Snow-capped Mount Fuji is an enduring symbol of Japan, an active volcano that rises 3,776 metres into the sky some 100 kilometres southwest of Tokyo. As well as being the country's highest peak, it's one of Japan's sacred mountains. The symmetrical volcanic cone seems to come from a mythical painting and the mountain attracts millions of annual visitors.
Most visitors glimpse Mount Fuji from a distance, usually on a train between Tokyo and Nagoya, Kyoto or Osaka. Sit on the right when travelling from Tokyo and the left when travelling into the capital. However, clouds often block the summit and the view can't be guaranteed. Winter months along with dawn and dusk hours are the clearest. Enhance the probability of viewing the white summit by staying in Hakone National Park or Fuji Five Lakes.
Mount Fuji is a destination for adventure, with a variety of ski slopes during the winter months and many high-altitude hiking trails possible in the summer. Mountain huts are scattered across the slopes and a typical ascent to the summit will take two days. Note that routes to the peak are only open from July to early September.
Mount Fuji is neatly divided into ten zones, known locally as stations, with the tenth being the summit and the first being at the foot of the mountain. Most hiking trails depart from the mountain's fifth stations. During summer, direct buses connect Tokyo's Shinjuku Station with Kawaguchiko 5th Station. By train, visitors usually alight at Fujiyoshida and Gotemba stations, where there are local buses to the Mount Fuji fifth stations.
Before ascending, Japanese people and many foreign tourists stop to worship at the millennia-old Murayama Sengen Jinja temple at the foot of the mountain. While no specialist climbing skills are required to climb the mountain, scores of climbers die each year, predominantly from the cold or falling off the slopes.
A Japanese saying seems to summarise the mountain's sacred appeal and power: a wise man climbs Fuji once, but only a fool would climb it twice.