There I was, relaxing and checking E-mails after returning from Tokyo. The subject of visiting Fuji-san had taken place a while back, but neither time nor dates had been confirmed. My wife excitedly remembering something, casually tells me that I am going to Fuji-san soon. By definition, this meant in a couple of hours.
Excitedly, yet somewhat tired as I never slept properly the night before, I got the necessities ready and dashed into the shower. We left at ten-thirty in the evening and made our way to the seven-eleven to buy some snacks. I grabbed three onigiri’s (rice balls) from the shelf and some drinks. We then picked up a friend and made our journey to Fuji-san.
After arriving at Fuji-san, changing clothes and slipping on our backpacks, we began to ascend this glorious piece of nature at exactly two-fifteen in the morning. The view was unbelievable, with thousands of stars in clear sight. It truly was beautiful. At such an unearthly hour to be outside, let alone climbing a mountain, we stuck close together, all each equipped with flashlights as we were ascending in complete darkness. My father-in-law’s friend having climbed Fuji-san many times, led the way and set the pace.
After an hour of climbing, the stars were remarkably closer and it felt as if I could go fishing for them. Believe me, if I had a fishing rod I would have tried. We could see some spotlights up ahead, which meant a resting station was close by, however it took what seemed like forever to get there. By now, I am climbing like a zombie, motionless. My legs just moving, my body just breathing like a robot running on self rechargeable batteries.
After stumbling and climbing the rocky paths, we reached one of the main resting points, which is around half way up. Feeling like I was about to fall over, I was saved, reborn in fact. The sun climbed out from the clouds and sent its bronze gleam across the snow-white surfaces. The view before my very eyes, I could have never imagined. There was a ocean of clouds as far as I could see, which in areas were flat and in others was rough, as if forming their own mountain tops.
The clouds, tranquil and still, along with the sun climbing at a steady pace brought warmth and joy to all climbers, some even phoning friends and family. To my mind, the view was better then any ocean can provide. The clouds looked solid as if one could walk on top of them. We were up in, and above the clouds, it was utterly breathtaking. No photo or video footage which I had taken could come close to what I was seeing with my naked eyes. I was so high, that clouds were even drifting through me.
We finally reached the peak of the mountain, which I add is 3,776 metres (12, 388 feet) above sea level at eight-twenty-five, six hours, ten minutes later. It was cold, windy, and we were surrounded by thick layers of clouds. My energy level was at a minimum, and I was walking on the summit of Fuji-san like a lost cat, wishing I could just drift off the top and down back into the car. However, a great satisfaction filled the air and oozed through my body, which no amount of money could provide.
The air was thin, so my breathing was controlled. By now the stars had completely surrendered to the sun and faded away into the lighter shades of blue. Wanting so badly to rest my eyes, an old man came dashing from the corner wearing trainers, a cap, shorts and a shirt. At the peak of Fuji-san, he was doing his usual exercise routine as he began descending the mountain. I, freezing cold and watching this man, with such energy blossoming from his body, ebbed away what energy I had left completely.
We began to descend this great symbol of Japan at nine o’ clock. It was quite fun descending a mountain. People slip all the time (of course not hurting themselves, but simply because they are beyond tired), and every body says good luck to each other and boy we needed it. I found great comfort in watching the ascending climbers, knowing that I’ve already been there and knew what they were going through.
The highlights of descending Fuji-san, is that the sun and moon are so close together as if holding a conversation. The moon playing hide and seek as it skips behind the passing clouds. Again, the view on the way down was wonderfully beautiful in all directions. To my left, clouds were sailing up the mountain and slipping behind the corners so smoothly. To my right, a Japanese style gate with a clear blue sky presenting different shades of blue. Where the sea line began, who knows. In front of me lay the mountain greenery, and behind, my father-in-law breathing heavily, looking like he was about to collapse.
Please note, it’s just as hard descending, and you can’t afford to close your eyes even for a second, as a fall is inevitable. Especially as your feet sink into the red and black volcanic pumice, on the way down. As the temperature rise, we were wonderfully greeted with a cool breeze slicing past us. It had now been over twenty-four hours since I last slept, my eyes just gazing into the distant trees as my legs continued to walk. We finally returned to the car at just after one-thirty in the afternoon. The descent taking us around four hours, thirty minutes. I opened the door and melted into the car seat and breathed a big sigh of happiness and relief.
However, as part of the great saying goes; ‘Any man who climbs Fuji-san twice, is a fool,’ and these words rang in high volumes through my ears as I said to myself, wonderfully beautiful beyond the imagination, but never again. Though it is evident to see why people climb Fuji-san more then once. The view is always breathtaking and refreshing, and a spiritual essence hangs in the air.
If you are looking for a holiday challenge and an escape from the bright lights and bustle of Tokyo or any city, then I highly recommend you make your journey to the wondrous Fuji-san. The physical and spiritual rewards that you receive are miraculous. Plus, it’s free of charge to climb!
Consequently, this is an old piece that I had written back in 2005, which belonged to an old project website I used to manage (UK-JAPAN.net). I have since climbed Fuji-san yet again, hence, I must be a fool…