Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

WW2 Nazi Paraphernalia

That's what I look for in a temporary tattoo.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fuji Mountain Adventure (Part II)

I finally make it to station 8 and Yen tells me that there is room at the hut, they just wanted us all there together when we booked. I was so relieved. We get into the hut and we're dripping in the genkan (shoe take-off area). The employee there instructs us in Japanese to put our wet clothes in the plastic bag he provides and hands us pants and shirts if we need them.

I change into some leggings I packed (to put under my jeans if I was cold) and a new t-shirt. Erica puts on my sweat pants provided and Yen is dry enough to stay in her clothes, because she put the frikkin rain suit pants on when it started raining.

We are then instructed to hang up these bags and our backpacks, in a big room full of wet bag and backpacks, as he shows us to our futons. That means my hoodie, jeans, and rain jacket and not going to be dried out, but sit in a plastic bag in a cold room all night.

We get into the sleeping room, where at least a hundred people are laying down like sardines in a row. There are also bunk bed type things, so some people are sleeping in big groups above us. We get this little space to sleep in, divided by a foot high particle wood wall. There are two blankets and four pillows. We have 20 minutes to eat anything we packed before lights out. I cant really eat anything, though. And I am so cold.

As I am laying in bed freezing listening to the snores of Yen-chan, I remember my fuzzy halloween socks that I packed in my bag. I go out to get them, and while I'm up decide to pee, because I dont want to have to get out of bed again. The bathroom is outside. So I put on some provided bathroom slippers and make my way out. There are people out there, in ponchos and headlamps, who are not sleeping, but still making there way up the mountain. I step in a freezing puddle and get to the toilet. Luckily, since I paid 5,000 yen to sleep at the hut, I do not have to pay 200 yen to pee. I bring my cell phone and email Motto. I can't believe the whole mountain has cell phone service.

I get back in bed and stick some pocket warmers into my socks, and this warms me up a bit. I still can't sleep, I am just laying in bed wondering whether I should wake up at 1am and join Erica and Yen on the rest of the trip up the mountain (about 500 more meters). We're already like 75% up. But, if I leave at 1am to make it to the top for the sunrise, the conditions will be pretty much the same as they just were. Dark, raining, cold, and my tight chest and not breathing thing.

I think about how Erica and Yen can probably make it up in 2.5 hours, but it may take me three or four. Three or four hours of climbing wet rocks, in the freezing rain, scared I'll die because I can't breathe.

It really didn't feel like an option. Even while resting in the hut my breathing was jagged and I was using the oxygen can I bought. I still felt dizzy. So, I chose to see Erica and Yen off, but I stayed in the hut until 6:30am. At that point I started to make my way down the mountain. (Oh, and I run into a co-worker

The only dry clothes I had were my black leggings, tshirt, and rain jacket. I did have rain pants, but those only lasted about 20 minutes, because I fell on my ass so many times and ripped them down the back.

I gave myself a kind of head start, instead of waiting for my friends at station 8 or 7. I arrived at "new" station 7 I sat and ate the most expensive meal in my life. Hot chocolate, corn soup, and bottled water: 1,200 yen. But, it was worth it to be somewhat dry and warm. My sweat was being locked in by my rain jacket, so my tshirt was wet and keeping me cold. But when I took the jacket off I was really cold.

Erica and Yen caught up with me there and we stayed another half hour or so. They showed me pictures of the top. They were really hot, I was still freezing. Then we continued down together.

After that my 500 yen shoes started to give out. The treading was gone, so I was slipping on the gravel, and my toes weren't protected and were just jamming into the rocks as I waddled down.

It really wasn't all bad. It was fun climbing down sometimes, I could breathe easier as I passed the 7th station and the three of us were cracking jokes and having a good time.

We practically ran down from station 6 to 5. The path was dirt and compared to what we just dealt with, a piece of cake. Then we finally did some shopping for souvenirs (why we came to this damn mountain in the first place). I got a few keychains and two magnetic kissing Fuji keitai straps (one's blue, one's pink) for me and Motto. It reminded me of something teenagers would buy. Motto thought it was really ugly on his phone, so I told him he only has to keep in on a few days (he hasnt taken it off his iPhone yet...hehe).

So it took me from 7am to about 1pm (with a big break in the middle) to make it down the mountain.

After the bus ride home we went to a spa for a shower and bath. It was Yen's first time at a Japanese style public shower, so that was fun explaining, Yes, right now you have to get butt naked and follow me into a room of naked old women.

And then at this point I was done complaining, and the other two had their turns.

The green line shows where I climbed.

Read Part I.
More pictures on my flickr.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Side Note

Just found this on a website, while looking for an aerial shot of Fuji for my next blog post:

Jul. 30, 2009
A fatal accident occured yesterday, again.
69y/o Japanese man from Nara pref. was climbing in a tour,
He left Osaka on a bus around 9pm on 28th,
arrived at the 5th stn. of Yoshida trail around 7am on 29th.
Started to climb around 10:45am, had a break and lunch at the 7th stn.
He felt bad and walked slowly behind the tour.
After a while he crounched losing consciousness.
He was confirmed dead at the hospital later.

Jul. 28, 2009
A fatal accident occured yesterday.
48y/o American man from California was climbing Mt. Fuji with his friend,
and suddenly fell down on the ground at the 8th stn. of Yoshida trail.
Despite treatment by a doctor in the first-aid stn,
he was confirmed dead at the hospital later.

Jul. 25, 2009
Another missing man, 27 y/o Japanese
was found dead at the 8th stn. of Fujinomiya trail.

Jul. 24, 2009
The 62nd Fuji Mountain Race started 7am this morning.
Due to the bad weather, the goal for the "summit" course
was changed to the 5th station.

One of two missing men, 30 y/o American citizen climbed with his co-workers,
was found dead at the 9th stn. of Fujinomiya trail.
It was very windy and foggy when they were on the summit.

Jul. 17, 2009
An English woman injured in a slip on the Fujinomiya trail last night.

Jul. 14, 2009
A falling rock killed a man in a camper
on the Fujinomiya 5th stn. of Mt. Fuji last night.
Click here for more details.

*Note: I took the Fujinomiya trail.

I Don't Want to Die (in a hospital)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fuji Mountain Adventure (Part I)

I am writing this because I cant get off the couch. Not my usual inability to get off the couch due to Facebook addiction and streaming episodes of Law and Order: SVU. I cant get off the couch today because my leg muscles have decided I am no longer trustworthy enough to make decisions for them, and they quit on me.

As I've mentioned before, I have an aversion to mountains and really any steep incline. So, I thought What better way to spend the Obon holiday than climbing Japan's tallest mountain, Fuji-san?

Two months ago I started planning the trip and invited my two friends Yen and Erica along. I booked a hotel in Fuji city, bought Shinkansen tickets, read up on what to pack. I was totally prepped.

The trip started out pretty awesome. Our hotel had bunk beds. We went out for Kansai style Okonomiyaki. We discussed boys and ate chocolate.

The next day, the day of the climb, we took a the 8:30am two hour bus ride up to the 5th station. Most people start the climb from here. It's the point where trees stop growing and clouds hang out. We heard you should give yourself time to adjust to the altitude so we browsed the wandered the gift shop and bought our walking sticks. The sticks are cool because at each station you can get a seal burned into it that says the name of the station in kanji and how high you are. We stayed at the gift shop for about an hour and started the climb at noon.

After station 5 there are six more (station 6, new 7, old 7, 8, 9, 9.5), than the top, station 10. Why they dont rename them, I'll never know.

From station 5 to six I was feeling good. It took about 45 minutes, and I knew that was the shortest distance between two stations. The ground was packed dirt mixed in with a few piles of rocks to climb up.
The mountain wasnt what I expected at all. I thought it'd be trees with a dirt path going up to the top. It was more like the surface of the moon, gray and covered in rocks.

After hitting station 6 I got a little nervous. From the hut you can look up and see how steep it really is. And I couldnt see the next station, there was too much fog. I think this took us about two and a half hours to climb. The ground was really hard to walk on, it was mostly rocks, and you could fall easily if you didnt watch your step.

As I walked and sweat people would pass me, who were coming down the mountain, would say "gambatte!" I didnt know the appropriate response, so I said, "thank you." In English.

From station 6 to 7 I started having some trouble. I couldnt breathe very well and started to wheeze. I could take about 15 steps before I had to stop and catch my breathe. This slowed us down considerably and I felt bad for my traveling companions (who I warned about climbing with me beforehand!).

Despite my breathing issues I continued on, slow and steady and sweaty. It would be sunny than foggy than sunny. But after the sun set it rained. It really, really rained. I had a rain jacket that I put over my backpack and myself. But, I couldnt button it up now, so my hoodie was getting wet. It was too rainy and rocky to put on my rain pants, so I just kept walking.

We were supposed to sleep at the 9th station, but from station 7 to 8 it got really scary for me. My breathing was bad and my chest felt really tight. It was so dark and there were only a few people around. I couldnt quit, it would be an hour walk down or an hour walk up anyway. Station 8 was the first aid site plus a lodge, so Erica really wanted to get me there to sleep, she was worried about the wheezing.

I should not that on the way down Erica and Yen (far ahead of me) saw a man collapse and possibly die. His family was gathered around saying, "otousan" (father) and pumping his chest. His eyes weren't opening. We didnt pass rescue workers climbing up for maybe two hours.

So, while I was wheezing and wet and trying to make it to station 8 the rocks became really hard to climb. I had to use my hands or the rope most of the time. I was taking breaks and breathing from an oxygen can I bought for 1,200 yen a few stations back.

Now, let's talk about money for a second. I felt like I was at frikkin Disney World, not on the most sacred spot in Japan. Everything cost money. The toilets were 200 yen (about $2), the water was 500 yen. Getting hot water for your ramen cup was 300 yen. A can of beer was 800 yen! I dont know who'd be drinking, but damn that's expensive Asahi!

Anyway, at about 7:30, with station 8 in our sites Yen goes up to the hut to ask if they have room for us to sleep (our reservations were at station 9, and we were supposed to get there by 8pm, not happening). She shouts down that she didn't get rooms and I start to tear up, in my mind I'm thinking I'll just start crying and begging to stay there, there's no way I can make it up another level! It would be another 2-3 hours in the freezing rain, and I can feel my lungs collapsing.

Can I say, as you all know, I was born in South Florida. The flattest place in the world. I lived there at sea level for 16 years, then I moved to Massachusetts, close enough to the coast and probably still at sea level. I had never been this high up in my life. I mean, I'd been to the top of Mount Royal (233 meters high) and driven through Vermont, but now I was above the clouds, and at this point in the story 3,250 meters up (about 10,662 feet, or 2 miles). My body didn't like all this. I wasn't having any muscle pain, my legs and feet were OK, it was just the breathing and chest pain, and the added anxiety that I was going to have a heart attack or my airways would close and I'd faint and no one would save me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Japan is Amazing

A few nights ago Motto and I hit a 711. He read comics and I explored the ice cream freezer. I was excited to find an actual dinosaur egg being stored between suika popsicles and soda ice. I bought two.

I ate mine on the walk home, but Motto agreed to save his til we got back so we could document the experience. The dino egg is kept inside a balloon, or possibly a tiny condom.

Motto's first attempt at opening it.

My suggestion.

Enjoying the delicious treat.


Monday, August 10, 2009