Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mt. Fuji Part I

Mt Fuji was one of my most anticipated destinations of the trip. I researched the climb on the Internet and we made some decisions about how and when we would attack Japan's highest peak. We booked ourselves a backpacker's hostel a short distance from the train station in the lakes region. From the train station, we knew we would need to take a bus to the fifth station of the mountain and hike from there. We were prepared with a headlamp, gloves and waterproof jackets for hiking through the night. The plan was to arrive, check-in, sleep a bit then wake up for the adventure and return to the hotel the next day for another nap and relaxed day by the lake. We arrived a bit later than anticipated because of rain and train transfers (only one train runs to the station we needed). Upon arrival, we were tired and could not see the mountain but were not yet discouraged. While Patrick took care of checking in, i took advantage of the Internet access computers in the lobby. Sitting next to me were two guys so I took the opportunity to ask about the mountain. One had been up the night before and everything he had to say was negative - cold, wind, rain, fog, no sunrise (I think everyone makes the climb for the sunrise). He returned wet, miserable and tired. He also pointed out that it is just too early in the climbing season for these overnight hikes. My research told me the season runs from July 1 to the end of August and I was excited to be one of the first hikers of the season on July 2/3 climb.
We went to our room, took a quick photo break to appreciate its Japanese style and discussed our options. Neither of us were motivated to tackle the mountain tonight, especially after the description from the guy in the lobby so we decided to take the rest of the evening to explore the area a bit, have dinner and make a decision for tomorrow.
Hiking seemed like it was not going to happen so we began to consider other options such as a lake cruise (the instant favorite), paddle boats shaped like whales (Patrick's favorite), a rope line up a different mountain (kind of stupid) or possibly taking the bus to the mountain in the morning and exploring the 5th station without hiking further (I at least wanted to be on the mountain since we were so close). We didn't make a decision but it was time for dinner so we went exploring.
First we found the lake. There were a few locals fishing and a few touristy looking boats docked for the evening. It was mostly quite but very pretty in our small alcove.
We knew there had to be more and our tummies were getting anxious so we left the lake and headed for town. I can't really call this place a city because it was so small. I was craving sushi but that was not on the menu this evening. Our restaurant choices were limited to Chinese, a cafeteria style Japanese place, Moss Burger (Japanese burgers and coffee), 7-11 or a small Indian restaurant. Based on delicious experiences in Tokyo, we chose Indian and were not disappointed.

After filling our tummies we headed back towards the lake, partly because it was on the way and partly because I wanted to see what was on the other side of the bridge (crossing the bridge to the next town was also an option for the next day).

While on the bridge I tried to find the mountain. If were were going to see it from anywhere, this was our chance. However, neither of us could find more than the base of any mountain so it was hard to distinguish what may be Mt. Fuji. Patrick asked the first Japanese man to pass and he pointed us in the right direction. Mt. Fuji is that way. Don't you see it? he laughed at us and continued on his way. We laughed too, this was hopeless.

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