Friday, July 27, 2007

Farewell, Japan

As a neat little wrap-up to my time in Japan I set out with my friend David to ascend mighty Fujisan. Our climb began at around 10 PM, with the aim to reach the summit by sunrise at around 4 AM. Armed with torches, winter clothes for the brutal conditions at the top, and a few rice balls each, we began our climb.

The ascent is divided into 10 stations, with the 1st being the base and the 10th the summit. The bus from Tokyo plunked us out at the 5th station, and after a few minutes of meandering about we found an expert-looking climber who seemed to know where to go. We followed.

We reached the 6th station in record time and had a short break before powering on to the next.

By the time we reached the 7th station is was becoming apparent that this wasn't going to be a stroll in the park. The path was steep and dark, but our flashlights were true, and David's could even be powered by a hand crank. There would be no failure for us this night.

Here we are at the 7th Station.

Between the 8th station and the summit, conversation drops to a minimum and a kind of mountaineer's comradely kicks in. The air becomes thin, and breaks become short and frequent. We were making record time and were set to be at the summit around 2, so we slowed our pace in an effort not to be stuck on the chilly peak waiting for the sun to rise.

For climbers who bought a Fuji walking stick, a man burns a station stamp onto the side.

We reached the summit at around 3, leaving an hour to shiver and huddle anywhere we could find out of reach of the biting winds before the sun rose. There were salty men serving up slop ramen in a summit shack, so we indulged, more for the steamy broth than the food itself.

The view at the top was breathtaking. Otherworldly. Stunning. An hour trotting around the rocks of that lifeless environment was enough. We set out, with pride in our hearts, for the return journey.

for more photos, check the flickr page


David said...

As a small afternote, I saw on NHK news last night that there was a fire on Thursday in the very same shack at the summit where we chowed down some ramen. According to the report, two male workers suffered burns - I hope they didn't include the guy who already looked like he had been roasted on a spit. Anyway, I suppose with the annual melting of snow, water is one of the few things not in short supply at the summit.

Jon Hoff said...

For those of us out of the loop, i.e. me, one thing you forgot to mention. Where are you going now? I read today in a TEFL article that Vietnam is the new Spain. Whatever that means.