Tokyo and Fuji – 2013
So, after (in theory) sleeping – just resting our bodies mostly, we got up around 2:30 AM to start our next leg. We didn’t care about being at the top for sunrise, we just wanted to be on the mountainside.
Credit goes to Brian Hoskins for this photo:
We headed back up the trail we had come down the night before, this time with our headlamps. They do a good job marking the trail with chains to turn you in the right direction, which was good because we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead, and the drop-offs here were steep.
We reached the 7th station just in time for sunrise. And it was beautiful. Of course, no pictures will ever do it justice, but we took some anyway…
JB and I right after sunrise. It was still pretty cold at this hour.
After the sun rose, we continued on. Now we began to join the crowds of hiking tour groups that didn’t try to make it up for sunrise. They were pretty large, and they went incredibly slow. It seemed like they must set their pace to the slowest person, who went in the front. We patiently waited for a couple of groups to take breaks to pass, but by the third big group we got a little more daring and went for the walking pass. This was easier said than done, as most of the trails were as narrow as this one, so passing room was relatively non-existent.
The rest of the trip to the top actually wasn’t bad at all. We just paced ourselves and soon we were at the 9th station (final station).
Then, after the 9th station, the gateway to the top of the mountain!
The first thing you see upon reaching the top? Shantytown!
And then, if you’re really lucky, Huey Lewis:
Then it’s time to celebrate,
Eat dried fish crackers,
And drink a cold beer (if you didn’t bring one with you, you can buy one for $7)
You can also look down at all those suckers that haven’t made it yet,
explore the mountaintop (there is a big volcanic crater in the middle),
mail a postcard (this is on the far side of the crater. JB did this for us, while Brian and I rested and tended to our ailments),
and take more awesome pictures.
But after we had our fill, it was time to start back down again. Goodbye, top of Fuji!
So down should be the easy part, right? Well, all of us who hike regularly know better than that. This downhill was particularly grueling, because it was all switchbacks of endless loose gravel, and it was actually much more distance than the uphill. This was clearly intended to make the trail safer and more maintainable, but it made for a long, hard hike down.
However, it was still a pretty. The beautiful red rock on Fuji reminded me of Kauai, plus the clouds would roll over the ground in areas, creating beautiful effects.
The long hike down was accentuated for me by the fact that I had been holding my water since early that morning. There was a bathroom at the very top, but it appeared to be pit toilets, with no girl/guy separation, and no doors to the stalls. I had remembered some slightly better bathrooms farther down, so I decided I could wait a little longer.
A little longer turned into a whole lot longer, as at a certain point the downhill trail stops intersecting with the main trail, and there are no restrooms for a long, long time (potential hiker beware). We finally came across a sign showing us that not only were we only halfway down the main set of switchbacks, but the next restroom was all the way at the bottom.
This news caused me to learn a new downhill hiking style for loose gravel that got me very quickly to the bottom of the switchbacks. When I got there, I was greeted by a man outside of the restroom who was telling me something in Japanese. Luckily, there was a young Japanese girl there to interpret for me:
“He says the water has stopped working, but you can still use it if you want.”
The girl then put her 200 yen in the box, walked in, and then quickly walked back out again, saying “I can’t do it.”
I hesitated for a moment, but there were really no other options for me, so I paid my 200 yen and made the best of it. Let’s just say it was not pretty.
That was not the end of the trail back, as it then had to get back around the side of the mountain to the 5th station. However, rather than going straight across, it went way down, and then way back up again.
Finally, we made it back to the big 5th station:
And from there, it was still a long, long bus ride home, and then we still had to put our packs back on to walk from the station to K’s House.
We happily took our showers and mini naps, which Brian extended into a mega-nap.
JB and I later went to the K’s House bar when it opened. It was a great little place with mostly just us and the bartender. He spoke some English, so we were able to cobble together a conversation about baseball and famous Seattle celebrities that kind of worked. He made us some great, really cheap drinks and Yakisoba as well.
Then it was time for a good night’s sleep.