So last weekend we planned to visit the 5th station of Mt. Fuji with our kids and friend. If you are not familiar with Mt. Fuji, then I must explain a couple of things so that you understand what I am talking about! The 5th station is actually the highest point on Mt. Fuji that you can reach without hiking. So If you are driving, visiting by tour bus, or just taking a guided tour of the mountain and not an actual “climb” then this will be your summit.
The 5th station is also the “halfway point” on the Subaru line. There are 4 trails that you can take if you are physically climbing the mountain but depending on weather and the age of your children most likely you will be just visiting the 5th station. Older children would have no issues climbing up – although it may take many hours- but our children are younger so I only have advice and tips for those with littles! If it is a clear day you will be able to see the top of Fuji from the 5th station, so I think you can still get the full experience even if you are not climbing the mountain.
Overall I would say this is a family event that everyone should experience while in Japan, even if you have just a short visit. It is one of the most popular and well know destinations and it is really easy to access with children. Compared to many other destinations it does not cost an excessive amount if you are traveling with a large family.
We drove. If you have a car in Tokyo or access to a car you can do it. The route is pretty easy. I must stress that if you are visiting from Tokyo just take the freeway toll route. This is such an easy drive. Yes, you will be paying tolls. I am thinking that we paid about $40 to take a large van but we have also driven to Fujisan “toll free” in a windy road that double our drive time and curved around many edges of mountains and small, small, unsturdy looking old bridges over huge cliffs. I can not even explain to you have terrifying it was to drive toll free to fuji from Tokyo. I literally thought we were probably going to run off the edge of a very narrow road on a very sharp cliff and plunge to our death. So please just go the toll road. You can get there in about 1.5 hours from Tokyo. Easy driving. Not much traffic. When you enter the Subaru line there is a 2000 yen fee. This is close to $20 USD. This is the only toll to get up to the 5th station and back. I thought it was well worth the fee as the road was very well maintained, clean, and there were nice bathrooms at the entrance where you pay the fee.
So the road that you will drive up the mounting is called the Subaru line. You will take this to wind all the way to the top. Drive slowly because there will be many tour buses passing you and they will rule the road. They will not watch out for you and you should be prepared to stop or move over at a moments notice. Be aware as there will be lots of bicyclists using this road as well. They will be the most difficult part of the drive in my opinion as when we went there were many of them.
There will be rest areas along this road up. There will be some parking areas with look out aces so you can enjoy the view. Some of these stops even have nice restroom accomodations and they generally have handicapped parking as well.
When you reach the 5th station there Weill be traffic officers to help you navigate your way around the buses and through the tourists to the large parking lot. There wil be steps and a ramp from the parking area up to the main tourist area. I had a stroller but found the ramp to be very steep. It was not worth it to take the stroller up from the parking area to me.
Things To Do on FujiSan:
The 5th station is where you will find all the action. There are horse rides and they are around 300 yen (US $3.00). They supply helmets and kids or adults can ride. There will be a guide to lead your horse around a little trail that goes around the gift shop areas and then back to the stable area. We chose not to ride the horses because we felt they were in very poor condition. I felt that they were probably not well cared for or rested. Some were constantly twitching and keeping certain hooves up or chained to the side of the mounting standing as if they were injured. You may encounter different horses or a better situation than we did.
There is a row of gift shops. They sell a large array of Japan tourist gifts. Typical things like fans, t-shirts, candies, and lots of “Mt Fuji” memorabilia of all kinds. We bought a Mt Fuji snow globe for the sake of having something Mt Fuji that we could keep. Things are pretty expensive but there are plenty of cheap things like candies that could make the trip “excellent” according to a young child!
There is a large cafeteria style restaurant at the 5th Station. It was pretty crowded when we went. I think it is about $30 per person for the Japanese buffet style food. I do not know if this price changes seasonally but when we were considering booking a tour for our family visiting from out of town is was $28 per person and that was with a very small discount for booking the tour. The cafeteria is child/ baby/ elderly and wheel chair friendly but we opted out.
There is a large area lower than the cafeteria next to an information center. This area has picnic tables and some benches. There is space in this area to enjoy a packed lunch or a bento. We took many photos and videos in this area as it has the perfect view to the summit – especially for taking pictures of your children for future holiday cards and such!
This is also an acceptable distance to the gift shops and a vendor or two selling ice cream. You can send some of your group to buy the snacks or supplies and then wait it out with the kids at the picnic table area. This area is also the closet to the parking area. So if you have some really tired kiddos or grandparents this would be a good spot to let some sit down for a break.
Besides the summit of Fuji, there is also a really pretty little shrine area located behind the gift shops. This area can get pretty crowded but if you are at the 5th station it is worth visiting. It is also a great place to seek some shade if you travel here on a sunny or hot day (however keep in mind that Fuji is generally windy and cooler than down below!)
There are look out points around the 5th station area for photography and admiring the scenery. There are so many trees around the edge of the mountain and it is so massive you almost forget how high up you actually are! You can also check out entrances to the other trails for those continuing to climb up. But remember the the 5th station is the final stop for any cars.
Letting your kids see an active volcano up close and personal is amazing. It also looks very different than we expected! It was amazing that even at the 5th station which is 7,874 feet high there is still a long way to go to reach the top! The entire mountain is a little over 12,388 feet high. If you want your older children to do some math have them convert the signs in meters to feet!
I advise not bringing a stroller. This also may depend on the day and season though. However Mt Fuji is generally always somewhat crowded. Even when we recently tried to visit in the snow, and the Subaru line was closed, there were still many cars trying to enter the road to the 5th station in just the few minutes we were there and made to turn around!
It is easier to use a baby carrier. Get out your most comfy baby wearing harness or wrap and walk freely around. There are far to many tourists, especially many taking selfies and will not watch out for your stroller. Plus you can easily take many selfies of your family and baby hands free. Also there are steep areas and it is just easier to not worry about your stroller rolling down a mountain. I also think it is probably easier to go without a stroller as the ramp up from the parking lot was a pretty steep incline. This mixed with the high altitude could make breathing pretty difficult. You may end up panting the entire way up to the sites! You will still get your exercise in baby wearing and it will be a better experience!
I know that there were many visitors in wheelchairs and many elderly visitors as well. I would suggest letting them out of the car before you park. There is a street to turn down to the parking lot and an area where you could stop to do this. Otherwise be prepared to have someone else them up the ramp, it is pretty steep.
Besides your cost of tolls you will be paying around 2000 yen to enter the Subaru line to get to the 5th station. This is your only cost. There is no fee to “visit” Mt Fuji. If you pack a lunch and just enjoy the scenery and take photos that is all you will pay. This was more than enough enjoyment for us. We packed snacks and drinks for the car. You can bring your own drinks and food and there is no restrictions on this.
There is nothing that you are obligated to pay for other than the toll entrance to enter the mountain. The parking itself is free. The lookout points are free as well. You can park there instead and picnic if you like for no charge.
We wondered around the mountain and bought 1 family souvenir. We had a great time and had lots of photos to remember this by. Not a lot of cost compared to many things we have tried as a family in Tokyo but it was still great fun. It is worth the trip.
Our 8 year old still talks about it and we have returned to the fuji area several times. This is a great family outing even with small children and is easy to navigate. This is one of my favorite things in Japan. It is so pretty and wish we could visit during every season to enjoy how the trees change!
Don’t forget to be quiet as you enter the forest area of your drive. You will pass the Fuji World Heritage museum. (This is also free and you should stop and check it out, another post on this later). As you leave the museum area you will notice down the road that there are music notes. You will drive over bumps and a song will play. You tires will bump along to the Mt Fuji Song! Kids love this! You can hear it on the way home too!