Mount Fuji Sunrise 2005-08-18
Each August thousands of people climb Mount Fuji during the night to be on top at 4:45am (or so) with cameras poised when the sun breaks the horizon. I'm sure there are better (or more technical) words to describe this, but at that moment (on a good day) an intense, orange glow like a fan speads out around the rising sun. The sky, which begins brightening at least a half hour before the event, takes on an orange hue. This lasts for a few moments until the sun completely emerges and the day begins in earnest. I'm sure there are other places to see a great sunrise (and please feel free to mention them below), but if a list were made Mount Fuji should be on it.
Climbing Mount Fuji 2005 - Part Two: My Climbing Partners, and Getting There
You can read Part One of this story here. I left off saying that I met my Nepali climbing buddies at Tokyo Station. Fortunately, my new friend and I were both carrying cell phones, or it might have never happened. But we eventually mangaged to get on the same platform and board the train together. We headed for Odawara Station to meet my other friend who would drive us to the 5th Station from there.
My friend's name is Deepak. He works two jobs totalling about 60 hours a week, and he's attending a Japanese language school. He speaks excellent Japanese despite only having bee here for one year (we speak only Japanese together). His friend's situation is very similar. Both plan to work and study in Japan then return to Nepal with some savings and education that they can parlay into a successful future there. They are great guys who I'm glad for the chance to know.
During our two hour train ride we took stock of our situation. That was when I realized that we'd had a communication breakdown. They didn't know we were hiking at night. Somehow, they thought we would be spending the night somewhere and starting early in the morning. They had one jacket between them, and none of us had a flashlight. I called my friend in Odawara and asked him to bring an extra jacket, and we decided to go without flashlights. Well, we didn't exactly "decide" -- we just didn't form a plan to solve that particular problem (which I knew from experience isn't all that great of a problem anyway). Very rarely in Japan do I find people who can keep up with me in the "winging it" department, so facing this first issue together was a breath of fresh air for the time being at least. Later I wished that we had planned a bit more carefully. Keep in mind, though, that all of our planning for this trip was accomplished while I was eating lunch at the restaurant where my friend works and in two brief conversation on our cell phones -- and neither of us was using his native language. But no excuses...
We arrived in Odawara, bought handfuls of Onigiri and some drinks, and my other friend outside. In my rush, I forgot to buy a coffee at Starbucks. You know how you look forward to something for two hours and...okay, I know that's not interesting.
My other friend, who was waiting outside, is originally from Iran. He's been living in Japan for many years and speaks excellent Japanese. He's actually a master of informal Japanese; the kind spoken between men who know each other. And he's quite an extrovert. So perhaps you can imagine the effect when he initiates a conversation with strangers, which most appreciate after the initial shock recedes. Japan needs more people like him.
He had invited many people to come, but in the end just one young woman had the nerve and desire to go for it. She REALLY wanted to climb Mount Fuji. She also drove the car, for which we were all grateful.
That was our group: two Nepalis, an Iranian, an American, and a Japanese (four men and one woman). We ranged in age from 21 to almost 40. Except for my Iranian friend, none of us seriously excercise, although I ride my bicycle around quite a bit. But the Nepalis and the Japanese woman have the benefit of youth, and I USED to be somewhat of an athlete (and have walked up quite a few mountains). I realized that my friend, the Iranian, had taken up himself to coach the Japanese woman up the trail. They were both meticulously prepared (in great contrast to my half of the goup...) She was nervous but seemed genuinely determined. The Nepalis seemed strong and confident, though still a little surprised about climbing all night. I wasn't that worried and joked in the car about mountain snakes that come sliding down the trail toward you in the dark.