Japan and Mt. Fuji - Sept 2002
Japan and Mt. Fuji
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I was in Japan again from 8/23/2002 until 9/13/2002. The first weekend I was there was the last that the
trail up Mt. Fuji was officially open (it's only open in July and August). So I made the climb before
starting work with Toshiba.
This was the starting point of the hike, partway up the mountain at "Station 5"
(there are 10 "Stations"). There are many souvenir shops, and that sort
of thing. Here you can also buy a hiking staff, which can be stamped with
a branding iron at the top and at stations along the way... sort of proof
that you were there, I suppose, and a souvenir.
As you can see from the photos here, I wasn't exactly alone on this hike.
The climb isn't technical at all, it's just a steep hike, with some rock
scrambling near the top. For a trail that's been used as long as this one,
I was surprised they didn't have escalators installed the entire way by now.
The summit elevation is 3,776 m (12,388 ft).
Mountain Hut at Station 8
This was where I stayed to sleep for a few hours. Most climbers start around
noon, stop at one of these huts for dinner and a few hours sleep, and then get
up around 1am to finish the climb in time for sunrise. The old fella was in charge
of branding the hiking staffs. Also, Jimmy Carter was apparently here... at least
they had his autograph (first photo)
The first shot below shows some of the huts below mine. There are about 15 of
them on the way up. I didn't have a reservation... I had my sleeping bag with
me just in case I had to rough it. But it turns out they always have room for
"just one more". I was assigned a space on a common bunk about 1 foot wide...
trouble is, I'm about 5 feet wide. Oh well, I got a few hours of shuteye.
The whole idea is be at the summit for sunrise... the first light to hit
Japan (and Asia, I think) each morning, hence "The Land of the Rising Sun".
The same thing happens at Acadia Nat'l Park near Bar Harbor, ME, so I've
seen it in both East/West hemispheres, I guess :-)
Now this is a mountain summit I can appreciate!! Nothing like the desolation
of Kilimanjaro... on top of Fuji there is a shrine complex, and lots and lots
of friendly vendors happily charging about twice the going rate for snacks and
beverages. Mt. Fuji is a volcano, so you can see the crater in some of the photos.
The shrines and shops are situated along the rim (see last photo).
Going down was a different trail. The entire way was steep switchbacks with
loose gravel all the way... a real pain in the neck (last shot's kinda cool, though).
I stumbled onto the Asakusa Samba festival. I have no idea why there's
a Samba festival in Japan, but they sure seem to have fun doing it. And
lots of pretty girls in skimpy costumes... what's not to like? :-)
My friend Setsuo Kondoh lives down in Yokohama, and was kind enough to
take me on a tour (he's the guy in the blue shirt and jeans). Here are a
few shots... the first few are of the Foreign Cemetery, where foreigners
were buried around a 100 years ago. The tall building (last photo) was the
Landmark Tower, with the currently fastest elevator in the world, running
at 750 meters/minute, so of course we had to ride it (why do I care?... I'm
over here working for the elevator division of Toshiba, so I gotta know these
things :-). Landmark Tower is also the tallest building in Japan.
My unusual meal of the trip... at one meal, they ordered a tuna fish
head. Actually, just the starboard half of a tuna fish head, broiled and
basted with some sort of sauce. Pretty tasty, especially the the eyeball-movin'
muscles. They're available in the supermarket, so
I guess I could prepare it myself if I liked!
I was lucky enough to be there during the September basho in Tokyo.
So I went to another sumo bout. These photos were taken near the wrestler's
entrance. Many of the training stables are within walking distance of this stadium.
This was early in the afternoon, so these would be the "little guys".