Mt Fuji

To get from Osaka to the Mt Fuji area using our JR train pass, we had to take six different trains. When the lady at the ticket window handed us the itinerary, we knew it would be a near miracle if we successfully made each connection. The trains here run precisely on time and our connection times were as short as three minutes. Plus, several of the connections were in the Tokyo area, where the train stations are a maze of different connecting lines. We were mentally prepared to miss connections and have to wait on later trains. Yet, we really wanted to just get it right the first time and get to Mt Fuji sooner. I held tightly to the itinerary in hand and said a prayer…

breakfast on train = starbucks + sushi

breakfast on train = starbucks + sushi

One by one, we starting making our connections. We could hardly believe it. It is only by the grace of God and the help of several kind Japanese people along the way that we made every single connection. As we boarded the last train, we both looked at each other in almost disbelief…we had made every single connection.

passing through small towns on our final train

catching glimpses of mt fuji on the final train

The last train dropped us off at the Kawaguchi Station in the Fuji Five Lakes area. So named because there are five lakes at the base of Mt Fuji. We stayed at a hotel near Lake Kawaguchi. The best views of Mt Fuji can be enjoyed from the lake’s northern shores. Tourists are warned that even though Kawaguchi is located right at the base of Mt Fuji, you may not see it as the mountain is notoriously shy and wreathed in clouds the majority of the time. We were lucky to have clear skies the day we arrived.

mt fuji

mt fuji

The Japanese always refer to Mt Fuji as Fuji-san; san simply means mountain. Mt Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 12,389 ft. It’s a stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707 (heavy volcanic activity up until then is what sculpted its smooth, symmetrical shape). The mountain is a well-known symbol of Japan and is world-renowned for its symmetry and serenity. It is one of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen.

so smooth & symmetrical

simply beautiful

We spent the afternoon walking along the path that wraps around the lake and enjoying the views of Mt Fuji. We stayed at the lake until sunset.

the path around the lake

the path around the lake

mt fuji

mt fuji

exploring a side path

exploring a side path

we came across a mini minivan...jay assured me our camper van for new zealand will be larger

we came across a mini minivan…jay assured me our camper van for new zealand will be larger

waiting for the sun to set

waiting for the sun to set…

there it goes

…there it goes

mt fuji at sunset

mt fuji at sunset

hasta mañana mt fuji

hasta mañana mt fuji

It was pretty cold after the sun set, so we opted to eat at the closest restaurant to our hotel. It happened to be an Indian restaurant and turned out to be an unexpected cultural experience. The cook was from Pakistan, the waiter from Nepal, and at the table next to us, a family from Malaysia. The family was so friendly, they nearly insisted that we join them at their table to eat their food with them after we finished ours. It was one of those cherished moments in traveling when this great big world starts to feel a little bit smaller.

While in Kawaguchi, we stayed in traditional accommodation with Japanese futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor. I was excited to try it, but the thrill quickly vanished when I realize it was far from comfortable. It was so hard, the only way to sleep and not cut off circulation was to lay flat on your back. If this is traditional Japanese accommodation, then that explains why all the beds we’ve slept on in Japan have been so hard. For those of you reading this back home, please take a moment to appreciate the comfort of sleeping in your own bed tonight.

tatami

traditional japanese accommodation

After the night on the tatami floor, we braved the bitter cold the following morning to see Mt Fuji at sunrise.
mt fuji at sunrise

mt fuji at sunrise

wreathed in clouds

wreathed in clouds

it was cold

it was cold…

...but so worth it to see thus view

…but so worth it to see this view

Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a delicious Japanese-style breakfast. Hot tea, miso soup, eggs, rice, chicken skewers, salmon, and an unknown but super tasty vegetable. I couldn’t help but think…now THIS is the breakfast of champions. I felt like I could climb Mt Fuji after a breakfast like that.

traditional Japanese breakfast

traditional japanese breakfast

Unfortunately, the official climbing season lasts only two months – July and August, so we were there at the completely wrong time of year. As an alternate climb, it was recommended that we hike up Mt Tenjo, a much, much smaller mountain nearby. At the start of our hike, Mt Fuji had just a wreath of clouds around the top. But by the end of our hike, it was hardly visible, even though all the skies around us were blue. Now we fully understood why they say Mt Fuji is so elusive. And now we appreciate even more the chance we had to see it so clearly the day before.

guessing this sign says "caution bears"

guessing this sign says caution bears

the trail was steeper than we thought

the trail was steeper than we thought

at the top we were rewarded with stellar views of lake kawaguchi

at the top of the climb we were rewarded with stellar views of lake kawaguchi

mt fuji toward the start of our hike

mt fuji toward the start of our hike…

...by the end of our hike it was barely visible

…by the end of our hike it was barely visible

Seeing the beauty of Mt Fuji was a nice way to end our time in Japan. As I wrap up this final post on Japan, just a few final thoughts…
1) We feel a bit sentimental as we throw away our JR train pass that was our ticket to getting to all the great places we visited.
our japan rail passes

our japan rail passes

2) We feel we should have learned a little more Japanese. The extent of what we learned…
Thank you: Arigatou
Hello: Konnichiwa (also doubles as good afternoon)
Yes: Hai (easy one, pronounced “hi”)
Dori: Street
San: Mountain
Excuse me/Sorry: Sumimasen

3) We feel inspired by all the systems the Japanese have put in place to help the blind and visually impaired be more independent – Braille on elevator buttons, signs, handrails, on the tops & sides of products; different chirps and tunes at crosswalks and intersections; and tactile paving. The textured patterns of the tiles let them know when to walk on (straight bar pattern) and when to stop (raised dome/circle pattern). We saw them on sidewalks and in train stations all over Japan.

tactile paving

tactile paving

4) We feel lucky that the earthquake that stuck off the coast of Japan our last day in the country was only of 5.5 magnitude. We were at the Narita airport when it happened. Although we felt it shake everything around us, there were no reports of damage or injury. Quakes are common in Japan.

the earthquake

the earthquake

5) And last, but certainly not least, we feel thankful for the hospitality and kindness shown to us by the Japanese people.

there it went

until we meet again japan…

7 responses to “Mt Fuji

  1. I have never heard anyone say that their trip to Japan wasn’t great and it appears as if you found it similarly. I have never traveled to Asia but if/when I do, Japan will be on the itinerary. Hope to hear soon what you have found in the Philippines.

  2. Wow, Joann! Those pictures took my breath away. I’m so happy you are getting the opportunity to experience that part of the world and see such beauty. I’m also grateful that you are sharing it with all of us. We all miss you here at VR (especially me)

  3. Awesome you had such a clear view of Mt Fuji. Awesome hike and lake. Loved the story on the sleeping accomodations and the photo of you and Jay having Japanese breakfast on the floor was a great one. Glad you had such an awesome week of experiences in Japan.

  4. Impressive mountain! So glad the Lord blessed you with a gorgeous and clear view your first day! I’m so impressed that you made all your connections! Way to go! I had a thought (when you said you were sad to throw your train passes away)….maybe you could mail things home to yourself that you’d like to keep for keepsakes?? Paper things would be easy. Just a thought…or maybe it’s best to just “let go”….haha

  5. Mt. Fuji looks amazing. Your words are just perfect! Judy would have loved your breakfast on the train. Two of her favs. Starbucks and Sushi!!!

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