Lost on Mount Fuji... and other true stories
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More than one daimyo had a small hill known as a fujimizaka built upon the grounds in which to climb and observe Mount Fuji. Since the earliest times, mountains had been climbed in order to survey the land. These viewings were ritualistic, but also had certain political motives, as it was a symbolic controlling or pacifying of the land.
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The term fujimizaka is also shared by many of the hills around the city. Meaning literally hill from which to see Fuji, these spots had traditionally offered the best views of the mountains. Sadly in modern Tokyo, these views have been disappearing, with the coming of the modern high-rise. Along with the fujiko and their fujizaka, ukiyo-e served as the third form of media that led to the urban appreciation of Mount Fuji.
Ukiyo-e had lost their value to the point that they were used as packing materials. In this way, they came into possession of Europeans, and served as a source of inspiration for the impressionist, cubist and post-impressionist art movements. Mount Fuji as a common motif of ukiyo-e was thus exported through these prints to become an understood icon of Japan. European travelers of the period longed for their first shipboard view of the mountain, which no doubt signified the end of a long sea voyage.
Travelers today — Japanese and foreign alike — still thrill at the sight of the mountain.
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I turned back to Kawaguchiko.
There were months planning this trip. I was giving up. I was letting my team and myself down. I tried to hide my emotional tears as I walked back down the way I came, passing those making their way up Mt Fuji. I felt like a failure. Eventually back at 5th Station I bought some souvenirs and lined up for the bus back to Kawaguchiko. For the whole trip back on the packed bus I wondered if I had made the right decision. Fate works in mysterious ways.
When I arrived back in Kawaguchiko, streets had been closed and the lake foreshore was lined with people and food stalls.
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I had come back to be greeted by the summer fireworks festival. Slogging it out in the rain climbing Mt Fuji over night, versus spending the evening watching fireworks and eating Japanese street food. They say that the Yoshida trail is the busy one. The number of walkers on the trail is one of the defining memories of this tramp. Big groups with funny hats, school kids, walking clubs, possibly team-building events from various companies and small groups of friends.
The trail is full of people. This is not a walk where you are alone. You can always see people.
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From 6th station, at 2,M, you are above the trees. Looking up the trail as it switches back and forth there are lots of people climbing this mountain.
Reading up on this recently I found out that on the busiest days in there were over 7, climbers per day. The normal weekday average is about 2, and the weekend about double that at 4, per day.
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This felt like a normal kind of day, but so much more busy than any of my normal overnight hikes in Australia. The walk from 6th — 7th Station is up an engineered walking path. Wide enough to fit the crowd, to pass others and climb at your own pace. It winds up a series of switchbacks moving you up the mountain at not too steep a grade. After the softer under foot between 5th — 6th Stations, this harder pack makes a nice change on your feet.
The guidebooks say about five to 7 hours up and about 3 down. Looking about I see lots of different kinds of gear being used. There is some very expensive new gear being broken in, but also a good amount of well worn kit. Most of the climbers are Japanese. Judging by their gear a lot of them get out and walk often.
My rain jacket and a light down jacket, gloves, beanie, spare socks and my sleeping bag, water and some snacks I picked up in Kawaguchiko that morning. Oh, and a head torch and trail map. In terms of gear the only thing worth mentioning is that I ended up carrying too much water, probably two to three kilos too much.
You can buy water on the mountain, snacks, and even little useless cans of oxygen. My tip is to carry some spare water but to top up by buying as you go. The climb up to the next station takes about an hour. There are lots of boulders, little bits of green in the middle of black, typical volcano views.
And here you come across the first set of huts. The trail generally passes straight in front of the main eating room of the hut and there is a service window where you can buy this and that. For this reason, there are often groups of people clustered here. It can be a good place to stop for a break and a chat. Most of the huts also have bio toilets. After researching the different options to summit Fuji the plan was to push through to a lodge around 8th Station and grab a few hours of sleep before heading back out to catch the sunrise.
From Kawaguchiko I had tried calling a few huts and had managed to make myself understood enough to have spots booked in at Fujisan Hotel.
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One of the larger huts and sleeps I had heard it was best to make reservations or you may be left to sleep it out on the trail. Some of the huts I passed had vacancy signs, so unless you are hiking on the weekend I think you can just take a chance.
https://rahysyxo.tk In total there are about 40 mountain huts, which sleep nearly people on the mountain across the four trails. If you like to book ahead and need help with language you can use a hut booking service. I was thinking hard about that hut as I continued climbing up between 7th and 8th station as a steady cold rain had started to fall. I was thankful for my gear and saw plenty of others using disposable plastic ponchos getting wet.
Feet up in a hut at this point would be very nice.