I saw Fuji Tuesday. It was absolutely amazing. Fuji san is like
nothing I have ever seen before. The funny thing was, at first I didn't
notice it. Even though Fuji-san is at the back door of Yamanashi, my
particular town is too close to one of the foothills to see it. However,
a short drive south and you will see the immense beauty of Fuji-san. You
can drive through a highway tunnel or on an old winding road across the
tops the mountains that separate Misaka and Kawaguchiko. My Japanese
teacher decided it would be more interesting to drive over the mountains
and I am sure glad she did because it was absolutely amazing. As most of
you know, we don't have mountains in Louisiana, so the smallest hill is
fascinating to me. I was having a blast just admiring the red pines and
very sharp drop offs and all of the sudden we topped the mountain and
there was a
quaint little restaurant and lodge. We got out and started walking
around and I was merely admiring the rustic architecture, then I turned
around and there it was Fuji-san. It was flanked my two other mountains
and spotted with villages in the valleys. Fuji-san is not actually a
very tall mountain (3776m), and its uniqueness is from its conical shape
with exquisitely beautiful sloping sides. As with most excursions I take
with Japanese friends, I have never completely clear on where we are
going or when we will get there, so seeing Fuji-san was an actual
surprise. I had no idea it was so near to Misaka and because of weather
conditions in Tokyo the several times I have been there, until Tuesday I
had not actually seen Fuji-san.
The fact that a mountain, the most famous mountain in all of Japan,
crept up on me got me thinking. I think of Fuji-san as an elderly
Japanese man. Often I have been walking around my town and stop to
admire a garden or an old house and then I realize a man looking back at
me. These men, I will call them grandfathers, sit in unassuming places
and blend into the surroundings, then when you see them, you have this
feeling that they have been studying you just as much as you were
studying the tree or sign or whatever
first caught your attention.
For example, one man down the street from me plays a flute in his garden
in the early hours of the morning, which is very nice to wake up to by
the way. One morning on my way to school I stopped to look at a garden,
then all of the sudden I saw him. He looked at me, when greeted each
other and I continued my walk to school and he continued playing. This
kind of thing happens all the time. If I take a walk around the grape
vineyards and peach orchards at dusk, I am bound to run into one of
I only wish I spoke enough Japanese to ask them about their lives and
the things they have seen in the past 60 years of Japans history.
For me at least, Fuji-san is like one of these grandfathers, who sit and
watch what goes on around them. He listens and sees everything happening
in Japan, he has seen more changes than the rest of us and is very wise,
but he does not usually interrupt the goings on, for he knows that he
can remind us of his presence anytime he wants. Even through all of the
changes that happen to a culture over the centuries, particularly the
amazing dichotomy of ancient and modern in Japan, Fuji-san reminds me of
a Japan that has endured.
When my students are unruly and loud during class and I hear them
struggle to speak English in the many role-plays we do, it is very
difficult to remember the Japanese culture I studied in history classes.
However, when it is time to finish and I hear the class leader say
"Kiotsuke" and the entire class stops and stands at attention,
then the command for bow "Rei" and we both bow to each other
ending class, I remember the courtly formality of my East Asia
Civilization textbooks. When the kids do that, or I meet one of the
grandfathers, it as though Fuji-san is surprising me with his presence
I've often heard that before coming to Japan the most important thing to
do is forget all of your assumptions about Japan. I partially agree with
that statement. It is quite difficult to think of Zen Buddhism when you
are walking through Akibahara (the electronics section of Tokyo) but, no
matter how modern Japan becomes, Fuji-san and the little pockets of
historical traditions will remind me of what I love about Japan and why
I came here in the first place.
Benjamin Mark Aston
From afar Mt. Fuji is absolutely magical in appearance. My favorite
time to see
this volcano has to be in winter. You know when it is covered in snow,
but the weather is absolutely clear, with none of that summer haze
getting in the way. Just when the sun is setting, you can see the most
amazing colours glinting off its surface. It's breath taking, but
unfortunately that's the way it should be left.
Up close Fuji is pretty damn ugly. It's pretty much just a load of ash,
rock and scree piled up in an interesting shape. Climbing it is
difficult and goes on for what seems like forever, while coming down is
harder and seems to last even longer. The view at the top is admittedly
spectacular, but when its price is an 11 hour round trip with 2 hours of
frigid windswept pain thrown in for good measure, you have to ask
yourself if it's really worth it.
I think it's probably just about worth doing it once, but only to say
you've done it. That famous Japanese proverb is very accurate in that
respect, but sadly I am indeed the fool who climbed twice.
The first time was just one week after my initial arrival in Japan back
in July 2000 and I guess I just got swept up in it all. Somehow, I
forgot all the bad and when this summer's trip was announced I didn't
want to be left out.
I'll not be making that mistake again though. From now on, I'll be
enjoying Fuji from
afar. To be frank it requires less effort, takes less time and in any
case the view of Fuji tops the view from Fuji by a country mile.
After living in Fujiyoshida for three years, I found myself coming to
sort of worship Mt Fuji myself, just as many Japanese people do.
I found myself longing to climb her every summer, and spend time on her
slopes hiking and biking. Even windsurfing on Lake Motosuko I was always
awed by the sight of Mt Fuji!
So one thing that never understood is why there is an artillery range on
the very slopes of sacred Mt Fuji. Of course, no one wants an artillery
range near their house, but it seems particularly strange that artillery
is fired right at the sacred symbol of Japan.
I was also dismayed that every time I went up Mt Fuji I would see so
much garbage dumped on the mountain. Why do people drive to the woods on
Mt fuji to dump their garbage when you can recycle your
cans and bottles at any and every COMBINI...?
I enjoy very much bicycling down the Subaru Line....but the very
existence of the Subaru Line means that most 'climbers' of Mt Fuji cheat
themselves out of half the mountain. Hiking from Fuji Sengen Jinja one
encounters all the natural zones of Mt Fuji......Someone hiking only
from the fifth station does not really know the mountain...but I guess
that it all keeps bus and taxi drivers employed.......
Fuji-san the whole climb seemed to be pretty brutal, but I also think
I went about it all wrong I wanted to get to top as fast as I could and
had been told that it is an easy climb. It is not, and I felt like I was
punished by the mountain for trying to conquer it. The cold was brutal I
had expected shelter, warmth, cold beers and a nap none of which I
received my expectations crushed, no party at the top, the wind, etc.
All made the sunrise that much more beautiful.
On Friday night 5th September, me and about 19 other ALTs gathered
around Mt. Fuji and began our long overnight climb. The weather was
brilliant - dry and clear. We started around 9pm and stepped carefully
up the rocky paths guided by our flashlights. We took oxygen canisters
with us but there were no nauseous casualties!
Although we started together, by the end most of us had split in to
little groups, climbing in pairs and congregating at the various
stations or huts along the top. Luckily, me and a few others enjoyed the
rests at these huts and timed our ascent well, as we reached summit at
4am,about 7hrs after starting. Other adventurous lots got to the top by
1.30am but froze cold under Mars [very visible and red here Japan the
Moon, and the millions of stars I have never seen before in my life!
Hundreds and thousands shimmering in all sorts of patterns! When we
reached the top, we stood around gathered anxiously by the edge of the
Mountain brim in wait for Sunrise.
Looking very angry, the sky blazed a bright fiery orange at first, then
a cool purple blue and finally a pretty lilac pink! It warmed up quickly
as the sky changed colours.
At around about 5.30 am we explored the huge crater where fresh lava is
expected to erupt in the next few years, and took lots of photos that
you would normally expect to find on postcards.
Then down. How mundane and dirty. Boring zig-zagging down, down, down
yet never reaching the bottom. So monotonous. Red sand spraying as we
skidded and stumbled along.
By 9.30 we reached Station 5 again where we collapsed and baked in the
contrasting heat and longed for showers and sleep.
Now I ache.