Japan For The Avid Adventurer

20 October 2017

The pungent scent of moss on cool stone hangs in the air as I pick my way down the 400-year-old trail. Birdsong pierces the air, hototogisu (nightingale) competing with kojukkei (bamboo partridge) for the sweetest tune. Occasionally I meet another hiker and we exchange greetings: Konnichiwa!

Do more than just look at Mount Fuji.

A curiosity for history is what’s brought me to the Old Tokaido Road, a highway linking Tokyo and Kyoto. In Hakone, a section is available for hiking, starting at the Hakone Checkpoint, one of the old road’s restored way stations. The path then follows a stroll along majestic Cedar Avenue to the town of Moto-Hakone on the banks of Lake Ashi, where Mount Fuji can be glimpsed in the distance behind the floating torii gate of Hakone Shrine.

A few kilometres through the woods, the Amazake-chaya teahouse appears around a bend, its thatched roof reminiscent of bygone Japan. The teahouse has provided Tokaido travellers respite for hundreds of years. I stop in for a bite, a chewy mochi cake with a dab of sweet red bean paste doused in soy powder, with green tea.

matcha tea Enjoy a cup of green matcha tea.

At the end of my hike in Hatajuku, I visit Shugen Temple and admire some wood mosaic shops before jumping on a bus to Hakone Yumoto, where I indulge in one of the town’s famous hot springs.

But those tantalising Mount Fuji views spur me to see her up close. Summiting Mount Fuji is a Japan holiday higlight and by far one of the nation’s most famous hikes;  everyone should do it once. It’s so revered that there’s a special sect of the native Shinto religion dedicated to Mount Fuji devotion; pilgrims have been visiting the Fujiko Sengen shrines at the base of the mountain to pray for a successful ascent for more than half a millennium. I make a stop here, asking the spirit of the mountain to grant me a safe climb.

Mount Fuji summit The beautiful view from the summit of Mount Fuji.

I start at the fifth station. It’s not lonely up here; the trail is only open for a few months in summer, and hikers young and old populate the path. A couple, kitted out in technical-looking clothing, step briskly past me as I approach the seventh station.

As I climb into the ninth station, I enter another world. Although down below it’s midsummer, with people in tank tops sweating in the muggy heat, here it’s cold and distant. I stop at a viewpoint to look down and think about all the people looking up, but all I can see are clouds.

Mount Fuji sign A sign on the way to the top of Mount Fuji.

I reach the final summit at sunset. As I hike around the cone, the world turns golden and pink and the sea glints in the distance. I’ve made it to the top of Japan.

As I descend the mountain in the rapidly-deepening darkness, I’m already planning my next adventure: cycling the Shimanami Kaido, a road down in Hiroshima that crosses the Seto Inland Sea. I’ve seen the heights of this country; now I want to see the depths.


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Flight Centre is proud to present blog posts written by our customers, affiliates or general travel enthusiasts who are as passionate about travel as we are. We're confident you'll find their insider advice and holiday highlights useful when it comes to arranging your own great getaway!