Planning to climb Mount Fuji? Here’s what you need to know

Bases across Japan are helping adventurous climbers experience the ultimate Japanese symbol: Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain.

A variety of tours are offered: some with guides up the mountain, some combined with tours of Tokyo. Some provide preparation classes for beginners.

Misawa Air Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni both combine a climb with free time in Tokyo and a stay at the New Sanno Hotel. Sasebo Naval Base makes the 15-hour drive to Fuji overnight in time for a day climb, then, after a visit to an onsen and dinner, it’s right back on the bus for the cruise home.

Bases closer to the mountain offer trips as well, giving base residents one heck of a discount.

“The $50 MWR trip is extremely cheap — about a quarter of what the Japanese pay,” said MWR Yokosuka Outdoor Recreation Planner Jude DesNoyer. “Then again, we don’t have the perks, like group stretching and shoe-tying instruction.”

Sasebo’s Outdoor Recreation Director Walter Birkenheier strongly advises against going it alone for your first climb.

Although the trails are pretty well marked, after a long climb it’s easy to get confused at the top: “There’s five routes. They all come together at the top,” he said. A novice might take the wrong return path and end up far away from his or her ride home.

He also requires climbers to bring certain gear, including a warm, non-cotton top and a raincoat. Birkenheier offers a “Fit for Fuji” preparation program for those hoping to beef up for the jaunt, one he has made more than a dozen times.

“It’s an amazing experience — uniquely Japanese,” Birkenheier said. “The people up there are great. But just be a little prepared and take it seriously.”


Here’s are Birkenheier’s required and recommended list of items:

  • Climbers must have a real raincoat (not a garbage bag with a hole cut for the head); a non-cotton layering top for core warmth; three liters of something to drink, preferably Gatorade; and high-carbohydrate snacks like granola, trail mix or even candy bars for boosting dropping blood sugar levels, one of the biggest problems in a lengthy climb.
  • He recommends people bring rain pants and gaiters to cover the tops of boots or shoes to keeps out abrasive ash on the descent. He also recommends tackling Fuji with a slow and steady pace.
  • Many base Outdoor Recreation departments rent gear for climbs.

Upcoming tours

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni: The tours office combines the climb with a trip to Tokyo. The tour includes transportation and lodging on the mountain, but participants must pay for their own rooms at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo (prices are based on rank). The bus leaves the base at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 and returns Aug. 28. The cost is $170. Those who register must take a special safety briefing before climbing. Call the tours office at DSN 253-4377.

Sasebo Naval Base: The base offered several climbs this season. Their remaining trip is Aug. 18-20. The trips leave Sasebo at 3 p.m. on Friday and return at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The cost is $99. Call the Outdoor Recreation office at DSN 252-4377.

Naval Air Facility Atsugi: Two types of trips offered, both $30. The tours office is offering a day climb on Aug. 12. The tour leaves at 4 a.m. and returns to base about 10 p.m. Outdoor Recreation is offering sunrise tours on Aug. 17 and 31 that leaves base at 10:30 p.m. the night before. Climbers hike overnight to reach the summit in time for daybreak. Participants receive a handout that covers basic questions beforehand. Outdoor Recreation Director Terry Williams, who’s made the trip 23 times, accompanies each tour up the mountain. To sign up, call Outdoor Recreation at DSN 264-3784 or the tours office at DSN 264-3986.

Camp Zama: The outdoor recreation department will have one more climb this month. They previously held a climbing information class, but anyone who signs up receives a checklist of things to bring. The one-day trip includes a bus each way, but climbers are on their own for the actual climb to allow people to go at their own pace. The cost for transportation is $35. The final climb this season will be Aug. 19. The bus leaves post at 5 a.m. and returns at about 9 p.m. For information, call DSN 263-4671.

Misawa Air Base: The base ITT office is holding three tours in August, although two are sold out (there is a waiting list available). The four-day trips include transportation and accommodation at the New Sanno Hotel, along with an escort for the climb. The climb is on the second day, and the third day is a free day in Tokyo. The cost for adults, 13 and older, is $295; for children 4 to 12, $195; and 3 and younger, $90. The dates are: Aug. 17-20; Aug. 20-23; and Aug. 24-27. Spaces are still available for Aug. 24-27. Call DSN 226-3555 for information.

Yokota Air Base: Outdoor Recreation offers two types of trips, both $35. The first is a day trip, which leaves and returns to base the same day, on Aug. 26. There is also an overnight tour that departs in the evening of Aug. 11. Climbers hike overnight to reach the summit before daybreak. The trip returns Aug. 12. A mandatory safety briefing is held the day before the trip. Gear including raincoats and headlamps can be rented from Outdoor Recreation. For information call DSN 225-4552.