Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fuji-san: The Quickening

Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan

Last night, we climbed Mt. Fuji.

There is no way that single sentence can fully describe the experience. Even a few paragraphs or pages would be insufficient. I have no doubt that I could write a novel about what happened over the past two days, but, I'm not a novelist. So, I'll just type out enough for three blog entries with the understanding that this description will invariably be incomplete and lacking. But, I'm hoping that this partial description will at least give you some idea of what happened to Mike, Juan and I.

We woke up yesterday at 8:00, with Fuji on our minds. I was in charge of getting us there from Kyoto, and I felt confident that we had plenty of time to spare. We needed to be at Fuji-san by 22:00, and I figured if we left Kyoto by 15:00, the trains would easily get us there in time. So, we phaffed about, slowly packing up and checking out of the ryoken. We ended up at the internet cafe for some updatin', where we chatted with a visiting american couple. We shopped around for some climbing supplies, and eventually showed up at the JR train station around 15:00. We took the first leg of the journey to Nagoya, and that's where everything turned to shit.
It turns out that the Chuo line route I thought we could take from Nagoya to Otsuki was actually a slow local train that wouldn't make it as far as we wanted. The only way to make it there was to take a train back to Tokyo then take the Chuo line heading the opposite direction, essentially back-tracking over a hundred miles. From there, we would have to catch a local train and then a highway bus, all in the hopes that we would end up at the 5th station of Mt. Fuji by 23:15.
Luckily, this all worked out, but not without a price. The trip was long, and our connections were hard. We had to rush between tracks lugging around large backpacks and Juan's ridiculous rolly-bag. We nearly missed our connection in Shinjuku, and I ended up leaving my JR pass in Otsuki, but we eventually found ourselves standing outside of a convenience store a few hundred feet away from the 5th station. After the last highway bus left, we were alone except for a strange japanese man lurking in the fringes of the light spilling out of the convenience store. He helpfully pointed the way towards the station, and muttered some unintelligible encouragement at us as we started our hike. We were already tired and stressed out from our day-long trek through Japan's public transit system, and we were now about to undertake the 1-mile vertical climb separating us from the top of Japan's tallest mountain.
It was 23:00. We wouldn't reach our goal until 4:30 the next morning.


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