Alternatives To Climbing Mount Fuji

Chris Kirkland

It’s a common misconception that the mountain to climb in Japan is Mount Fuji. While it is both the most striking and tallest mountain in the Japanese archipelago, I would argue it’s infinitely better to climb a nearby mountain to marvel at the snow-capped beauty, rather than to climb Fuji itself. Luckily, there are several nearby peaks that provide a spectacular vista with Mount Fuji center stage, which I’ll cover below.

Every summer (from July to September), the promise of climbing Mount Fuji to see the sunrise attracts bus load after bus load of visitors. The usual format is to hike up during the evening, optionally staying for a few hours in a cramped 6,500 yen/person hut and doing the final leg in the early hours just in time to catch the iconic first rays of the sun rising over the eastern edge of Japan.

climbing mount fuji
Still considering Fuji? Try enjoying the view from the top next to a million other folk.

Of course if the weather conditions are less than ideal, you may simply be stuck inside a cloud with no view at all—and hiking up a busy trail comprised of volcanic scree in darkness is not quite the idyllic experience that the postcard-perfect snow-capped images of Mount Fuji belie. Moreover Fuji is not the only mountain in Japan for which the sun rises! So unless your heart is really set on Fuji, I offer you some rewarding alternative hikes in the same general region as Mount Fuji and within easy access of Tokyo.

Pro tip: Stock up on hiking essentials from online store Maunga before you set out.

The perfect package for someone doing a quick trip to Kyoto. Includes hotels and round-trip tickets for the Hikari Shinkansen (bullet train) departing Tokyo. You click here for details
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Alititude: 1,786 m (5860 ft)
Difficulty: Easy – Medium
Season: Spring – Autumn, Winter for experienced climbers
Time: Day trip from Tokyo

Mitsutoge is perhaps the best mountain to catch a good view of Mount Fuji, and on a clear day has a spectacular 360 vista spanning from Tokyo, to Mount Fuji and over to Japan’s Southern Alps. It’s easily doable as a day trip most of the year, and with the summit being 1,786 m it’s not too strenuous a climb.

There are multiple routes to choose from—here’s a map (in Japanese) detailing them all. The easiest option would be option A (see below), taking the same route up and down. Whichever route you do decide to take, allow four and half hours for the hike. Also you’ll find a few possible eateries (including Tenkachaya pictured below) along the way, but do bring some provisions with you in case they’re closed. There will at least be a vending machine or two on the way for liquid sustenance.

The peak at just over 1,700 m will be a little cooler than at ground level, so depending on the season bring an extra layer or two. During winter, the path may be tricky due to snow and ice, so not recommended for inexperienced climbers.

Getting There

Traveling from Tokyo, there’s a special express train on weekends running directly leaving from Shinjuku towards Kawaguchiko which leaves from Shinjuku Station at 8:14 am. Otherwise you can take the Chuo Limited Express line to Otsuki, and change to the Fujikyuko Line. Your cheapest, and only slightly longer, travel option includes three transfers at Kitano, Takao, Otsuki stations.

You can either:

A. Start From Mitsutoge Station

Get off at Mitsutoge Station, head north to the Mitsutoge Green Centre and follow the trail sign posted to Mitsutoge (三つ峠) up to the summit from there.

B. Take the bus from Kawaguchiko Station to Mitsutogetosanguchi

Alternatively, you can leave Shinjuku at around 8am or earlier, stay on the train until you reach the Kawaguchiko terminus, then take the Fuji Kyuko “hiking” bus (which only runs between 9 and 10am) to the other side of the mountain and get off at the Mitsutogetozanguchi stop. From there, follow the signs to Mitsutoge (三つ峠), or stay on the bus to the final stop Tenkachaya (天下茶屋) and get some of their very popular Hoto (ほうとう) noodles before hiking up.


Route A

Special Direct Chuo Train (weekend only): 2,030 yen

Limited Express train: 3,280 yen one-way (weekdays); 3,480 yen (weekends)

Local trains (3 transfers): 1,650 one-way

Route B
Limited Express train: 4,110 yen one-way

Bus: 730 yen

Return train (from Mitsutoge Station): Express 3,280 yen (weekday) and  3,480 yen(weekend) | Local trains 1,650-2,030 yen


Altitude: 2,899 m (9,511 ft)
Difficulty: Medium – Hard
Season: Summer, other seasons for experienced climbers with ice gear etc.
Time: 2-day trip from Tokyo

Akadake (赤岳) literally “red peak” at just under 3,000 m is one of the Yatsugatake (八ヶ岳) range of peaks, and makes for a spectacular view at sunrise. You hike up, stay in one of the mountain huts (山小屋) and then summit to catch the first rays of sun and a spectacular view stretch from Kanto, Mount Fuji and the Japanese Southern alps. Alternatively, if you start very early you could do the hike in a day, it’s about 18 km (11 mi) and 1,700 m  (5577 ft) elevation, though if you don’t have your own transport, you’ll need to check timetables of public transport carefully as the mountain trail is long bus journey from the station.

Do check weather conditions before departing and be sure to bring warm clothing, waterproofs plus plenty of food and water.

Getting There

Take the Chuo Line Limited Express from Shinjuku to Chino (茅野駅) (heading to Matsumoto 松本) which takes about 2 hours. Then you take the bus to Minotoguchi (美濃戸口). The current bus time table can be found on this page click on the 美濃戸口) link.

One you arrive at the final bus stop, hike through the forest on the trail for about an hour until you reach Minoto-sanso (美濃戸山荘).

Then take the right trail to Gyoja Goya or “Gyoja Hut” (行者小屋), which depending on your speed will take another hour or two. If you’re staying the night then check in, otherwise follow the trail marked to 赤岳 from behind the hut.

It’s fairly steep climb from there and a scramble up some rocks until you get to the top of the ridge. Take a right along the ridge, enjoying the spectacular views on either side.

You’ll ascend past a couple more mountain huts (which you could stay the night at instead of Gyoja Goya) and finally arrive at the Akadake summit. To return either loop back the way you came, or continue over the summit and take the right path to Amidadake (阿弥陀岳). The trail continues to Nakadake (中岳), and then drops again to another junction, where you can either hike up to Amidadake or continue down to the right back to Gyoja Goya.

Note there are a few other alternative accommodation options on the mountain, in particular Akadakekosen (which has it’s own hot spring), an easy 40-minute hike from Gyoja Goya.

Gyoja Goya

You can stay a reasonably comfortable night with dinner and breakfast meals at Gyoja Goya for 9,000 yen. They have an all but unusable website, and Facebook page, but to save you some trouble here’s the reservation form, and phone number: 090 4740 3808.
Note, on the reservation form there’s Akadakekosen (赤岳鉱泉) or Gyoja Goya (行者小屋), so be sure to check the right one! Also they say to call if you’re booking with less than 1 week’s notice.

Other useful contacts

Minotokogen Lodge: (0266) 74-2102
Akadake Sanso Lodge: (0266) 74-2274
Chino Tourist Information: (0266) 72-2101
Further reading: Hiking in Japan blog


Limited Express Train: 6,030 yen one-way
Bus: 930 yen one-way

Other Tokyo Area Hikes

And we’ve also covered a few other easy hikes in the Tokyo area on Tokyo Cheapo. While nowhere near as epic as Fuji or the two above, they are both pleasant days out:

Mount Mitake

Altitude: 929 m (3,048 ft)
Difficulty: Easy
Season: All year
Time: Day trip from Tokyo
Further Info: Article on Tokyo Cheapo

Koburi Pass

Altitude: 500 m (1640 ft)
Difficulty: Easy
Season: All year
Time: Day trip from Tokyo
Further Info: Article on Tokyo Cheapo

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Filed under: Things to Do
Tags: Climbing, Featured, Fuji, Hiking, Mount Fuji, Mountains
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