Unless you take a tour, you need to take a shuttle bus from the base of the mountain to the 5th station. The bus runs once every 30 minutes starting at 4:30 or 5:00. It fills up quickly so be there well before the bus you want to take. It costs 1000 yen round trip and is a 45 minute ride.
There are plenty of bathrooms on the trail up. I was pleasantly surprised. They were clean with paper and only towards the end of the day did they start to smell a little ripe. However, there are only two bathrooms on the trail down. I would still recommend bringing your own paper and hand sanitizer. Also bring lots of small change. Each trip to the toilet costs 200 Yen.
There are plenty of places to stop, rest, snack and see the scenery. Prices do go up the higher you climb. I would not rely on buying all of your food and snacks. Make sure to pack plenty of water.
I was there on a weekday and it was not very busy. However, even on a light day, there were some definite choke points on the hike. I can’t imagine if it were packed!
For several km around the 8th station you are hiking on dried lava. It is rough steep hiking and you may have to use your hands – especially if you are short. Bring work gloves!
The hike down is primarily loose lava rock. If you can get the hang of skating on top of the rock you can make it to the bottom in record time. If you can’t (like me) then it is almost slower going down than up. I actually fell twice and wish I had been wearing work gloves.
I brought hiking poles and definitely would again!