Almost a year ago, my friends and I decided to try climbing Mount Fuji in Japan. Having conquered a few mountains together, we were mesmerised by the beauty of Mount Fuji, a well-known symmetrical, snow-capped and cone-shaped volcano.

Climbing Mount Fuji or Fuji-san as it is fondly known to the locals, is only permitted during the summer months (July to August) as weather conditions can get quite dangerous during other times.

It was our first trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, and despite our hectic schedules we meticulously planned our journey to cover multiple cities. After arriving in Osaka, we visited one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, the Osaka Castle, as well as the Dotonbori street to feast on local food. The next day we went to Kyoto, where we checked out the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This required us to hike up the 233m Mount Inari, which offered a great view of the city from the top. No words could describe the serenity of Kinkakuji temple and its zen garden.

On the third day we rode the Shinkansen to Odawara. It was an amazing feeling dipping our feet in the waters of the North Pacific Ocean at Odawara beach. We had a good rest in this town preparing ourselves for the highlight of the trip the next day.

Geared up with our hiking outfit, we travelled to Kawaguchi by train. The “5th station” at Kawaguchiko is where most hikers begin their Mount Fuji ascent via the Yoshida trail.

Scaling up the active volcano is not an easy feat for anyone as the pathway is covered with pebble-like volcanic ash. However, the local authorities have done a good job in maintaining a climbing path with well-furnished signage.

Enjoying the view, we slowly made our way up the mountain towards the 8th station, where there was a hut. Reaching this place late in the evening with temperatures reaching 8˚C, we were welcomed with dinner and a warm place to rest for a bit.

We resumed our climb shortly after midnight towards the summit to catch the sunrise. We successfully summited at 4am wading through freezing cold winds. Our efforts were worth it as we silently witnessed the most spectacular sunrise ever. There we were at 3,776m above sea level, four Malaysians proudly flying the Jalur Gemilang with the spirit of Merdeka. It was an emotional experience, yet that did not stop us from taking tons of pictures, even though we knew that no picture could really capture what we felt and saw.

After spending almost an hour at the peak, we started our descent with a heavy heart. The journey downwards was equally challenging as it was a steep and slippery pathway all the way down back to the 5th station. We safely arrived at the base three hours later.

Fully worn out, we picked up our luggage which we had kept earlier at the station and made our way to Lake Kawaguchi, checking in at a ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) with a view of Mount Fuji from our room window. Since this lake town was too beautiful to miss, we rented bicycles and ventured out.

Mount Fuji

A vendor selling freshly cut fruits at Ueno Market in Tokyo.

Later that evening, we rewarded ourselves with an onsen (hot spring bath).

We spent our final two days in Japan roaming around the busy city of Tokyo experiencing their ultramodern facilities and historical sites. Walking together with the locals at possibly the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing – Shibuya Crossing – was a one-of-a-kind experience.

We also took a picture of the famous statue of Hachiko the Akita dog at Shibuya Station and went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office observation deck to get a bird’s eye view of this city.

We ended our trip with a visit to the Edo Museum and Meiji Shrine where the true historical origin of Japan could be felt. As we took the train towards the Haneda International Airport to catch our flight back home, a famous Japanese proverb kept playing in our minds, “A wise man climbs Mount Fuji once, a fool climbs it twice”…

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.