|Summit of Mount Fuji|
A few weekends ago, a group of 6 of us embarked on a journey to the highest mountain in Japan in hopes of getting the satisfaction that comes along with looking at the picture above. When you tell a Japanese person that you're going to climb Fuji-san, they usually tell you that you're crazy and they've never done it or that you'll be completely fine. So when we made plans on a Wednesday to climb on Friday night, do you really think we knew what we were getting ourselves into?
There were a few reasons we wanted to climb when we did. Firstly, "official climbing season" is over. This means there are signs up the mountain saying it's closed and less huts are open, but it's all a big scam because there were TONS of people. Don't let the do not enter signs scare you, climb the mountain in the pitch black of night. That leads me to the second reason, we wanted to see the sun rise. It's very popular to climb for a few hours at night or in the evening, rest in one of the huts for a 3-4 hours, then climb to the summit in the morning to see the sun rise. That would have been a great plan, if not for the extra 3 hours of travel it took us to get there. Our plan was simple and didn't seem complicated but we got on the wrong train, leading us to backtrack, get a little lost, lose a friend, find him again, then finally get going in the right place. We probably should have done a little more preparation....but we got there!
At 1 AM we started climbing (we left at 5 pm after a full day of class). We planned to just climb all the way up and climb all the way back down. Super ambitious. I'm not an avid hiker (for those of you who don't know this already) but this was a tough climb. It felt more like doing lunges for 7 hours. The rocks were steep but I think it would have been a little scarier had it been light out. We had no idea where we were on the mountain, what was beyond the little path we were climbing, or how far up we were really getting. (100 million kudos go out to my friend Garrett who was on the receiving end of my frequently asked questions "How much longer do you think it is to the top?" "What time is it?" and "Are we there yet?!" God bless him, eternally. He deserves it after that.) Climbing at night actually helped, believe it or not. We didn't end up seeing the sun rise at the summit, but the four of us who made it to the top agreed it would have been way too cold to sit and wait up there. The wind was incredibly strong and by the time we got there, my fingers were losing feeling. We ended up taking a nap in a little cove right where everyone walked once they got to the top. So, yeah, I napped on Mount Fuji. How typical of me?
The way back down seemed almost longer because by then we were tired and grumpy and ready to kill each other. My weak attempts at conversation with Garrett (once again, God bless him) were shot down with the "Please just shut up" glare. On the way home we took one bus and one train. It took around 2 hours but we got a little bit of napping time in. Much easier than the way there. Then I came home and went to bed at 5 pm. Success!
All in all, it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I'm not really sure how to convey to you the defeat that comes along with not knowing where you are or how long you have. I'm particularly ashamed of how I was the "Are we there yet?!" girl. Apologies to the people who are somehow still my friends after that. But now, many weeks later, my legs don't hurt anymore, my sunburn has turned into a nice face tan, and I don't curse Mount Fuji every morning when I wake up. It was a lot harder than I thought, but something I'm so happy I accomplished and can live to tell about. When's the last time you napped on the highest mountain in Japan?
|The one on the left, Jordan, is the friend we lost.|
This is after finding him.
|Making some serious fashion statements on Mount Fuji|
|Don't let the smile fool you. I was miserable.|
|View from my nap|
Side note: The title of this post comes from the feeling I had when we began our descent. It was morning and we were passing tons of people as they climbed the mountain. No joke, I probably said good morning to 500 people. Every single one of them said it back. People say Japan is so polite, but after experiences in crowded train stations, I'm a little hardened to that concept. On Mount Fuji, though, I loved Japan. I loved the people, I loved the experience, the beauty of it all. I fell in love with Japan on Mount Fuji, there's simply no other way to put it.