5/22/2012

What Happens on Fuji... Might Just Kill You: Part 1

I don't usually plan my trips in advance, beyond the basic idea of the adventure, and it's for this reason: I don't ever stick to the plan.
Laughing at this also helped pass the time.

I managed to get the first few steps right. Ballroom was fun, and having a reserved seat on a train felt a bit fancy. I even got to see the two previous trains link-up. It was pretty cool. It sort of looked like a double-ended pneumatic fitting.

After that, everything was a bit off, schedule wise. I felt no real need to spend the night in Tokyo, so I kept on the tracks toward Mt. Fuji. It turns out there was train work, the entire way. A two train route turned into four, and an hour long commute turned into four. Though, something good did come out of it.

While waiting for one of the transfers, I was behind what was obviously an American Air Force family: mom, dad, and an upper elementary/middle school daughter (we'll call her Paula). It wasn't until we were on the train that Paula turned to me and said, "So do you just like, travel?"

I had to white board it pretty hard through most of the conversation, but she was an amazing young lady. It pretty much made my night talking to her. Her mom, imparticular, was very supportive of my vow. Which gave me some hope that her parents would incentivise her to learn a bit more Japanese. 

(If you did "get the time" to check the site out, Paula, I wish you the best for the rest of your time in Japan and in life. You're awesome! Note, I'm not saying you should stop speaking English too, [your mom might ground you] but try and pick it up as much as you can. I know The Base isn't the best place to try and do so, but you wont regret it. I promise.)

Once I was finally in Fuji Town, I tried my best to find The Shrine. There are three major starting points and it seemed everyone wanted to give me directions to a different one. I opted for dinner and a good squat spot instead. In the morning, it was kind of easy to figure out which way to go.
It's not too hard to miss.
From this point on, I basically just walked towards the mountain. Shrine? Meh... I eventually ended up at the Mt. Fuji Welcome Center. The ladies behind the desk gave me a map and told me that I should have crampons (metal spikes for your boots) and an ice axe if I wanted to summit this time of year... whatever! (Unsubtle Foreshadowing)

At this point, I was still in need of some eclipse glasses (way more important than proper snow gear, right?). Paula, had informed me that 7-11s were selling them. The one in town that I had passed by was sold out and so was the gift shop next to the Welcome Center, so I solicited a hitch in the parking lot. It was semi-unintentional, but at the same time, I kind of meant to. Once you figure out how sell people on giving you a ride, it just kind of happens. 

This American/Japanese couple was great! They zipped me around town until we found a pair at another 7-11, $18... I still high fived the cashier.

Once back at the Welcome Center, I started to walk once more towards Fuji. I didn't head straight for the foot path, and this little number makes me happy I didn't:


Each section of music is indicated with a music note on the road.

Once on the foot trail, I didn't stay for long. The map they gave me blew. Several trails were unmarked. One such path must have lead backs to the main road because I took it. 
At this point, I had a decision to make: 
A) I could walk the longer, less hilly paved road (that was filled with noisy smelly cars that no longer played me music).
B) I could walk 20 minutes back, a total of 40 minutes wasted, and walk the more time consuming, hilly foot path.


I went with C: Hitchhiking.
In doing so, I also discovered a new use for my whiteboard, hitch signs:

It turns out, I messed up both kanji, but that didn't seem to matter. Within five minutes, I had a ride to Stage 5 of the mountain (the highest of the nine that vehicles can go).
It was quite an interesting car load. There were two gap-year Swedes, Bono (a Japanese guy around the same age), and the latter's father. The Swedes apparently met Bono while backpacking through mainland Asia somewhere.

The Toilets at Station 5

After a few photo opts around the Stage 5 though, my new friends had had enough of the cold, and they left me to my mountain. I managed to bum a couch on the second floor of the gift shop. It was a good chance to recharge my phone as well as myself. 


The internet's allusion to "staying the night and then hiking to the summit for the sunrise," was not for the off-season. I had six hours of climbing to do before I hit Stage 8, and from there it would be an additional half-hour climb, in the early morning, to the summit. 

END OF PART 1

Sorry all. I don't mean to leave you hanging, but I cant fit this all in one post. 
Oh and there's the obligatory plug for my KICKSTARTER, The Hitchhiker's Guide to: Earth. If you enjoyed this post, you'll love the book. BACK IT (please).



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Location: Mt Fuji, Kitayama, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan

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