Early August I climbed Mt. Fuji. The whole experience felt unreal I had only seen pictures of the volcano mountain or watched it appear in movies. Actually, seeing it in person was truly amazing. The mountain is the highest mountain in Japan, standing at 3776 meters and it is still believed to be active although it last erupted in 1707.
I was accompanied by some friends for the climb.
We had decided to embark on the climb during the night in the hope of reaching the top before sunrise in Japanese referred to as the “goraiko” (arrival of light). From the foot of the mountain to the summit there are ten stations. However, the most popular station to start the climb is at the 5th station. This is where we began our adventure. Taking pictures and extremely happy we started our walk. So far so good this is going to be easier than expected, we thought. It did not take long for me to change my mind. With each station the climb got steeper and the pathway narrower. Slow moving crowds of people made the whole process even more tedious. Taking prohibited routes was the only way we could have reached the summit in time for sunrise. Risking our lives while the onlookers whispered “sugoy”, was enough motivation to get the climb done. With each station, there are small inns that provide light food and refreshments at extortionate prices, but most importantly a resting place before continuing on with the climb.
Taking a rest is extremely important something that we did not do regretfully. By the time, we had reached the last station exhausted legs and burning headache from the altitude had kicked in. The sky started to slowly break away from the night and hint of light started to break through the clouds. The air felt colder and the wind had started to pick up. The line of people had slowed down significantly no doubt from exhaustion. This slightly frustrated us since the sun broke through the clouds lining the sky with orange and purple. Breathtaking to say the least and worryingly calming.
Worried that we may miss the sunrise rendering the whole climb as pointless we gave in to frustration and forced our way through the crowd. Not very characteristic of me. However, only having one bottle of water throughout the whole climb, and a couple of steamed buns which I came to regret later on, and slight sleep deprivation mixed with a brutal climb, I had a reason to be frustrated. We finally did it we had reached the top walked through those Japanese style gates. Waves of people had already taken the best spots for the viewing of the sun. Nonetheless I managed to find a good spot behind a man shorter than me. The sunrise made the whole climb worth it, the decent however is another story. People oohed and ahhed the more the sun became visible. Couples embracing each other and some crying. Claps and cheers all around the moment the sun had fully exposed itself. A warm fuzzy feeling ran through me resembling tranquility it made the climb feel like a real achievement.
Now, the way down, at this point we had no sleep and only about an hour’s rest in the cold of the summit. Initially I was looking forward to the descent, oh how I changed my mind after a couple of steps. A slope with a smooth surface made the process worst then climbing up the mountain. I slipped and fell once after a couple of breaks I chose to look past the pain and run down that mountain. “I am never doing this again”, kept repeating in my head on the way down, every tree at this point started to look like drink vending machines. As you may have already guessed once I reached the bottom I run towards the first vending machine and bought four bottles of sports drink and finished it all in one shot. Those who were getting ready to climb the mountain looked at me terrified. I looked like I had come back from war; sweat drenched and pale with four bottles of drinks down in 20 seconds, no wonder I was getting strange looks. I couldn’t help but laugh at the people who were about to start the climb (now I looked like a madman). All smiles like we were before them – bound to change once they reach the 7th station.
Saying that it was a one of the best experiences in my life. Not only because the climb is a test of character and resilience but it really felt like an achievement. Doing it with good friends made the whole experience worthwhile. It was hard probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Will I do it again never as the famous Japanese proverb goes “He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man, he who climbs twice is a fool”.
But having climbed the mountain was a very unique and a special experience.