25 June 2014
We got off to an early-ish start and were on the road to Mt. Fuji just after 8am. As we started off, I soon realized this was the first time in months that we had been in a car. And have to admit it was a little scary at first. At one point, while we were driving with the flow of traffic I thought we were traveling really fast, but when I looked at the speed we were going about 65mph. Yep, the girl with the lead foot now thinks 65mph is way too fast. I have a feeling that when we are back stateside it will be lots of side roads and minimal trips on the freeways for a few months. We made a short pit stop at one of the road side rest stops. While having done a few road trips between SD and the bay over the years, I have thought that there have been some nice improvements to the rest stops in-between the two areas, however Japan once again reminded me that those are just crap in comparison. This rest stop had a nice outdoor area to hang out at, plenty of food options and of course really nice restrooms. This will definitely be the first and last time that I go to a roadside restroom that has heated toilet seats and as per usual music options. I have decided that for our next home we will have a Japanese style toilet.
After a few hours on the road we arrived atKitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine. This is the location of the official start of the trail and home to statues and celebrations related to climbing Mt.Fuji. The temple was very colorful and well preserved. However to keep these colors the structure was covered in plexi glass which made it impossible to snap a good picture.
While we didn’t make the stop to see the deer on the grounds (I think I’m still a little scared from the deer at Nara) we did come across a pre-school field trip making their way there. It was probably the most adorable thing I have ever seen especially when the kids held up the peace sign as their teachers snapped pictures. Now that we had our time at the temple it was time to take the short cut and drive up to the highest point possible, station five, and start our afternoon walk.
As we were driving up the Fuji Subaru Line towards station 5, we got to experience some road entertainment. There were divots created in the road so that as we drove over them it played a nice little song. It really is the little things that impress us sometimes. Getting closer, the clouds barely began to break at the summit. With the convenience of a car, we pulled over, quickly grabbed our cameras and were out snapping away.
Moments later we were back on the road and the clouds had once again covered the view. It is moments like these that being on a bus would have sucked. We arrived at the parking lot to a densely fogged in valley and mountain and some very cool temperatures. To me we could have been on Antarctica. So we stopped into the chalet/restaurant/gift shop to warm up with a bowl of ramen. It was than time to see what this mountain was all about. We started down the path and came to the sign reminding us that the mountain was “closed” so we stepped over the small chain roped fence and were on our way. Thru the dense fog we could barely see a few meters ahead of us, but we were reminded by both Susan and Brice that down below there was a lovely lake and the summit we had quickly seen not long ago was to our right. I guess we had to believe them that these things existed as all I could see was volcanic rock at my feet a few trees every now and again and fog, lots of fog.
Do you see the beautiful lakes down there?
Eventually though there were clear patches and you could watch the next section of fog roll in while enjoying the brief views. With all the fog though it did make it seem more mythical as you really didn’t know what to expect to see just beyond the limited view. And at the tree line it made it feel as if we were walking thru an elfin forest. I was expecting a unicorn to appear at any moment.
Just before station 7 we decided to end our afternoon walk. We weren’t prepared with the right shoes as we approached this snowy section.
And after walking in volcanic rock, which you sink into with every step, I was happy with our accomplishment. Plus for just a few seconds the clouds did clear and we could see the torii at station 8. While it didn’t look to far way I did take note of the guy who power walked right by us a few minutes earlier and it looked like he had only made it a few meters. Distance on this mountain is very deceiving. From where we were standing it was less than 6km to the top but a few hours away. The long walk up as a fairly easy walk down. It wasn’t much faster but my lungs were much happier to work less. On the way down the fog broke up for us once again and we could actually see the path.
I guess it was better to not see it on the way up as it was very steep.
Notice the distance to the summit and the estimated time. Almost six and a half hours to go six kilometers.
Back in the car we had another glimpse of the summit, so we once again jumped out as fast as we could to see. This time the fog stayed away for a minute or two and cleared out even more than the last time. It really is a massive and forbearing mountain.
When we got back home we decided that since we are back in the US, our meal choice should be something more ‘American.’ So we decided to head to the Mexican restaurant just off base. And this was the first time where I was actually pleased with our meal, maybe it was the expectation that it was going to be tex-mex or the tasty chips and gauc or the margaritas that made me feel this way or simply the fact that it’s now been 7 months since we’ve had good Mexican food, but whatever it was it hit the spot.
We decided to stop into the exchange to pick up some beers for the evening which turned out to be one of the biggest culture shocks. As we walked in I felt like I was in such a foreign place, a store where you can buy pretty much all the essentials, it was almost like being back in a target. I found myself wandering the aisle completely wide eyed and slightly delirious. I could not believe the amount of options of face wash and that I recognized and could read off every brand name. I was so excited to see this that I think my pure giddiness frightened Susan and she probably thought I should be medicated. Adam too had his own, ‘I can’t believe there are so many options here’ moment, when in the beer aisle. He described it so odd to walk down an aisle that only has beer (as opposed to just a few options) and is full of different beers that he was able to recognize and weren’t just all pilsner type beers. After this I don’t really know how we are going to handle the reverse culture shock of returning to the US. But I guess as with most things re-adjusting is just our new normal, but there will probably be some times where we just stand in store aisles completely astonished with all the options and variety of products available in a single store.
Today’s Travel: We made the drive toKitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine which is the location of the traditional climbing trail, so we did snap a few pictures at the Yoshida Climbing Route then we drove up to Fuji Subaru Line to the 5th station to start our walk up to the seventh station
Accommodations: Baldwin Manor