The symmetrical slopes of the active volcano were closed to the public last summer due to the pandemic and only reopened this month.
In the early hours of a recent morning, more than 100 people gathered atop the sacred mountain, which is covered in treacherous ice and snow for most of the year.
“Fuji has always been revered. It is a mountain that is the object of worship,” said Takeo Tokunari, a 34-year-old hiker.
“Although I’m not particularly religious, I somehow feel purified coming here.”
Fuji-san, as it is known in Japanese, is the quintessential symbol of the country that currently hosts the Tokyo Olympics postponed by viruses.
Cycling events take place in and around its tracks, with the steep climbs of long-distance running challenging even the fittest athletes in Japan’s sweltering summer heat.
The 3,776-meter (12,388-foot) mountain is about two hours by train from central Tokyo.
But it can be seen from miles away and has been immortalized in countless Japanese works of art, including the world famous “Great Wave” of Hokusai.
Just after 4:30 am, after a long night of climbing and a short rest on the mountainside, hikers were able to enjoy the majestic sunrise view.
Climbers at the top can watch it cut through the clouds behind a traditional “tori” gate on the mountainside.
“I have already climbed other mountains, but Mount Fuji is special,” said Haruka Fujimori, a 23-year-old flight attendant.
“It is a volcano that is not connected to any other mountain range, it is majestically alone in the landscape, I find it beautiful.”
Mizuki Ogawa, also 23, told AFP at the summit that climbing Fuji had been a personal challenge.
“In my daily life and at work, I sometimes experienced difficult situations that made me lose confidence in myself,” she said.
“So I challenged myself to climb Mount Fuji to try to regain my confidence.”
But while the mountain is imposing, it is also dangerous.
The climbing routes from the fifth station on its slopes to the top are only open from the beginning of July to September.
The rest of the year the mountain is considered too treacherous to climb and the cabins and toilets on the climbing routes are closed to discourage would-be hikers.
But that doesn’t always stop people, and in October 2019 a man died after falling off part of the mountain while broadcasting live.
Fuji last erupted in 1707, and while it has shown no signs of life in recent decades, experts say an eruption could spew ash at Tokyo and force hundreds of thousands to evacuate.
But right now, it’s the exclusive domain of early riser adventurers like 29-year-old Chikako Kubo.
“There is something fresh and divine: a sunrise is a beginning, an opportunity to take stock and start something new,” he said.