Japan is about contrasts and never were 2 day more different from yesterday and today. Yesterday was bright colours, artificial smells and lots if standing. Today was a slightly gentler pace filled with some beautiful nature and some not so beautiful natural smells.
After the initial faff with the coach pick ups we were on our way to Fuji San. Our guide Keiko introduced herself as we glided through the busy Tokyo streets, she pointed out the interesting buildings, salary men who were already late for work and all if the people hanging out their futons to air.
It didn’t take us long to get to our first stop and after a short loo break we were back on our way to start the ascent to the 5th station. The higher we rose the cloudier it got and Keiko explained that although the 5th station is usually above the clouds seeing the summit is considered very lucky and she didn’t hold much hope for today.
undeterred we pushed on winding our way up the mountain barely able to see more than a few feet in front of us. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the 4 Americans sat in front of us (sorry to my wonderful American friends, but your tourists mostly represent themselves like the Brits do in places like Ibiza or Prague) there was Pat the matriarch who would rather be shopping and took any stop as an opportunity to stock up on whatever sweets, cakes and hello kitty stuff she could get her hands on. Leonard who was one of the loudest people I have ever heard and despite the advice to wear something warm wore shorts then complained he was cold, Leonard also gets travel sick but guzzled Pepsi and chocolate bars all the way to the top.
Michaela the daughter (around the same age as me) who doesn’t like heights, boats, cold or much of anything but never the less had decided to come on a tour that included all of these and positioned herself at the front of the bus. Finally Alex who I think was Michaelas husband who talked non stop about college football.
Despite not liking heights and winding roads Michaela and her family sat at the very front of the bus where she loudly and frequently commented she didn’t like this experience and demanded to know how much longer at every bend. We were having a wicked time peering out through the gloom hoping we would rise through the clouds.
We got to the top and visibility was zero, we trudged from the bus feeling a little deflated then all of a sudden the clouds rolled out and Keiko started jumping up and down yelling “quickly, QUICKLY! Fuji San is here!” And there it was indeed, we could see the summit and we could see the blanket of clouds beneath the 5th station. I was awe-struck and couldn’t stop taking photos. Our American friends headed straight for the gift shop.
As we re boarded the bus we felt very privileged and Keiko told us when lucky things like this happen the Japanese say it must be because we have been well-behaved. The Americans were eating the chocolate bars and cakes they bought at the gift shop and a Keiko said the next stop was lunch and off we went, Leonard threw up into his gift shop bag all the way down.
Lunch was in at a beautiful hotel, I had vegetable tempura and noodles which were both tasty and welcome and then we were back on the bus and off to the gondola ride, Michaela was once again complaining that she didn’t like heights so we hung back got in a different gondola and had a very pleasant ride to the next stop with awesome views of Fuji San and the lake.
At the next stop we witnessed some natural hot springs and some volcanic action, the air smelled strongly of sulphur and after some more shots of Fuji we took the walk up to see where they boiled eggs in the hot sulphur water turning them black. Legend says if you eat 1 you extend you life by 7 years, if you eat 2 you extend your life for 14 years and if you eat 3 you get belly ache.
Back on the bus we were on our way to our last item on the itinerary a cruise on the lake. When we saw the beautiful pirate ships I never dreamed that this is what we would be getting aboard. We had A black ship which I think was called Victory and went at quite a speed across the lake and as we saw the famous red gate we took our last long look at Fuji.
Another short bus ride back to the station we got our bullet train tickets for the return trip Tokyo. I wasn’t ready for our day to be over, I feel honored to have seen this amazing mountain up close and from afar and very lucky to have had Keiko for a guide. She was funny, insightful and made the tour so personal with her hand drawn maps and sharing photos of her own personal climb to the summit I felt like I had spent the day with a friend.