Mount Fuji has its own distinctive characteristics which set it apart from other mountains in Japan. It’s not just because it is the tallest mountain in Japan, with an elevation of 3776 meters, but also because of its geographical position and its connection to local history and culture.
About 73% of Japanese land is mountainous with multiple mountain ranges running through most of the main islands. In the Chūbu region, where Mount Fuji is located, you’ll also find the impressive highlands of Nagano, famous for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics. To the southeast of Nagano and about 130 kilometers west of the capital city Tokyo, you will find Fuji, standing on its own surrounded by flatlands and lakes.
It is majestic to see the mountain from afar and witness the snow-covered peak unveiled in glimpses through the thick morning clouds. The Japanese people have embraced Fuji since old times and have developed rural traditions and religions revolving around the mountain which can still be found today. Due to booming tourism, though, the mystery and sacredness of Mount Fuji is fading. However, when you take the time to look for the areas less exploited and the paths less traveled, you can still feel the mountain’s magical presence.
Accessing Mount Fuji is quite simple for Tokyo cyclists. Regular trains from Tokyo to Fuji are quite cheap, with express trains that will get you to the nearest station in an hour and a half. Although, bicycles must be covered fully in most trains in Japan, Rinko bags (a nylon bag that covers the entire bicycle) are quite cheap and easy to find.
As for a normal day on Mount Fuji, climbing to the end of the road at the 5th Station will earn you between 2,500 to 3,000 meters of elevation gain, depending on where you start from.
The 5th Station can be accessed via the Subaru Line which is the official route for the most famous Fuji Hill Climbing Race (www.fujihc.jp). The Subaru line averages a 5% gradient, but since it’s a very long climb, you can always take advantage of the four mountain stations along the way to catch a breather.
Aside from the popular Subaru Line, there are other ways to access the 5th station. Some paths, however, might involve hopping fences and riding gravel, which isn’t normally shown on the map. If you know locals who can reveal these hidden routes, ask them to show you the way—that’s when the magic of Mount Fuji truly reveals itself.