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The Land of the Rising Sun

9th August 2009.

3 °C

Its been a long time since my last blog, and iv been busy! Summer in Japan is a lot of fun! The weathers great, the days are long and theres crazy colourful summer festivals going on everywhere you turn!

I dont know where to begin this blog, theres so many things i want to say, however i think ill leave all my
inane ramblings to a blog devoted to specifically that, and dedicate this entire blog to my recent Conquering of Fuji-san...better known as Mount Fuji!
As i previously mentioned, my friend whos also Scottish and whos also an English sensei (in osaka) whom i met in Melbourne over a year ago, was staying with me for 1 week before he departs these fine shores.

We decided to see what all this mountain climbing was all about and go Man Vs Mountain against Japans highest, Mount Fuji. Fuji-san (japanese name) stands at 3,776metres or 12,388ft, its a volcano but luckily it has been dormant since 1708, theres 56% Oxygen level at the top and can get very cold.
It was apparently traditionally seen as an abode to the Gods, and still is a sacred symbol of Japan for many Japanese people. Women were actually forbidden to climb until 1872 because they were seen as "unclean" and this would be disrespectful to the Gods!
Ok now the fact listing is out the way ill get back to the Journey. Our plan was to start in the afternoon, climb to the 8th station where our "hotel" was that we`d booked and get some shut-eye before continuing the ascent at night, with the aim of making it to the top to catch the much talked about sunrise.
The bus took us to the 5th station which is where everyone starts climbing from. July and August are the best months to climb, and because of this when we got to the 5th station to this little fuji village where you can stock up on supplies, we realised how popular climbing is as the place was packed out with people...hundreds and hundreds of people, like you see before the start of a marathon. Everyone there for one reason,and all raring to get going.
We filled out bags with a few bottles of water, some rice cakes and sandwiches, picked up a pair of gloves and a hat, and felt we were ready. It was a damn hot day and i was sweating before we even got started! We got moving about 1pm, 1 hour in i said to my mate Nicol "so far so good" as it was a walk in the park, literally as we`d barely begun to go up. Soon enough it got gradually tougher, but i was up for the challenge.
As i said the moutain wasnt lacking avid climbers, and among the climbers were people from all over, and people of all ages! Now there were some families climbing, which in my mind isnt a fantastic family day out! but if i was 7 years young and my parents turned to me and said "what do you wanna do today?" id have probably replied with such suggestions as - go to the park and play - go swimming - go to the cinema, things that children generally like to do. I would most certainly not have said lets go climb a huge mountain! It seemed to me like parents probably forced their unwilling kids into climbing, and a lot of the kids seemed to do what i was best at when i was young = moan and whinge and cry! No wonder! At the other end of the age spectrum were the old people, which i think out of the 1000+ people on the mountain id say 70% of them were over 60! Which is extremely impressive! Japanese old people are definetely not sitting around in their slippers having a tea and a biscuit and talkin about the weather!! OOOOH no, theyre climbing moutains, and making it look easy! It reminded me of the movie; The Bucket list, where 2 old men make a list of crazy extreme activities to do before they die, or "kick the bucket". So...maybe this is what theyre doing!....On the other hand some of these old people probably climb fuji every weekend for all i know!
As we got higher and higher the climb-route kept changing from a zig-zag path to a vague dirt track to actual rocks and boulders, that you had to climb literally as apposed to just walking!
I was setting the pace, and scaling the mountain pretty fast, that my friend Nicol could barely keep up! I was proud of my cardio and the fact i wasnt gassing out early, considering iv done next to no exercise since coming to Japan. I was going so fast and overtaking people, and acting like it really was a race that i rarely stopped to admire the stunning scenery!
Once we reached station 8, and arrived at our "hotel" we sat on the balcony and finally relaxed with a cold beer in the unpolluted fresh air and took in our view. Which was absolutely beautiful! There was a thick layer of fluffy white clouds as far as the eye could see, it was so picturesque! It looked like how heaven is usually depicted, except there were no angels and i was pretty sure i wasnt dead!
I`ve been putting the word hotel in quotation marks because, it is advertised as a hotel, however its definetely not an accurate description. Its more like a dingey rotting mountain hut, but i suppose no one would pay the overly priced 5000yen if it was advertised as such! The "hotel" was basically long stretches of bed with a pile of sleeping bags and numbers along the wall, in a very tight badly ventalated room...although i have slept in worse places before.
So we had made it to the 8th station in little over 3hours, which was pretty good i thought. It was 4:30pm, we had some food chilled out for a bit then about 5:15pm, we decided to get some sleep (even though i wasnt tired). It turned out to be one of the worst attempts at sleeping iv ever had! For several reasons; i had been sweating all day and there are no showers on the mountain, i wasnt tired and just wanted to keep climbing, the bed was shit and i was squashed in between my mate and a fat spaniard, both of whom were snoring!
Anyway, 1am finally arrived (when we were planning to wake up) and i wasnt feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed at all! I was tired and now cold as it was nighttime, and i was coming to the realisation that we hadnt brought enough clothes!
I looked outside, and saw a mob of Japanese who were kitted out like they were going to Antartica!
I just had a t-shirt, hat, shorts, hoody, and gloves. Nicol decided to cut holes in his socks and turn them into leggings, which looked ridiculous but he said it worked well.
We put our previously purchased headlights on and joined the mob. Looking down the moutain all you could see was hundreds of little lights moving up the path, and with the amount of people it seemed like we were all one big search party or we were all on our way to the mines! On the way to the top, we passed people sitting down with Oxygen cannisters, breathing in and out like Darth Vader, ha.
We reached the summit at about 3:30am, and by this time i was Freeeeeezzziiinngg! There was luckily a hut which was heated that everyone was squeezing into. Inside they were selling ridiculously overpriced ramien (noodles), we had no choice but to buy a bowl :(
We had to wait for 2 hours before the sunrise, in that time i was sitting there shhhiiivvering. When it started to get lighter we moved out to the cliff-edge, and waited with the masses. About 5:20am the long awaited sunrise finally graced us with its yellow and hot presence!! Everyone erupted with applause and cheers, almost as if the winning goal had just been scored at the world cup! Some people were bowing and praying when it came up! Nicol and I celebrated with a victory beer we had been saving for the occasion!
Once the whole thing was over and it was daytime, i turned to Nicol and said "Lets get the fuck off this Mountain!". Coming down only took us an hour and a half, however id say it was harder because it was a different path to come down which was really loooose gravely sand on a zig-zag with no barriers, and it really made your calf muscles work.
Maybe it wasnt a great thing coming down in record time, as we had to wait 4 hours for our homeward bound bus in the heat doing nothing :(

All in all, climbing Fuji-san was an incredible experience. I saw some beautiful scenery and reached the top to see an amazing sunrise! So mission successful, and i recommend it to to anyone!
Having said that, id say its a one time thing, im not going to be going back again, thats for sure!....well unless someone paid me! haha...

More blogging coming to a computer screen near you soon, im going to Kyoto in a few days, and im sure ill offload all my thoughts on everything else (maybe not even japan related!) at somepoint when i get a chance.

Take it easy.


Posted by RMS8 07:20 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan travel mountain strange summer job english asia teaching mount_fuji

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