along the side of the path which may hit some people.
The four routes from the foot of the mountain offer historical sites. The Murayama is the oldest Mount Fuji route and the Yoshida route still has many old shrines, teahouses, and huts along its path. These routes are gaining popularity recently and are being restored, but don't expect to meet many people climbing from the foot of the mountain. Also, bears have been sighted along the Yoshida route.
An estimated 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year, 30% of whom are foreigners. The ascent from the new fifth station can take anywhere between three and eight hours while the descent can take from two to five hours. The hike from the foot of the mountain is divided into 10 stations, and there are paved roads up to the fifth station, which is about 2,300 meters above sea level. Huts at and above the fifth stations are usually manned during the climbing season, but huts below fifth stations are not usually manned for climbers. The number of open huts on routes are proportional to the number of climbers - Kawaguchiko has the most while Gotemba has the least. The huts along the Gotemba route also tends to start later and closes earlier than those at the Kawaguchiko route. Also, because Mount Fuji is designated as a national park, it is illegal to tent above the fifth station.