Photo: Connie Sceaphierde (karasu_travels)
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Mount Fuji under lockdown: Trail closures announced

21 Comments
By Connie Sceaphierde, grape Japan

If you were planning an escape from the clutches of societal expectations and the roar of the media screaming COVID-19 by taking a break at Mount Fuji this summer, you are in for a bit of a letdown.

Under the current state of emergency, it is expected (and rightly so) that we should all be practicing social distancing and only travelling when it cannot be helped. Although Japan is well known as one of the most law-abiding countries in the world, there are the odd few who think rules don’t apply to them, so it can go without saying that some people have most probably already planned out their summer trek up to the peak of Japan’s tallest mountain. However, not only you shouldn’t climb Mount Fuji this summer, you won’t be able to, as local governors of the area have decided to close the Yoshida-guchi trail on the Yamanashi side to the public this summer.

As reported by Jiji Press, Yamanashi Gov Kotaro Nagasaki announced the plans to close down the trail during summer 2020 in order to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The town of Fujiyoshida, which sits at the foot of Mount Fuji, has seen a number of closure requests and the mayor of the town is currently working with the prefectural government in order to put the plan into action.

The decision to close the trail was announced following a meeting between the prefectural government office and the mayor of Fujiyoshida, Shigeru Horiuchi. At the meeting, Horiuchi highlighted the difficulties the coronavirus has brought to the popular tourist destination, saying “it is not possible to ensure the safety of climbers in this situation.”

Just a few days before the announcement, the governors of Japan's four central prefectures, Shizuoka, Nagano, Niigata and Yamanashi, requested that people practice self-restraint and refrain from visiting popular tourist destinations such as Mount Fuji and Karuizawa.

The trail, which is normally open to hikers and climbers during the summer months from July 1st to August 10th, has already closed down the mountain huts dotted along the slopes and has decided against setting up first-aid stations along the trail. Further methods to enforce the closure are presently being decided upon.

It isn’t just the Yoshida-guchi trail that has made closure decisions, as all mountain huts along the Fujinomiya trail have already closed down and the Subashiri trail is currently considering closure. This leaves the Gotemba route, which we can probably expect to follow suit.

Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest mountain (and active stratovolcano), standing at a grand height of 3,776 meters, and whilst that number doesn’t fully square up to the world’s famed eight-thousanders, the climb is not for the untrained nor the faint-hearted. With the mountain routes closed during 3 seasons of the year, the climb involves a long slog zigzagging uphill in Japan’s torturous summer heat before reaching almost arctic temperatures nearer to the top. Considering the huge fluctuation of temperature, climbers have to be prepared with the correct clothing and equipment (that means wearing shorts for the base of the climb and jumpers, sweaters and skins for up top!).

Each year the mountain draws in around 200,000 to 300,000 eager climbers whose feet yearn to take them to the peak. With this many people attempting the slopes, the climb has been known to be crowded with overnight mountain huts needing to be booked months in advance and queues of people winding their way up the pathways.

The mountain warrants its own proverb; “A wise man climbs Mount Fuji once. Only a fool climbs it twice.” We can take this as a warning of the difficulty and uncertainty of the ascent, and although you may have had plans to head up to the peak this summer, perhaps it is for the best that you can now take this time off instead and better prepare for when the trails finally reopen.

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© grape Japan

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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Good, this will give Fuji-san the necessary time to heal itself

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Was Fuji-San sick?

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

So Japan CAN go into lockdown... Why haven't the cities done so even under a "State of emergency"?

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

The Subaru line toll road which runs to the Yoshida trail 5th station is currently closed until May 31st. Sounds like they will extend that.

My guess is that some determined people will simply choose to start their climb from further down the mountain, and without any huts or first aid stations there could be a few more rescue helicopters buzzing around.

The trail, which is normally open to hikers and climbers during the summer months from July 1st to August 10th,

It's usually open until mid-September. Not sure where the August 10th thing comes from.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Good, this will give Fuji-san the necessary time to heal itself

Heal from what? This statement makes no sense. When I climbed Fuji it was jammed packed with climbers. Lots of old timers as well though these elderly a lot less likely to have comorbities.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

“it is not possible to ensure the safety of climbers in this situation.”

It's never possible to ensure the safety of Mt. Fuji climbers, it's inherently dangerous climbing up and down what is essentially a huge pile of volcanic rock. I made it up and down OK, but I know one guy who twisted his ankle on the way down, unfortunately near the top, he had no insurance for a heli rescue, and so with the help of his friends, limped down in agony. Took them all day.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

You know guys, I don’t think the mountain is sick or in need of anything like some are suggesting.

The town there probably does not want up to 300,000 people going, and possibly causing a breakout there.

Also, the local government would be responsible for making sure that people were generally cared for, and obviously if someone gets sick on the mountain....well whos gunna even wanna touch them?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I assume that it can be reopened by this coming summer. Technically the mountain is open to wider public for only a few months.

We also better restrict access to the Aokigahara deep forest area near Mt. Fuji where people tend to visit to take own life. This is a serious proposal.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

its....sick....really no doubt....sick

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I made it up and down OK, but I know one guy who twisted his ankle on the way down,unfortunately near the top, he had no insurance for a heli rescue, and so with the help of his friends, limped down in agony. Took them all day.

There are the tractors used to carry supplies and they can be used for rescues for minor injuries. And you can get horses from the 7th level. Costs you money, but they’ll get you down.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Considering the huge fluctuation of temperature, climbers have to be prepared with the correct clothing and equipment (that means wearing shorts for the base of the climb and jumpers, sweaters and skins for up top!).

Its the descent when you feel the temperature changes. Freezing at the top and gets hot by the time you reach the 7th level.

Unless you get caught in a storm and are miserable through out the descent.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I am familiar with the saying “only a fool climbs Fuji twice.”

I’ve climbed Fuji 8 times (best time 5th station to the top in 2 hours 34 min. Those days are over.....). What, pray tell, does that say about me?

I was planning on climbing this summer. Oh well....

0 ( +2 / -2 )

its....sick....really no doubt....sick

Well volcanoes do run a temperature from time to time. Can take hundreds of years to heal from that.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I’ve climbed Fuji 8 times

Ever done sea-to-sky?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some of those huts can hold 200 people. Very cramped conditions with sleeping bags wedged right up to the rafters. I was lucky, when I actually used a hut, on my first climb, that I got a space for 2 people by chance, and right near the only window for ventilation. Right below me a poor junior hight school age kid sick from altitude. If the virus is still rampant, this is probably a good move. Unfortunately for experienced climbers, it will probably be necessary to close the trails all together because many people try to climb the mountain in nothing more than urban streetwear and there won't be any huts open for them to seek shelter in. I once passed someone in basket ball shorts with a space blanket draped over his shoulders. And another hiker wearing penny loafers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Isn't it a lockout as opposed to a lockdown?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@thepersoniamnow Good, I’m glad someone was able to get what that one commentor was saying. That was obviously the fact that the mountain was sick in a spiritual way at least, because of all the tourists that kept climbing it, which was increasing in recent years.

Those were some very good points you made there, about why the authorities decide to close the trail down. I mean with this whole COVID-19 going around, that’s obviously an extra concern, regarding any rescues, as well as The usual problems you get with large crowds of tourists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good, this will give Fuji-san the necessary time to heal itself

If anything, it's a good opportunity for the caretakers to cleanup the mountains of trash that's piled up there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good, this will give Fuji-san the necessary time to heal itself

I met an environmental researcher on a climb a few years ago and he told me how the mountain suffers erosion every year due to the high number of climbers. The gravel that you find strewn across the descending paths is meant to protect the soil.

So yes it will give the mountain a breather, but will also mean loss of revenue to the mountain hut owners and all the other businesses which rely on the tourists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good news!!there is always next time.Keep safe everyone!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

...the final nail in the coffin for my trip to Japan this year...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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