1. ExpectationsFrom a distance Mount Fuji looks like this.
Close up it looks more like the surface of Mars.
It's a cold, desolate mountain that's prone to extreme weather. A round trip hike on Mount Fuji (from the 5th station) usually takes about 12 hours. It can be depressing to look at dust and rocks for this long.
2. Altitude SicknessHumans commonly experience altitude sickness above 2,400 metres (8,000 feet). The peak of Mount Fuji is at an altitude of 3,776 meters (12,389 feet).
Most people who climb Fuji-san experience some degree of altitude sickness. It's sometimes the fittest people who are worst hit.
Altitude sickness is caused by low air pressure. It's made worse by exercise (climbing slowly is recommended). Symptoms vary greatly by person. They may include headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, nosebleed and swelling of extremities. The only solid cure is to descend the mountain. Many people are unable to finish the climb. This usually means crawling back to the 5th station and waiting hours for your friends.
3. The Line to ClimbTour groups can be annoying. Doubly so when you're climbing a narrow mountain path. Each year, around 300,000 people climb Mount Fuji in the 62 days of the official season. That's about 5,000 climbers a day.
You'd expect to have plenty of space and freedom on a big mountain. In the case of Mount Fuji you'll find yourself waiting in line as bottlenecks occur on the trail.
Mount Fuji is usually climbed at night to see the sunrise. The reward for the climb is an unparalleled view of Japan's sunrise. The sunrise is best viewed with a crowd of cold, tired, altitude sick tour groups.
4. Lack of Thrilling DangerIn 663, some anonymous monk was the first man to climb Fuji-san. He braved bears, rock slides and the unknown to spend some time with the mountain. For most of history, climbing Fuji-san was a dangerous challenge. It was human versus nature.
These days, most of the risks have been taken away and replaced with modern conveniences. There's even a vending machine at the summit.
5. PricesThe price of everything on the trail goes up in proportion to altitude. It makes sense, they have to drag everything up the mountain on special tractors.
For example, lodging on the mountain can be as cheap as 5000 yen. Sounds like a great deal, except when you realize it's like this.
6. Achievement Versus EnjoymentAnyone who tells you that climbing Mount Fuji is fun is lying (although the occasional madman or madwoman enjoys it). However, bad experiences often seem much better in retrospect.
For many people, climbing Japan's most famous volcano is a personal challenge that's worth a little suffering. If you're lucky you might just get that perfect introspective moment at the peak that makes it all worthwhile.
You'll also bond with your climbing pals.