Summer Journeys – Mt. Fuji (富士山)

Mt. Fuji, the top of Japan, revered as a holy site and place close to the heavens since ancient times, volcano with a height of over 3700 meters. That was exactly where we were heading after our time in Tokyo and we didn’t just want to pay it a visit, we wanted to get to the top! Now even old Japanese ladies can walk up to the top, so way figured the way itself can’t be too hard to climb. Of course, good shoes and warm clothing is mandatory (it can be pretty cold at the top, even during the day in the summertime), as is enough water and food. You’re still looking at 7 hours or more of straight walking if you don’t count the breaks. And there is the thin air, which should also be considered. We actually prepared well for all of this in advance and set out for the mountain on the 8th of September. We, that’s Masako, Jonas, me and Vincent, who is also studying in Hiroshima with me. Our decision was to take the Fujinomiya-trail, so we took the train to Fujinomiya-station and from there the bus to the 5th station on the trail up to 2400 meters.

Mt. Fuji, as it presented itself to us from the train-window. An impressive sight, completely dominating everything. 

When we arrived at the 5th station, we still had to kill many hours before we wanted to start our way up. This was due to travelling out of season (so less busses drove up to te station) and our plan to walk our way to the top at night to see the sunrise in the morning from the top. So we enjoyed the beautiful sight, the sunshine and the early evening until the sun set slowly and it became colder. In the cold we chose a place that was a bit more protected from the wind and bid our time – and actually hot cocoa and corn soup out of a vending machine can taste really good under such circumstances ;)

The 5th station sign and behind that our way up – still some way to go!

 

The view from the 5th station and us four still in light clothing. 

 

Beautiful sunset at Mt. Fuji :) 

Our basecamp with at least some wind protection – everyone still happy :D 

At roughly 9pm we finally got moving. The way was as easy as expected in the beginning and we made good progress, even a bit too good. If we would have proceeded at this speed we’d have been at the top too early and waiting there would probably have been really cold. But the problem soon solved itself – sadly in a very unpleasant way. We know it would be raining at some point in the morning, but it already started in the late evening, about an hour after we started climbing. While very light in the beginning, it grew stronger fast, as well as the wind, which was picking up speed and strenght. We finally tried to get some shelter at the old 7th station, cowering in a door entry (as we were out of season, all the huts were closed) as did quite a few more people who wanted to go up too. We finally learned that it was a typhoon that was hitting Mt. Fuji this night and the chances of this weather changing fast were slim. So after cowering for about 30 minutes, we continued our way.

Enjoying the nice weather – lovely! 

That was when it stopped beeing fun and became a test of willpower and stamina. We continued to the 8th station, but there we finally forcefully opened a hut (the only one which wasn’t secured like Fort Knox) to get some shelter from the wind and rain. It was still cold and some cloths were soaked (mostly Jonas’ and my trowsers), but it offered at leastsome measure of protection. And it was here, where we were close to stopping the tour and going back down, but it was mostly due to Vincent, who urged us to continue. We missed the sunrise, but what would we have seen anyway? When we continued uphill, it was getting brighter outside, though the typhoon was still raging strong. Anyway, we continued to show this mountain who was stronger!

 The first torii on our way up right after the 8th station – still no nice weather.

 

A small break. Try to see anything in the background – not possible at all. We were able to see as far as 10 meters maybe… 

 Masako was struggling hard, but she didn’t give up. Deserves some respect, honestly!

Well, in the end we finally made it to the top! Must have been around 7am, I think, so 1 and a half or 2 hours after the sunrise. But we had stopped caring about that already some time ago and were just happy that were finally were we wanted to get to all along. It was still all cloudy, but the rain had stopped and the wind was also becoming weaker. But well, no chance to make good photo shots from the top, sadly.

Beaten and battered – but there! 

And then, when we were finally on our way back down, the sky began opening up and we were blessed with some measure of sunlight! Yay! It might have been a mockery of fate, but we still enjoyed the better weather for our way down and felt energised again.

 

Full power! :D 

A mountain yeti! :o 

Same torii as earlier. Looks different now, eh? ;)

So in the end we got back down to the 5th station, ate something to feed our stomachs something warm and returned to the lowlands. Later in the day a visit at an onsen and going to bed early. Man, what a trip! Worth it in the end, no doubt, but really a test of willpower and endurance. But maybe that’s what Mt. Fuji is about and how he got his reputation… ;)


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