Those of you following this blog may be aware that I famously drove all the way around Mt. Fuji without actually seeing it.

Well, I returned to conquer the elusive mountain (volcano) and ended up... well, you'll see.

There's a saying in Japan that a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, and a fool climbs Mt. Fuji twice.

I would change this around to say that a fool climbs Mt. Fuji once, and if you do it two times or more it's grounds for committal.

I have a friend who's done it 8 times.
Before you climb what the Japanese lovingly refer to as "Fuji-san", you have to prepare.

There are a variety of websites and literature out there that claim to educate you on the process of preparing you to get up that hill.

Looking over their advice, you're encouraged to bring a backpack, extra pair of socks, winter jacket (even in the summer),
rain gear, a walking stick, climbing boots, sunscreen, energy bars, at least 4 liters of water, at least 10,000 yen,
a first aid kit, pain medication, and more. That's for a day hike along what is considered the "easiest route."

I even went the extra mile and visited a store that claimed to be mountain climbing experts to pick out the right pair of boots for the job,
as the last thing I wanted was to get a blister on my trek. I also didn't want to chafe. Or have to poop on the mountain. Those were my three goals.

Getting to the top was a bonus.
Day of, we started out dark and early, 3:45am- that's when the busses for the group I was with left the Segamihara area.

We arrived at what is called "The 5th Station" around 6:30am, full of energy and ready to go.

This 5th station is actually half way up the mountain (volcano), and the only way you have a chance to make it in a day.

We actually had less time than that, however, as we were informed that the busses would be leaving at 7pm, sharp,
so even if we hadn't yet reached the summit we were to turn back by 3pm in order to make it back to the busses on time.

The 5th Station is home to a few restaurants, a few gift shops, a shrine, and a few more gift shops.

This is the place where visitors can pick up one of the famous Mt. Fuji walking sticks.

If you tell someone in Japan that you've climbed Mt. Fuji, the first question they will ask you is if you made it to the top.

The follow-up is if you got a walking stick. Yes, I got a walking stick. They cost 1,300 yen and look like rounded, blond piece of lumber.

Very unceremonious.
There is a brand at the bottom of the stick that represents The 5th Station, and a brand at the top that marks Mt. Fuji's summit.

Along the path, so I had been told, there were various places that would brand the stick (for a fee) that marked your journey up the mountain (volcano).
Once the stick was full, you were at the top.

So with pre-branded 2x4 in hand, our little troupe began what I can honestly say was one of the worst experiences I've had in Japan, bar none.