Climb Mount Fuji
Not Tokyo again!
Dear Travel Guru,
My father has a sister in Tokyo, and we're going there on holidays - for the third time. I've seen all the sights in Tokyo, and this time I want to get out of the city and do something adventurous.
Turned off by Tokyo
Thanks for your letter, Turned off by Tokyo. Big cities can be fun, but when you come from a busy city like Hong Kong they are not always what the doctor ordered for your holidays. The good news is that Tokyo has such an efficient transport system it is not difficult at all to flee downtown for the great outdoors. And you can even see one of Tokyo's most adventurous detours from downtown - on a clear day.
Japan's highest and most famous mountain, Mount Fuji, is around 100 kilometres southwest of the Japanese capital. Although it is an active volcano, about 200,000 people climb to the top every summer climbing season. The Japanese have a saying: 'Only a fool does not climb Mount Fuji once.' The 3,776-metre climb is not a walk in the woods, so the saying continues: 'But only a fool climbs it twice.'
Scale the heights
At 3,776 metres tall, the summit of Mount Fuji is just a little bit higher than Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. In other words, it is a tough walk. But if you follow the safety precautions and do not stray off the trails, you will join the many millions of people who have safely climbed it.
In 2008, a record 247,000 people climbed Mount Fuji in the July-August summer climbing season - four people died. Local authorities say this is because some people set out dressed only in a T-shirt and flip-flops, and are unprepared for plunging temperatures.
Don't climb the mountain out of season. Mountaineers say it can be as dangerous as the Everest when winter snows and strong winds hit the mountain.
To the top
Although Mount Fuji is an active volcano, there is no need to worry about getting caught in an eruption. The last time the mountain erupted was in 1707, and it has been quiet ever since. The Japanese continually monitor the mountain.
During the official climbing season of July and August, there will probably be around 3,000 people climbing at the same time as you, so you will have plenty of company. Buses leave from the west exit of Shinjuku Station to the Kawaguchiko 5th Station. This is more than halfway up the mountain.
Expect it to take six hours to climb to the top - where there are refreshment stands - and three hours to come down. Local authorities recommend, if you have not been training for the climb, to give yourself eight hours to get up and four to come down. There are mountain huts to rest, sleep and eat in, but most are close to the 5th Station.
1 It might be the middle of summer in Tokyo, but up on the summit of Fuji it's cold - bring warm clothes, a scarf, a woollen hat that covers your ears, gloves and sturdy hiking shoes with thick socks.
2 Once the sun comes out, it can be bright and the sun is ferocious in the thin air - bring sunglasses and sunscreen.
3 The big event is the sunrise, so be prepared to get up very early in the morning and hike in darkness - bring a torch.
4 It gets busy up there - at the height of the climbing season there can be queues; if you can, go in early July, before the school holidays start.
5 If you have any problems at all, go to the nearest mountain hut. The people running them have a lot of experience.
6 Another way to avoid the crowds is skip the famous sunrise and watch the equally impressive sunset.