Mt. Fuji

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
Trip End Jul 20, 2014

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Where I stayed
Station Inn

Flag of Japan  , Chubu,
Friday, July 2, 2010

Machida City/Mt. Fuji

Quick, quick - I am watching the Argentina-Germany soccer game and have 15 minutes to update my blog. It already has been 5 days that I am in Japan. I am enjoying my stay with Hiroe and her auntie; her auntie prepares some delicious food which is presented fit for a first-class restaurant.  As the guest of honor, I get to sleep in Hiroe's room which I like very much for its simplicity and comfort.  It also gave me an idea as to what I want to have in my house, if I ever have one - tatami mats, no beds but a futon or Japanese style mattress, sliding doors and bamboo blinds.  And an automatic toilet as seen in Japan (which I am absolutely fascinated with.)

My plan was to head to Mt. Fuji on Wednesday but had to wait until the climbing season officially opened on Thursday, July 1st.   After arriving at Kawaguchiko Station, I phoned the hostel to find out if they have a dorm bed available which they didn't.  The very friendly staff and English speaking at the information center suggested trying the Station Inn, which is located across Kawaguchiko station.

The Inn was great; free internet, free coffee and tea, clean and comfy dorms, free yukatas to try on and take photos of, and a friendly and English speaking manager. For the uninitiated, the yukata is a Japanese summer kimono worn by both men and women. The name yukata comes from the word "yu" (bath) and "katabira" (under clothing ). Thousands of years ago, Court Nobles wore linen "yukatabira" which were draped loosely after taking a bath. It gradually became worn by japanese warriors and then by the general public when the sophisticated japanese public bath became popular. Today, the traditional japanese yukata is widely used for everything from festivals, ryokan, summer daily wear to simple night attire. In Japan, the yukata is the most popular daily clothing wear and is beloved for its 100% lightweight cotton fabric. The fabric designs vary from the traditional plain cross hatch pattern to more colorful scenery designs.

My 3 days at Kawaguchiko were spent with walking around Lake Kawaguchiko and Lake Saiko (eating lots of Mulberries along the way and devouring lavendar and blueberry icecream) and climbing 3776 m high Mt. Fuji. 
Mount Fuji (Fujisan) is with 3776 meters Japan's highest mountain. It is not surprising that the nearly perfectly shaped volcano has been worshipped as a sacred mountain and experienced big popularity among artists and common people. Mount Fuji is a dormant volcano, which most recently erupted in 1708. The bus took us to the 5th station from where most of the hikers start.  It was a fairly straightforward hike up to about 3400m after which it became a bit strenuous in the sense that I felt short on breath and had to take frequent "breathing" breaks. As the website states: "... the main challenge of the climb is the fact that it is very strenuous and the air gets notably thinner as you gain altitude. "

I reached the top after 4 hours; by then I was starving and made sure I ate all of my bread and cheese baguette and carrots.  After some rest, I went for the crater walk which brought me to the highest point and afterward made me navigate the trail through snow. Just as I had completed the walk, thunderstorm, lightening and rain made for a challenging descent (there is always the fear of being struck by lightening).  I made it down in two hours by which time I had time to reflect on my experience.  My Japanese friend didn't understand why I was so eager to climb Mt. Fuji; it is what it is, a volcano. True, most people come for the sunrise at about 4:30am which means they have to hike through the night or get an early start from the 7th or 8th station.  That's fine with me; I wasn't too eager to see the sunrise, I was just keen on getting up the mountain for fun and excercise.  There is nothing spectacular about the mountain, it consits of reddish-brown rocks interspersed with some greenery.  If you are lucky, you might get some great views on clear days, if not the clouds (and the other climbers) are your companion.

Two days later, I went for a much lower mountain, Mt. Takao at 600m which made for some muddy trail hiking (after the previous night's rain).

Mt. Takeo is home to Yaku-ou-in temple which in turn is home to mountain hermits, called Yamabushi.

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