How likely are you to see Mount Fuji?

Mount Fuji is notoriously shy, even if you plan your visit to the area you may never see Mount Fuji – this was my experience on my first three visits to Japan! I decided to work out how likely you actually are to see Mount Fuji. I conducted a year long study to see how often you could clearly see Mount Fuji from Kawaguchiko, at 6 am, 12 pm and 6 pm. I used live webcam feeds to collect the data from March 2019 until March 2020. I rated the view as whether Mount Fuji was totally visible, partially visible or not at all visible. Here are the results!

How many days is Mount Fuji visible?

Out of the 366 days in the year I studied, Mount Fuji was only visible for 186 days, about 50%! Unsurprisingly this total varies quite vastly from month to month, the best month of the year to hedge your bets is February, the worst is July!

If you know about the weather in Japan then the worst month for visibility coincides with the rainy season. The second dip in visibility is in September, which falls in with the typhoon season. Also during warmer months the warm air will hit the cold peak of Fuji, producing clouds, making visibility poorer.

The time of day also changes how likely you are to see Mount Fuji, rumour has always said that dawn is the best time to catch a clear view, as clouds haven’t yet formed…

As you can see from the graph above, on average, 6am is the time you are most likely to see a clear view of Mount Fuji, except for in December, when 12pm was the best. It was often said that if you couldn’t get to Kawaguchiko for dawn, then dusk was as good, however the data here doesn’t support that for each month of the year.

On average across the whole year, Mount Fuji was clear in the morning 151 times, with midday following at 109, and dusk with the lowest number This really supports advice that to increase your chances you should stay a night in the area to get up early.

What are the chances?

So if you want to hedge your bets, and gamble based on statistics here are the percentage chances for seeing Mount Fuji throughout the year, and at different times.

In terms of percentages, in February you have a 70% chance of seeing a clear view, July has the lowest chance at just 6%! January and February tend to be the coldest months in the area, with an average of 5°C compared to the yearly average high in July at 27°C.

Looking at times in the day, again the highest chance is, obviously, morning.

If we reintroduce the variable of time across each day, morning in February comes out top at 75% chance, the lowest chance all year is midday in July with 0% chance!

Half a view?

Of course seeing Mount Fuji is not binary, either she is there or not. There are times when Fuji is partially visible. In the study I counted a view as partial if the peak was visible, but some of the body or base were obscured by cloud. Clear means the whole mountain was visible, and not visible was the opposite.

Over the whole year Mount Fuji was fully visible all day 61 times, partially 26 times and there were 73 days were Mount Fuji was not seen at all!

If we look at this additional data across the year you can see your chance of seeing some of Mount Fuji does go up a bit!

In June, July and August it is more likely that you will get a partial view than a full view, but no view is still more likely. July, September and October also give a higher chance of not seeing Fuji than getting a clear or partial view. As with all the data the winter months are still the months with the highest chances.

For the above graph I combined the data for clear view and partial view. The graph above demonstrates that for 10 months of the year you are, overall, more likely to see a view of Mount Fuji at some point during the day. This trend is not true in July, September and October, when you are more likely to not get a view of Mount Fuji at all!

When is best to go?

If your sole purpose is to see Mount Fuji then the best time of year to go is in winter, with February giving the best chance.

Cherry blossom reaches the Kawaguchiko region in April, which still has good chances of a clear view with a 50% chance across the day, 6 am giving higher chances of a good view compared to noon or dusk. Here are some of the best places to catch this view.

This photo was taken not long after dawn on 17/04/2017

The leaves change around Kawaguchiko in mid to late November, chances at this time of year are 40%, with morning and afternoon being equally as likely. To view Fuji in autumn click here.

This photo was taken at 7am 12/11/19

As many know the months you are least likely to see Fuji are during the summer, in July Mount Fuji was only visible 6 times!

This photo was taken August 2013 (That is Mount Fuji!)

Of course if you are planning to climb Mount Fuji, the mountain is only official open in July and August. These may be the worst months for view of Mount Fuji, but are the safest to climb.

Partial view of Mount Fuji 21/11/20

Partial views of Mount Fuji are still exciting and beautiful, nine months of the year the odds are that you will see some of Fuji, but getting up early is still the best bet!

All the data here was collected from the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchi, if the cloud is low lying travelling up one of the surrounding mountains can give you a clear view of Fuji! You can see that Kawaguchiko below is shrouded in cloud, where as from our vantage point Fuji is clear!

Taken 19/11/19

If you are going to try and catch a view, definitely stay over night. You are significantly more likely to see a clear view in the morning. Without daylights saving the sun rises very early, and no public transport would get you to Kawaguchiko on time.

I hope this helps you plan your next trip to see Mount Fuji 🙂

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