One of a pair of monkeys guarding the entrance to the Yoshida Trail
Although my blog is called Close to Mount Fuji, I got much closer to Mt. Fuji for this post than I had anticipated. In fact, I climbed to the fifth station of Mt. Fuji via the ancient Yoshida Trail. The Yoshida Trail has been used for centuries by devotees of Fujiko (the name given to the faith that venerated Mt. Fuji during the Edo era).
Before departing for the trailhead, I first stopped at the Fujisan World Heritage Centre to get historical context for my visit to Mt. Fuji. The entrance fee to the south hall is well worth the price of 420 yen as the exhibits tell the story of how Mt. Fuji has helped shape the culture of Japan. You could easily spend more than an hour in this large room.
The Interior of the new centre
I then went to the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine to see where the true entrance to Mt. Fuji is located. I visited this site 25 years ago to begin my ascent to the top of Mt. Fuji, and the shrine was as majestic as I remember. Once again, visiting the shrine gives you invaluable historical context for your visit to Mt. Fuji.
This enormous Torii gate marks your departure from this world and your arrival in the world of the sacred.
I am particularly fond of the massive cedar and cypress trees that surround the shrine. These trees stand as a testament to the ancient practice of venerating Mt. Fuji.
This massive national treasure, Taro, can be seen in front of the shrine. His twin, Jiro, can be seen at the back.
I finally arrived at the entrance to the Yoshida trail. This trail fell into disuse with the adoption of the automobile. Very few people attempt to climb Mt. Fuji from the actual base these days, rather, they prefer to begin the ascent from the fifth station. The fifth station marks the tree line on Mt. Fuji. In my opinion, the top of Mt. Fuji resembles the moon more than a mountain. Every step you take sends up a small cloud of volcanic dust. Climbing from the fifth station is more like a test of endurance than a labour of devotion. However, the first five stations are an ascent through the forested section of Mt. Fuji. It is easier to linger in this zone. As you climb, you will notice stone monuments at each historic station that were donated by various chapters of the Fujiko faith.
These are just a few of the many stone monuments found along the Yoshida Trail.
In addition, you will find abandoned shrines and rest stops in various states of disrepair. Some of the structures are absolutely ruined, while a few are still standing.
These rest stops were busy in the late 19th and early 20th century serving refreshments to the devotees of Fujiko.
You really get a sense of history and tradition as you climb the Yoshida Trail. All told, the climb was a manageable 3 hours from the trailhead to the fifth station. If you don’t care to linger, I think you could manage the trail in just 2 hours. I highly recommend the Yoshida Trail. I believe Mt. Fuji looks best from a distance, and the fifth station is as close as I care to get.
The fifth station is the last rest stop before you join the hordes in the area accessible by highway coaches.
Take an express train from JR Shinjuku Station to JR Otsuki Station on the JR Chuo Line (about an hour). Change to the privately-run Fuji Kyuko Line for Mt. Fuji Station, Fujisan Station (JR Rail Pass not accepted). The regular train takes about an 50 minutes to reach Mt. Fuji Station (Fujisan Station). Mt. Fuji Station (Fujisan Station), is the station closest to the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine and the Yoshida Trail. During the climbing season, July through August, there is a bus from Mt. Fuji Station (Fujisan Station) to the shrine.