Sunday, 25 July 2010

What the Fuji?!


When I decided to write this blog, I aimed to be getting an entry done once every fortnight(ish) - just to let people know how things have been going and what I have been up to.

Well, that plan has certainly been a complete failure.

Nonetheless, I aim to remedy this recent drought of blog news by providing a good update (most likely in two parts) right now. I would like to mention that since the last time I spoke here, I have indeed been pretty bloody busy (not that that is any form of excuse...)

So anyway, you will recall that last time I was singing Argentina's praises regarding their world cup performances. Well, Germany provided a cold hard slap in the face to wake me from that ridiculous dream. Yes, Argentina were playing very nicely up until that match, but realistically they were completely flawed and the defence was just waiting to be taken apart - which is exactly what happened. (i'm not posting a video of that monstrosity, but I will link to it). Suffice to say, it didn't put me in a very good mood for my Japanese exam the following day - I took the JLPT test a second time, but I have a strong feeling it will be "third times the charm".

With England (who were really should have been the ones to lose 4-0) and Japan (who did extremely well) both already out, I really had no one else really to support, and ended up watching most games impartially (although desperate for Germany to lose obviously). That's probably a good thing, as the final 4 games were somewhat of a let down, and culminated in a very slow and boring final which seemed to just drag on and on - that sensation was most likely added to by the fact the sun had already come up here.

Aside from the football, I was interviewed and appeared on Japanese TV (sorry, no link people, but it is on my facebook somewhere), and had university exams to contend with until around the 10th of July. I'm pretty sure they went OK - the revision for the JLPT helped, but I'm pretty sure I ballsed up the reading exam.

So what happened next?

To "celebrate" the completion of our studies at Rikkyo University (I'm not really sure that was the real reason), Lina organized a Mt. Fuji night climb for 26 of us exchange students. This was seriously going to be epic - reaching the top for the break of dawn apparently "blows your mind".

My shot of Fuji from when I went to Hakone

We figured it would be a bit of a mission and so decided to plan a bit before hand. We already had the coach journey there and back sorted out (thanks Lina!) - leave from university at 6pm getting there for around 8ish to start the 6+hour climb to the 頂上. But before we could do that, we each needed to prepare a few essentials. Now two things were clear with regards to what I needed to help kick this mountains ass - I hadn't packed for Japan with mountain climbing in mind, and I wasn't about to splash out big dollar to make up for that fact. Being in the same situation as me, and thinking along the same (stingy) lines, Ramses and Boyd joined me in hitting up the 100 yen shop the morning of the climb and we each spent about 1000 yen (£7.50ish) on cheap crappy torches, bottles of water, snacks, and rain ponchos. That along with a rucksack full of warm clothes, and my really knackered pair of pumas on my feet was all I (thought I) needed.

There are a total of 10 stations on the way up Mt. Fuji (3,776 m), and we arrived at station 5 (2,300 metres) by coach at around 8.30pm (the first 4 stations aren't really worth it - 5 is as far as a car can go). After a thirty minute pause for everyone to get used to the higher altitude and use the 30yen toilets, we got started.

The beginning was pretty easy, and we were able to stay as one big group, but it soon started getting pretty steep and we split up a bit. I wasn't at the front, but I was in the second small group of around 5 people heading up, and we were able to make good time. The route varied from gravel slopes to rocky climbs that needed you to use your hands to pull yourself up. Somewhere early on, there was a small panic that we wouldn't make it for daybreak, and this spurred us on. By around 11.30pm we had more or less got half way through the climb, and not only had the route become more narrow, but the temperature had severely dropped. The small group I was with was coping fine and we kept pushing on until we reached station 8 or 9 (around 3,250m), where we realised we were going to be far too early to the top for sunrise, and so decided to rest a while where we were as the temperature wouldn't be as low as at the top. We ended up waiting for an hour, allowing many of the others to join us before we made the final push to the top - arriving around 3am.

Sunrise was due at 4.30am, and we still had a bit of a cold wait. I was a bit disappointed to see the bright lights of vending machines at the top, but I have got used somewhat to seeing them everywhere in Japan, and the sight of them here didn't really surprise me.

Colours in the sky began to appear at around 4am - teasing us while we practically froze in the cold temperature and strong winds. The fatigue from the 5 hour climb was also beginning to set in, and if it hadn't been so cold I'm sure some of us would have fallen asleep.

The sun did finally show itself, and it was certainly an epic feeling watching the colours play out on the hills and mountains around us. Those of us who had brought a cheeky beer cracked it out in celebration and just enjoyed the moment.

I have to say that the beauty of the sunrise was again somewhat soured by the shops behind us opening up to try and sell us tacky charms and well overpriced food. Nonetheless, we were able to take in what we were experiencing, and once the sun became to bright to look at, we left the viewing area to take a look at the actual volcanic crater.

The journey down was a lot more straightforward than on the way up. It was a series of zigzagging gravel slopes that you could almost run down if it weren't for the danger of slipping. The view as we descended was also incredible - we literally walked through the clouds.

The first lot of us made it back to the at precisely 8am - a total of 5hours up, 3 hours at the top, and 3 hours down. However, some of our bus group took slightly longer, and we weren't able to leave until 3pm.

There is apparently a famous saying regarding Mt. Fuji that I am inclined to agree with: "He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool". For me it was a great experience, being able to do it with lots of the people I have spent my year abroad with - and I would recommend giving it a go to anyone. But I don't think I can be bothered to try it again... too much of a mission.