Walking through Clouds with the Rising Sun

Well it seems I’ve become quite the hiker since coming to Japan. First, Tokyo, and now Mt. Fuji. At about 3700 meters, Mt. Fuji is probably the first mountain I’ve ever hiked. This past weekend, Four friends and I made the journey.

Since it’s hiking season for Mt. Fuji, one of the few months of the year when it isn’t snow-capped, there were lots of other hikers all during our hike. According to statistics, about 1/3 are foreigners, and 2/3 are Japanese. Oh yeah, and we also saw horses. At the beginning anyway.

At the beginning of our trip, we were under the clouds and saw a fair amount of greenery. But as we hiked higher and higher, the vegetation gave way to mountain, and clouds above became fog became clouds below, as we sort of walked through them. That in itself was pretty cool.

This photo is also pretty cool. In case there was ever any doubt that the Japanese (one of them is Korean) are ninjas, I think floating on clouds should be sufficient evidence. We were taking pictures like these when we reached our lodge at the 8th station (we started at the 5th) and had a little extra time on our hands. The bathrooms were, well, as best as they could be at such hard to reach altitudes. They weren’t free though, so you had to make it count every time.

I also enjoyed the English I saw at these bathrooms, too.

Whatever you do, don’t forget your torch! You just might need it. I wish they would have told me where to get one.

After our fun, we had an early dinner and tried to get some rest before waking up at 1:30am in order to reach the summit before the sunrise at 4:30am.  Between the altitude adjustment, unfamiliar bed, and abnormal sleeping time, it was a bit hard to get that rest. When the time came, we got packed and continued on our way. It was really dark out. Those of us who didn’t have flashlights (me) were in luck because most everyone else did. In fact, it was a neat sight to see the many little lights in the distance moving up the mountain in single file lines. It was something like glow-in-the-dark ants, or people carrying torches! Just kidding. It was hard to get a good picture of this though, as it was nighttime, so you’ll just have to settle for these so-so pictures.

Another thing that was really cool to see at night was how cities below were lit up and could be seen through the clouds. Again, because of how dark it was, and probably also my inexperience with cameras, I couldn’t quite capture it, but it was also a nice sight. It reminded me of stars, only below, instead of above, like the clouds. There were a few times during the night when the color of the dirt and the sterility of the lights made me feel like I was on the moon.

Also, as a note to anyone thinking of climbing Fuji, be sure to bring plenty of food and water, at least 2 liters of it, if not a bit more. Also bring 100 yen coins for the bathroom, and your own toilet paper just in case they don’t have any. Thankfully, it didn’t rain during our climb, but be prepared as it can happen suddenly. And have warm clothes ready. You may not need them during the first 2/3 of the hike up, but believe me, you’ll want them at the top.

Finally, after much climbing, perhaps about 6-7 hours between the two days, we made it to the top. There were lots of clouds above us and below us, so we didn’t get clear sky view of the sunrise, although I still think we got some beautiful shots, a sort of fire between layers of ice.

We walked around the summit for a little while, and then hiked back down the mountain. Gradually we felt the air become real again, and we didn’t need our extra layers as the sun made it plenty warm for us. By the time we got back to the 5th station, we were absolutely pooped. We piled into the bus we came in and were taken to an onsen (hot spring) which was wonderful after such a hike. There’s a saying when it comes to climbing Mt. Fuji: Once a wise man, twice a fool. But I feel like I just might become a fool someday.


About Stephen Gabriel Falke

Stephen Gabriel Falke is passionate about loving Jesus and loving Japanese! He grew up in Virginia, America, and first visited Japan in 2007. He then studied abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo for a year in 2012. He also participated in the JET Program as an ALT from 2015-2017. He currently works as an English teacher at Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai Secondary School in Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan.
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3 Responses to Walking through Clouds with the Rising Sun

  1. kuroiikami says:

    a torch is what British/European people call flash lights.

    • Stephen says:

      I had a feeling that something like this may have been the case, as flash lights were pretty standard climbing at night. Thank you for the enlightenment : )

  2. Michelle Noyes says:

    Stephen! This was a fantastic post. So cool to hear about the experience and see the pictures. I especially appreciate the section where you gave words to the wise, I might find them very useful one day. 🙂 If you ever want to “become a fool” invite me and I’ll become a wise (wo)man!


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