Japan's majestic Mt Fuji is the country's highest mountain. On a clear day you can see it from Tokyo
, 100km away. It's often shrouded in cloud, but in late autumn, winter and early spring you may be lucky enough to see it in the morning before it goes into hiding again.
Mt Fuji is in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and is surrounded by five lakes. It is estimated the now-dormant volcano was created 600,000 years ago. It last blew its top in 1707, and covered Tokyo with ash.
Dermott Brereton visited Japan for a physical adventure, involving climbing and cycling, and was amazed by the beauty of the country.
Mt Fuji is just 90 minutes by car from Tokyo and Dermott joined a Bashukway Hike & Bike Japan tour, which has visits to Mt Fuji year-round and to suit everyone.
The 3776m-high mountain is a spiritual place and locals are encouraged to climb it. In fact in the Shinto religion, all mountains are sacred, but Fuji is the most sacred. It is shared with everyone and it's considered an almost necessary pilgrimage. Many climbers time their hikes to arrive as the peak peeks above the clouds.
The official climbing season is in July and August, when the mountain is free of snow. It is also when station huts are open for accommodation. Food and drink are for sale at stations, but the higher you climb the more you pay.
There are 10 stations and most people start at the fifth and make it to the top. Some climb right from the bottom. You can be driven to 5th Station where it's a comparatively low 2.3km above sea level and most people don't experience altitude sickness. It gets a little hairier as you go higher.
There are small Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and torii gates all the way up the mountain. Dermott saw the temple where Buddhist monk, Nichiran, stayed for 100 days in the 13th century. He sat and wondered why the Buddhist teachings had lost their power to enable people to lead happy, empowered lives.
It takes between six and eight hours to climb from bottom to top, and four to five hours from 5th Station.
The cycling part of Bashukway's Hike & Bike Tour gives a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the local landscape. Once you've climbed down to flatter ground, there's much to see.
It's said the area around Mt Fuji is a place of paranormal activity. There are apparitions. People reportedly get lost in the middle of the day. And there are stories of people finding a lot of valuable things such as money and gold. The area is renowned for many mythical characters from Japanese folklore.
Shiraito Waterfall, The White Thread Fall, is beautiful. Thousands of small streams trickle in a large arch from the rocks, creating a 200m-wide cascade.
One little troublemaker believed to live in the area is Tanuki who likes to steal sake and can change his shape into human form. He drinks a lot and does not pay the bill. It's possible he is blamed for many a foible.
Cycling and hiking in Japan.
Bashukway Travel Mt Fuji Hike & Bike Japan five-day tours are usually $1100, but by mentioning Getaway
when booking, you will pay just $990. They include all transportation from Tokyo to Mt Fuji, where you will hike, and Izu Peninsula where you'll cycle. Accommodation is in traditional inns or mountain huts. You will be accompanied by a bilingual guide. One dinner and one breakfast are included.
Singapore Airlines has return flights to Tokyo.
Return fares from:
- Melbourne $1017
- Adelaide $1033
- Sydney $1034
- Brisbane $1040
- Perth $1258
For sale until October 2, 2009, and for the following travel periods: between October 10 and November 13, 2009, and February 2 and March 31, 2010. All fares include the economy-class ticket price, associated taxes, levies and surcharges. Taxes and surcharges are subject to change due to currency fluctuations.
Prices correct at September 24, 2009.
For further information
Ph: (03) 9014 9653
Visas: Visitors from Australia are issued with a three-month tourist visa on each entry to Japan. Foreign tourists are required by Japanese law to carry their passports with them at all times.
Electricity: 100V with two flat-pin plugs.
Currency: The yen.
Time: GMT +9.
International dialling code: +81.