Mount Fuji’s symmetrical snow-topped peak is depicted in traditional woodblock prints and even has its own emoji. It has become a symbol of Japan. Fuji rises to 12,389 feet on the coastal plain south of Tokyo, making it Japan’s highest mountain. Volcanic eruptions created its distinctive cone shape over thousands of years, with the last eruption in 1707.
For centuries, pilgrims have walked trails lined with shrines and temples up to the summit. Fuji-san, as it is known to the Japanese, is a sacred mountain recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its cultural significance.
Although I’d seen Mount Fuji from Tokyo on a clear day, and while speeding past on a shinkansen train, like many visitors, I wanted to visit the mountain itself. Here’s what I learned about planning a trip to Mount Fuji from Tokyo.
1. Where To Go At Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji covers a large area across Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, so there are many possible spots to visit. Some destinations have good transport links with Tokyo, making them suitable for a day trip. Other destinations, including the summit of Mount Fuji, are best done as an overnight trip at least.
Many vantage points in the resort town of Hakone offer views of Mount Fuji. Located on the shores of Lake Ashi in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the area is known for its hot springs and volcanic activity. Many hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) in Hakone have hot springs; some are open to day visitors.
The Hakone round course uses five different forms of transportation — train, bus, cable car, ropeway, and boat — to explore the area and visit its main attractions. As well as scenic views of Mount Fuji, Hakone has several art museums including the Hakone Open Air Museum and the Lalique Museum.
Kawaguchiko is the largest town in the Fuji Five Lakes region and the starting point for exploring the area. Although it’s also a hot spring resort town, Kawaguchiko tends to be quieter than Hakone.
Located on the shores of Lake Kawaguchi — one of the five crater lakes the area is named for — Kawaguchiko is famous for the views of Mount Fuji reflected in the lake. The best views are along the north shore of Lake Kawaguchi, enhanced by cherry blossoms in spring.
2. How To Get To Mount Fuji From Tokyo
Although there are many day tours available from Tokyo to the Mount Fuji area, there are also easy train and bus options for the independent traveler to get there.
Direct trains run from Shinjuku, one of the main train stations in Tokyo, to Hakone-Yumoto station. The Hakone round course starts and ends at Hakone-Yumoto and the Hakone Free Pass covers all travel on this route, plus the train to and from Shinjuku.
There are frequent express buses from Shinjuku station, Tokyo station, and other train stations in Tokyo direct to Kawaguchiko station. The direct Fuji Excursion train has three morning departures from Shinjuku station, or you can take a train to Otsuki station and change to the local railway line for Kawaguchiko.
3. The Best Season To Visit Mount Fuji
The best views of Mount Fuji are in winter when there is plenty of snow on the mountain. The weather is often sunny and clear, so visibility is excellent. It can be chilly though, so warm clothes and footwear are necessary.
Spring in Japan is famous for cherry blossoms and there are many spots where visitors can view Mount Fuji together with cherry blossoms. This is a peak travel period, however, so the area can be crowded.
Summer in Japan can be hot, humid, and hazy, sometimes obscuring views of the mountain. It’s not a great time to visit if you want to see Mount Fuji, but it is climbing season if you want to get to the summit.
When temperatures drop in fall, the air becomes clearer and the spectacular fall foliage season begins. As with cherry blossoms in spring, there are many viewing spots for foliage at Mount Fuji.
4. Weather At Mount Fuji
Although Mount Fuji is close to Tokyo, the weather can be quite different due to the mountain terrain and higher altitude. It’s worth checking the Japan Meteorological Agency forecasts for Hakone and Kawaguchiko before traveling to the area, so that you can be prepared with appropriate clothing and umbrellas.
Pro Tip: Consider keeping your itinerary flexible so you can check the weather conditions to maximize the chances of getting a good view of Mount Fuji. Pre-booking train and bus tickets is still recommended during peak travel periods such as cherry blossom season.
5. Things To Do At Mount Fuji
Hakone, Kawaguchiko, and other towns in the area are popular weekend getaways for Tokyo locals, so there’s a lot to do in the area, including hot springs, art museums, sake tastings, and an amusement park. Here are some places to get that must-see view of Mount Fuji.
Part of the Hakone round course, the Hakone Ropeway has excellent views of Mount Fuji as it travels across the volcanic Owakudani Valley. Stop off in the valley to walk among the hot springs while admiring the view. A local delicacy is eggs cooked in the springs. They look unappealing, with shells blackened by sulfur, but eating one is said to add 7 years to your life.
Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway
The name says it all — Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway provides sweeping views over Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji from the viewing platform at the top. For the energetic, there’s a hiking trail alongside the ropeway that takes about half an hour to walk down to the lakeside. The ropeway is a short bus ride or a 20-minute walk from Kawaguchiko station.
Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
Taking a cruise on Lake Ashi at Hakone or Lake Kawaguchi at Kawaguchiko gives another perspective of Mount Fuji. Among the cruise options available, the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise is the most fun, with replica pirate ships touring key sightseeing spots on Lake Ashi. This cruise is also part of the Hakone round course.
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center
The northern shore of Lake Kawaguchi has some of the best views of Mount Fuji. A bus from Kawaguchiko station goes to the Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center, where you can enjoy a meal, a coffee, or an ice cream while admiring the view. A leisurely walk along the lakeside path from the center is a great way to enjoy views of Mount Fuji. The path follows the road, so it’s easy to take the bus back to the station when you are done walking.
Chureito Pagoda is a classic Japanese scene — Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, and a red pagoda. It’s easy to get there via a 10-minute train ride, from Kawaguchiko to Shimo Yoshida, and then a few minutes’ walk uphill; it’s a popular destination. Seeing cherry blossoms involves a bit of luck in being there when the trees bloom around mid-April. It’s also very beautiful during fall and the foliage lasts longer.
There are several trails up Mount Fuji and most climbers start at the Fifth Station on one of the trails, about halfway up. Fuji Subaru Line Fifth Station on the Yoshida Trail is the most popular, with regular buses from Kawaguchiko station and also from Shinjuku station during the climbing season. Fifth Station has restaurants, shops, and a shrine with an observation deck from which you get a view of Mount Fuji and over the the Fuji Five Lakes region. Keen hikers might like to walk a little way along the Ochudo Trail, which goes around the mountain.