Climbing Mt. Fuji in the Pursuit of Pokémon

IMG_3319When my sisters informed me that they planned to climb Mt. Fuji when they visited in July, I wasn’t thrilled. Many say that climbing to the summit of Fuji is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that’s exactly why I wasn’t psyched for the adventure. Two years ago I had already gone with one of my sisters and, although beautiful, the climb wasn’t an endurance test I wanted to take again. They were adamant that they’d go with or without me, so I had to do the brotherly thing and tag along to make sure everything went smoothly.

My attitude about the trip changed dramatically when Pokémon GO was released in Japan just two days ahead of our planned climb. I wanted to see for myself what sort of Pokémon may be hiding at the icy summit of the tallest mountain in the country. The alluring Jynx? The elegant Dewgong? Or possibly even the Legendary Articuno? There are plenty of apps which claim to tell you where Pokémon are located around the world, but scrolling around a map just doesn’t beat taking on an adventure yourself.

The day of the trip we grabbed our bags (well stocked with warm clothes, water, food and other survival goods) and headed out. After 2 hours of riding trains and an hour bus trip we arrived at the 5th station of the Subashiri trail at 7PM. In order to see the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji we planned a night trip, but we didn’t anticipate just how fast night was going to fall. A heavy fog had set in that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a horror movie and as we got further into the forest it became pitch black. Even with our headlamps on visibility wasn’t more than four feet and the lack of other people combined with the utter stillness of nature made it an unnerving start. Although my youngest sister on the trip was terrified a wild boar or bear would come barreling out of the woods at any moment, we managed to calm her enough to keep moving and get far enough along to leave the foliage behind.

fuji-climbOnce the three of us began to climb Fuji’s rocky slope our energy depleted quickly. Although I had remembered the mountain being a fairly uneventful hike up, our lack of sleep the night before and long transportation time to trail began to take their toll. The routes are fairly well worn and not particularly dangerous to ascend, but it is quite taxing to step up rock after rock. It’s almost like a never-ending staircase with some short plateaus to catch your breath.

Now I was the one egging on my sisters to finish the climb: I was close to seeing for myself the wild Pokémon inhabiting the top and I didn’t want to stop now. After a few long breaks we made it far enough to merge with another trail and suddenly it wasn’t a lonely climb anymore. More than a hundred people were also climbing up and it formed a human line between the last few stops and the summit. It was an energizing experience to see others and the body heat generated by the crowd did a lot to warm us up as we climbed.

Finally, we hit the top. I took off my gloves and turned on my phone that had been switched off with 70% of its battery left for catching Pokémon (or any possible emergency calls). After Pokémon GO started up, I finally got to see what I hadn’t before: there were three Pokéstops right in our vicinity. I quickly dropped a lure to maximize my chances of finding anything I could. Suddenly, disaster struck: my battery which had just been at 69% sank all the way to 1%. I knew time was of the essence or this trainer would be going home without seeing anything.

Then… they began to appear on the map. Pokémon had come to my lure: a Pidgey and an Ekans. I quickly snapped a picture of the latter, before shutting off my phone. I had to weigh the choices between catching a Pokémon at the top of Mt. Fuji or calling for help if someone slipped. Luckily my sister let me borrow her phone with a spare battery pack and I logged in again long enough to find a Spearow as well.


Then, I sat back and watched the sun rise over the clouds. That was the one thing I had missed out on during my previous trip because my roommate and I hadn’t kept up a fast enough pace. It was beautiful and I couldn’t help but think that just maybe Solgaleo was somewhere nearby.

While it may have not been the most exciting Pokémon I found at the top and I was probably not the first to search on the top of Mt. Fuji, I will definitely consider the climb a personal achievement as a trainer and a great memory.

<3 PJ