Water on Mount Fuji

I realized in my previous post I neglected one topic: water.

Prior to the trip I believed it was better to bring up (and down) too much water than not enough.

I have changed my mind for two reasons. Water is heavy. And water or other liquids can easily be purchased along the route.

The two of us carried 2 x 2L bottled water, 2 x 1L bottles filtered tap-water, and 2 x 500mL bottles of amino water (tastes like a sports drink). This was a total of 3.5L per person.

We drank about 2.5L per person and returned with one of the 2L bottled water unopened. Cleaning up today I realized how much extra weight I carried around, and my shoulders felt it.

We found the amino water more refreshing and drinkable than the pure water. However, I would feel uncomfortable without some pure water. Most hikers can safely get away 2L per person. If you find you are consuming more, you can easily purchase more anywhere along the trail, including the summit.

However, be careful on the descent, because there are fewer shops along the descending trail.

Below is a non-Flash version of our experience.

Fuji-san Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station at EveryTrail

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Lessons Learned: Mt. Fuji August 3-4

My son and I successfully completed our hike up Mt. Fuji this weekend. After a day of recovery I am now ready to share a few pearls of wisdom.

Hiking in this location is more difficult than other hikes around Japan, due to a combination of a) steep incline, b) thin atmosphere, and c) slippery footing. The thin atmosphere can cause altitude sickness (高山病), which may include headaches and chest pains in heart and lungs. The cans of compressed oxygen are reported to help here, though i didn’t use one on either trip up Fuji-san. A bottle of ibuprofen or paracetamol should be carried for headaches.

The slippery footing does slow your walking speed and increases effort to climb. On the way down it can cause treacherous footwork and falls. I stumbled several times and fell once. I found it best to keep the knees bent and shift weight load to the hiking poles. The quads were very store a day later, however.

Fuji-san Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station

The hike mostly went according our revised plan. We needed about 6 hours to get from 5th Station (5合目) to 8th Station (8合目) Fujisan Hotel. We needed another 3 hours to the summit (頂上). Going up took longer than expected, but the descent took about 4.5 hours, as expected. You will be delayed by frequent rest breaks and traffic choke points at several points along the trails, particularly at the hotels and near the (non-free) restrooms. There are fewer choke points during the descent.

I originally planned for a one-day trip (日帰り). In retrospect this was unrealistic for an 11 year old. A hotel stay around stations 8 or 9 was very refreshing. I was impressed with the efficiency that Fujisan Hotel getting you in and out. The staff were helpful and friendly. I would avoid the meals, if possible.

Unless you really need to see the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji, I would avoid. This is the most heavily trafficked period on the mountain. We woke up at 1am to catch the sunrise, but I would have preferred to sleep in a few more hours and avoid the crowds. Similarly I would avoid the Subaru Line / Yoshida Route for the same reason. However, the Subashiri Route converges at 8.

The entire Fuji-san experience is much more crowded and commercialized now than I recall 15 years ago. There are frequent hotels and shops along the trail, including at the summit. These detract from the experience, because they are eyesores and because they create traffic choke points.

My son said insists he never wants to do that again. Unless my daughter demands company up her own Fuji-san hiking experience, I do not plan to do it again either. Twice is exactly once too many.


Climbing Mt. Fuji

Updated 7/25: My son and I are planning to climb Fuji-san late next week. I climbed once about 15 years ago. This time is for the kids (one of them anyway).

I thought I finished planning this morning, and I reserved the bus from Shinjuku, in a day trip that would get us home by midnight. However, further discussions have nixed these plans:

  • My son really wants to be on top to watch the sunrise.
  • My wife really wants us to stay on the Yoshida trail, which handles 65% of the summer traffic and has the most first-aid facilities.

We are tentatively planning to head to Kawaguchiko Station the evening of Thursday 8/2, find a place to stay nearby, sleep in late, and head up to station 5 (五合目) early Friday evening. We hike up at night, get some rest at or near the top, and watch the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji. We will arrive at Station 5 on Friday 8/3 around noon on the Keio Dentstsu Bus from Shinjuku. After getting some food and adjusting to altitude for 1-2 hours, we will head up to Station 8. We booked 2 spots at the Fujisan Hotel so we can rest for a few hours and, if necessary, escape the rain. Two hours before sunrise we will hike the remaining 1.5 hours to the peak.

If all goes well we will descend Saturday morning to Station 5 and catch the 11:00am bus to Shinjuku. We will be home by Saturday afternoon.

We are preparing at least the following:


  • Hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Gloves
  • Extra change of clothes


  • Walking poles (2 each)
  • Headlamps
  • Extra batteries
  • Water-resistant housing for the iPhone
  • iPhone charger (Eneloop)
  • Small can of compressed oxygen
  • Small towels


  • Clif Bars
  • Onigiri
  • Plenty of water
  • Amino acid jelly
  • Candy

Please let me know if you have any further advice or recommendations.

#JPQuake 2011-03-15

Everyday seems to be a major event. The M8.9 earthquake in Sendai has changed life throughout Japan. I am only reporting on my own experiences. As I walked around the neighborhood I started to sense we are returning to normalcy. The panic buying seems to be subsiding and stores are showing signs they will catch up within the next couple days.

The local Yamada Denki was quiet, both because the panic buyers had dissipated , but also because the TV sets were turned off in order to comply with voluntary power rationing.

Food One also seemed a little quieter. Bread and rice were still sold out. Various meats seem to be readily available. Snack aisles were full (except for our favorite rice crackers or sembei). I did grab the last 3 boxes of Black brand chocolate from Meiji. I have stocked up on chocolate, and now I remember why I stopped–the more I buy the faster they eat. THEY include wife and kids. In the future, when I do stock up on such items, I am pretty sure I need to hide them.

I also stopped by the bank in Yokohama Station to get some money. It felt strangely quiet. It was a weekday, and I usually get there on a weekend. About half the shops were closed. Yodobashi Camera was open and busy, mostly continued panic buying of emergency supplies like batteries, lights, and radios. And most of that, I suspect, was sold out. I was hoping I might snag a desktop UPS, but I knew immediately those would be impossible to find. We might not find those in supply for several months.

None are more affected than the immediate victims near the quake. Many are homeless living in emergency shelters. Health care workers are stretched. Getting adequate food and water to the victims remains difficult. Despite the worldwide attention on the reactor shutdown failures in Fukushima, the immediate humanitarian crisis is more severe. Please consider donating to your favorite charity: Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Salvation Army, as appropriate.

We experienced another tremor this evening, while I was in the shower. This one was upgraded to M6.4 in Shizuoka, on the other side of Tokyo from Sendai. NHK has been reporting there was a 70% probability of an M7.0 aftershock within 3-4 days, later downgraded to 40%. We are hoping this was the predicted aftershock, but we need to wait for the experts to sort this one out.

You may follow me on @gatmac on Twitter.

Japan and International Abduction

A friend recently reported when applying for Japanese passport for his daughter of dual citizenship, the Japanese embassy called to ask if the father had given permission to do so.

This makes me wonder if they asked only the Japanese parent. I also wonder whether a verbal acknowledgement by the Japanese parent that the non-Japanese parent had given consent was sufficient grounds to approve this requirement, whatever it is. Do they require written permission? Is permission of the non-Japanese parent required if the Japanese parent applies for citizenship back in Japan? Would citizenship be granted only after reviewing divorce papers issued overseas?

Japan is coming under increasing international criticism over the issue of abduction of children by Japanese parents. Japanese courts seldom grant non-Japanese parents access to children, even in cases where joint custody was established in overseas divorce proceedings. Japan is one of the few major countries that has not signed the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

This looks like another lame attempt by the Japanese government to pretend it is doing something to deflect international criticism, without actually doing anything.

New Videos Posted

I have posted a couple new family videos. The first is of a trip we made to the JAXA i branch at Tokyo Station, for a self-study project Reon was doing for school over the summer break.

The second comes from last weekend’s bottle rocket competition. It took place along the riverfront about 10 minutes (by foot) from my mother in law’s home. Please enjoy both.

The first one was made on the Flip which I bought in the US but gave to my son. The second made using ReelDirector on the iPhone. Whereas Flip is an application that runs on the PC/Mac, ReelDirector runs directly on the iPhone–no PC/Mac required. ReelDirector is now preferred, but I do intend to create a weekend project for Reon wherein he must design and upload a video using the Flip.