August of 2009, Boot Size 10
Greetings my readers,
There are many once in a lifetime opportunities, and going to Japan with People to People was one of them. And during that trip there were many occurrences I doubt I’ll be able to repeat. Meeting government officials, picking tea on the mountain next to Mount Fuji (though I am determined to find a way to do this again), and celebrating my birthday in Tokyo. But there is one event that occurred while exploring my favorite foreign country that I do not wish to reenact.
This event was the time I found Mount Fuji.
Our group was not taking the usual trail one hikes up Mount Fuji. Hiking to the top generally takes all day and our group was always determined to cram as many activities into our day as possible. Luckily there is a second path, though not as “popular” (I’m sure it is well known, but probably not the most commonly thought of path).
You see, Mount Fuji has two major eruption sites, not one. Halfway down the mountain is the eruption site called Hōei-zan, named for its eruption in the- fancy that- Hōei period. This was our hiking destination. It’s a much shorter trip, but a steeper and a touch more strenuous. Since we weren’t going to spend the whole day hiking, this was our group’s path.
Our bus trundled up the mountain until road transportation was no longer available (the fifth station) and all forty of us tumbled off. After being holed up in a bus, our legs were happy to get a bit of stretching in. They had no idea what they were in for.
Gathering all together we met up with our guide for Mount Fuji. In passing I noticed Japanese school groups, including one group all dressed in orange rain coats with walking sticks.
The walking sticks they held are a particular souvenir available when climbing to the main summit of Mount Fuji. At the first station of the mountain you buy a simple look walking stick with a stamp on it. Then at every station you can get another stamp until the final stamp at the top of Mount Fuji. Overall it is an awesome souvenir to think about getting, but keep in mind that the higher one climbs, the more expensive each stamp gets.
Nevertheless we were on our way. At first we were eager to trek up, but of course over time in got steeper and more difficult to climb. If you aren’t an experienced climber or at least exercised then this can actually be a chore. Considering I love biking and hiking mountains, I was used to my calves straining to take the next step.
The next huge part was that it was very foggy. And by foggy I mean you can’t see five people ahead of you foggy. This dense fog made the entire trek up seem that much more mysterious and adventurous. Exploring an area where you can only see a tiny piece at a time. On the downside it also made it impossible to decide if one was hot from all the hiking or cold from the brisk mountain air and cooling fog. I myself must have yanked my sleeves up and down countless times trying to keep my body at an even and comfortable temperature.
Nevertheless, we made it up to Hōei-zan and despite the lingering fog the view was gorgeous.
The guide offered to take anyone willing to go further into the crater. I was more than willing to volunteer for venturing into the crater of a volcano. It would be lame if I did not! I mean if you’re going on a potential once in a lifetime adventure, go all the way!
This is where my battle began. It was a true struggle and we both exchanged blows. Mount Fuji started by attempting to trip me up and get me off my game. I responded with a full body slam, which probably threw off ol’ Fuji. But it recovered quickly and turned the fight into a dirty cat fight. Attacking with rocks and pebbles it resorted to cat fight tactics of scratching and clawing. It was at this point that I realized this fight was pointless even as I skidded down the mountain’s surface, trying to find a weak point in my enemy’s defense. I held my hands up in surrender, and slowly stood up to admit my defeat.
Fighting Mount Fuji is not an adventure I intend to repeat again, but aside from my skirmish the hike was a beautiful and freshening experience.
Lesson of the story? Don’t try to descend a mountain too fast. If you do there’s a high chance of encountering a battle like you’ve never experienced before. And you would not want to try it ever again.