Mount Fuji is Japan’s iconic and sacred mountain. Almost every visitor to Japan wants to see Mount Fuji up close, but for the majority of the year Fuji is covered in clouds!! It is said there are around only 80 days of the year when you can get a clear view of Mount Fuji! In this blog post I will take you through how to increase your chances of seeing Fuji, how to get there, and where to enjoy the perfect view of Mount Fuji!
Mount Fuji (or Fujisan as it is known to Japanese people) is the symbol of Japan and is known to bring peace and good fortune to many people. It is Japan’s highest peak at almost 4,000 meters high – and is actually an active volcano (albeit with a very low risk of eruption as it last erupted in 1708)! It’s shape is very unique: it is almost perfectly symmetrical, with an exceptionally distinctive cone shape which is very rare for a volcano.
Mount Fuji is famous for being elusive and hiding underneath a big blanket of clouds and haze most days, only completely revealing itself on less than 25% of days of the year!! I knew seeing Fuji was going to be difficult and that I would need to plan properly AND have luck on my side. I had my trip planned for a while, and only when I had the perfect viewing conditions did I make my trip to Fuji – I certainly didn’t want to get there and not be able to see Fuji, that would have been such a disappointment.
And it appeared luck was on my side when I was last in Tokyo in December: I managed to see Fuji on such a clear day – it was breathtaking and it actually moved me to tears. There’s certainly not many places in the world I can say that about! I was in complete awe and couldn’t stop staring at it, I can’t even describe it: it was just so amazing and I felt so peaceful when I was there! Thankfully I’m not the only one who was so emotional when I saw Fuji: many people, especially Japanese people find it a really moving experience.
So, I want to share the knowledge and experience I have gained so I can help YOU to plan your trip to Fuji and experience this mysterious volcano for yourself!
How to maximise your chances of seeing Mount Fuji:
1. Check the cloud forecast AS WELL as the weather forecast
It is not enough to just check the weather forecast for Mount Fuji. You MUST to check the cloud forecast too, as this is a more accurate way to tell if you’ll actually be able to see Mount Fuji or not. It is important to bear in mind that sometimes even on sunny days you cannot see Mount Fuji because even if the sky is clear, often there is fog and haze completely covering Fuji.
The best websites to monitor cloud coverage at Fuji are yr.no and worldweatheronline.com . Yr.no will give you the forecast for the next 48 hours only, but it shows the hourly forecast and it is highly accurate. Worldweatheronline.com shows you the forecast for the next 5 days. I used both of these websites to help me plan and predict when would be the best time to visit. Click here for the most accurate weather reports and cloud coverage of Mount Fuji. The column you want to pay particular attention to on both website is the “cloud cover”. If you want to see Mount Fuji clearly, you’ll want to see it when the cloud cover is around 10% or less. The links send you directly to the weather forecast at Mount Fuji: make sure you check the weather here and not in Tokyo as sometimes the weather can be different at both places. All the pictures in this article were taken when the cloud cover was less than 10%, EXCEPT this picture below which was taken on the same day, but in the late afternoon (as opposed to the morning) with about 60% cloud cover, just so you have an idea:
2. Go during winter
Surprisingly, the sky is much clearer in winter in Japan compared to summer, when it is a lot more hazy. However, whilst the conditions for viewing Fuji are better during the winter, don’t rule out a visit during other seasons: it is still possible to see Mount Fuji during these times, just check the cloud and weather forecast. Seeing the Japanese cherry blossom (sakura) in the spring time is stunning (although accommodation and transport is often booked out way in advance as it is the busiest time in Japan), also seeing the red leaves at autumn is really special. Mount Fuji is covered in snow for the majority of the year, from the beginning of October until the beginning of June roughly, so I would advise to go during these months: seeing the top of Fuji covered in snow is so amazing!
3. Be flexible with the day you can travel to Mount Fuji
Before my last Tokyo trip I was checking the cloud forecast every day. It seemed the forecast would change day by day quite considerably as the weather around Fuji can be quite unpredictable. However, if you are looking at the forecast for the upcoming 2 days (ie: tomorrow and the following day), the cloud and weather forecast is fairly accurate at that stage. So try and resist having the day you wish to go to Mount Fuji set in stone, try and be flexible and wait until the forecast says the next day or two will be good weather before you book any accommodation or transport for Fuji. I know for some of you that may be tricky if you want to have an organised itinerary, but unfortunately the weather is out of your control, and like I said earlier, it is much better to wait until a clear day to see Fuji than just be desperate to see it and go any day and see it covered in cloud.
4. Wake up early
Mount Fuji is usually more visible early in the morning as opposed to the afternoon. As is evident in my pictures, I have seen Mount Fuji slowly disappearing under clouds the later on in the day it gets. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that Fuji can never be seen during afternoons – just check the cloud forecast and plan your day accordingly.
Once you have the perfect weather conditions, you’ll need to decide how you want to spend your time around the Fuji area. There are some beautiful viewpoints, one of my favourites being from Chureito Pagoda:
One of the most iconic views of Japan and often considered the best place to view glorious Mount Fuji! Chureito Pagoda is reached via 398 steps and is best visited early morning when the light is soft, there are less clouds and less people, as it is a very popular viewing spot. It was just myself and this Japanese guy there right after sunrise and we managed to catch ‘red fuji’ a few minutes before this photo was taken: a phenomenon that occurs during sunrise and sunset when the snow appears red for a couple of minutes. Truly magical.
This is from the exact same spot as the picture above where Fuji was covered in clouds later that afternoon. To get here you can take a train to Shimoyoshida station from Kawaguchiko station, it is just a couple of stops and takes about 10 minutes. The walk to the bottom of the pagoda is about 15 minutes and then you’ll climb the 398 steps to the top. Alternatively taking a taxi from Kawaguchiko station will take about 10 minutes. Seeing Fuji from here was really incredible!
Another iconic viewpoint that I really recommend is from the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchi. It is a famous spot and also has stunning views where you can see the reflection of Mount Fuji in the water.
Can you see Mount Fuji on a day trip from Tokyo?
So whilst Mount Fuji can easily be visited on a day trip from Tokyo as it is less than 100km from Tokyo and only takes about 2 hours to get there, as I mentioned earlier, often you will have a much better chance of seeing Fuji if you get there first thing in the morning. Also, you’ll want to take your time and relax and explore the local area and the lakes, so going there and back on one day can be pretty tiring. If you can only spare one day to visit Mount Fuji, do the day trip, even do an organised tour if you don’t want any hassle (there are many online), but if you can manage to stay a little longer, I suggest to stay overnight near Fuji and my hotel of choice is Hotel Mount Fuji.
Hotel Mount Fuji
Hotel Mount Fuji overlooks Lake Yamanaka, one of the famous “Fuji five lakes” surrounding the northern part of Mount Fuji. These lakes are a popular place to view Mount Fuji up close as they lie literally at the foot of Mount Fuji and so offer some of the best views of Fuji. Yamanaka lake is the largest of the Fuji five lakes (and the closest to Mount Fuji!) and is home to many swans, as can be seen in the picture below.
Being perched on a hill overlooking Lake Yamanaka, Hotel Mount Fuji offers incredible panoramic views of both the lake and Mount Fuji. The views are really second to none – I literally could not believe my eyes when I stepped out onto my balcony and Fuji was there right infront of me. Not only does Hotel Mount Fuji have fantastic views, but the rooms are very spacious, the staff are very kind and accommodating, and the hotel has a seriously cool onsen!
This was my first time to experience a Japanese onsen and I was a little bit nervous to be honest! Japanese onsen are outdoor natural hot spring baths and you basically are sat there naked with other women (men have their own pool) as swimming costumes are prohibited inside the onsen. Whilst this is a popular past-time to do in Japan, for me it seemed pretty strange at first – you are effectively just sitting in a giant hot communal bath butt naked! However, I gave it a go and luckily I went in and there were just a couple of other women there and they certainly weren’t bothered, which helped me relax at least!
I guess because there are thousands of onsen dotted throughout the country, thanks to Japan’s plentiful volcanic activity, that Japanese people aren’t fazed by being naked in an onsen and so they go to onsen regularly. I can totally see why now: the water is just sooooo nice and warm and relaxing that I didn’t want to get out by the end! Not only was the water amazing, but having that mesmerising view of Mount Fuji infront of me was just incredible. Infact, the onsen, along with the lakes and Chureito Pagoda are in my opinion, the best places to view Mount Fuji!
Getting to Mount Fuji by public transport
To get to Mount Fuji from Tokyo you can take the direct bus (either from Tokyo station or Shinjuku bus station) to Kawaguchiko Station – the main place from which to explore the Fuji five lakes area. Several bus companies operate this journey so buses are fairly frequent, however in peak times you really need to buy tickets in advance as they sell out quickly and when you buy your ticket you are buying it for a specific bus at a certain time and you get an allocated seat on the bus. The journey costs ¥2,100 (£15), takes about 2 hours and is fairly pleasant as the roads in Japan are very smooth. Note that if you want to hire a car and drive to Fuji you will need an international driving licence AND a Japanese translation of your domestic driving licence. Normal driving licences are not accepted!! Therefore, most tourists take the bus to Fuji as they do not have the valid papers to rent a car in Japan.
The majority of buses from Tokyo heading towards Mt Fuji direction actually terminate at Kawaguchiko station, which is 15km from Hotel Mount Fuji. If you want to stay at Hotel Mount Fuji, a taxi ride to Hotel Mount Fuji from Kawaguchiko takes around 20 minutes and costs roughly ¥6,500 (£45). Yes taxis in Japan are extremely expensive!
However, luckily for you there is a cheaper option to get to Hotel Mount Fuji by public transport. There is a direct bus from Tokyo station that drops you off just 2km from the hotel. Head to the bus departures at Tokyo Station (Yaesu South Side) and ask for the Tokyo-Yamanakako timetable. Tickets need to be purchased at the ticket counter before you get on the bus and cost ¥2,100(£15). The stop for Hotel Mount Fuji is Fujisan Yamanakako. The journey time is about 2.5 hours but you need to be careful when reading the timetable as whilst buses run to Kawaguchiko roughly every hour, only 3 buses per day carry on and stop at Yamanakako, so make sure you know which bus you’re on and that you’ll be able to get back ok. If one of these three times isn’t convenient, take a taxi to/from Hotel Mount Fuji from/to Kawaguchiko Station. I have included the timetable below so you can plan which bus to take if you want to stay at Hotel Mount Fuji.
There will be announcements on the bus before you reach each bus stop so listen out (and look on the screen at the front where it says what the next stop is). If you will arrive here before 8pm the hotel can collect you from the bus stop in the free shuttle bus, just ring them beforehand to arrange it. However if you get there after this time, or at a time when the hotel shuttle cannot collect you, I advise you to take a taxi to the hotel: Hotel Mount Fuji sits onto of a big hill and even without luggage it can be pretty tiring walking up. Just near the bus stop is a taxi company: Kyowa taxis (0120 38 1313/ 0555 62 1313), they are open from 7am-11pm and the staff are really nice. The cost of the taxi up the hill to Hotel Mount Fuji was around ¥1000 (£7).
Climbing Mount Fuji:
Not only do many travellers to Japan want to see Mount Fuji, but they also want to climb it as well! Bear in mind though that the hiking season is only during the summer months from July until September (when there is no snow). Outside of this season trails will be closed and it will be dangerous to attempt climbing.
If your itinerary is tight and doesn’t allow for a day to see Mount Fuji, there is a possibility you may be able to see it from a distance. Sometimes you can get a clear view of Mount Fuji from Tokyo, or even on the Shinkansen bullet train that runs between Tokyo and Osaka, stopping off at Nagoya and Kyoto. Coming from Tokyo, you can see Fuji out the window on your right about 40 minutes into the journey, near Shin-Fuji station. You can also spot it from the plane window if flying into or out of either Haneda or Narita airport! Check out this shot I got about 30 minutes before landing into Narita airport:
As you’ll most definitely be seeing Tokyo on your trip to Japan, check out my 24 Hours in Tokyo itinerary. If you only have a short amount of time in Tokyo, this guide is perfect for you because I have selected Tokyo’s best bits in this perfect, easy to follow one day itinerary! Check out the guide here! Even if you are staying in Tokyo for a few days, definitely check it out to make sure you cover all the most important sights of Tokyo! Also check out my top travel tips for Japan here.
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