Andrea and I flew into Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon, where we met Michelle and her friend and co-worker Nicole. After some sightseeing on Monday (more on that later) we prepared to begin hiking Mt. Fuji on Tuesday. At 7 a.m., we met up with the others on our English-speaking tour, which was paired with a Japanese-speaking tour. There were about 30 of us total. We had some funny moments wondering why the Japanese tour guide spoke about 10 times as long as our English-speaking guide and why our guide repeated everything three times or so.We took a bus to Fuji, about a four-hour trip with one stop at a sort of truck stop on the way.
From the bus, we caught our first glimpse of Fuji-san.
We arrived at the Fifth Station, where everyone begins their hike. We had some lunch (Michelle's was shaped like the mountain).
And then received our hiking sticks.
We took a few pictures.
And then started the hike.You can only climb Fuji two months out of the year (the huts and stations aren't open the rest of the time, and in the winter there is a lot of snow and ice) so many people were taking the hike - even in the middle of the week.
At some of the stations and huts we were able to have our hiking sticks stamped. They are our most prized souvenirs from the trip, especially because we got the red stamp at the Summit.
The closer we got to the Eighth Station, where we would eat and rest, the tougher the hike got. It was mostly stairs, but in the form of large lava rocks so you needed to find your footing.
At the Eighth Station we had some dinner. My stomach was feeling a little jumpy and I couldn't eat anything besides the rice. (There was also miso soup and "hamburger steak" - basically a hamburger patty with some sauce on it that pretty much grossed me out). After we ate, we rested until 10 p.m. The room had wall-to-wall bunk beds and everyone slept next to each other.
The higher we climbed, the colder it became so when we set out again at 10 at night, we were much more bundled up than the previous day.
The second part of the climb was much more difficult for me. I wasn't sore, but I felt like I was always trying to catch my breath. Luckily there were rests along the way and Michelle brought some oxygen. We arrived around 3:30 a.m., had some breakfast (rice wrapped in some fried tofu or something?) and rest, and around 4:30 watched the sunrise. It was so amazing to be above the clouds and know we made it to the top!
But then, we still had to walk back down. I felt as though the climb was harder on my lungs, and the descent was harder on my body. There were many switchbacks down through loose lava rock. Some people fell - it was difficult to maintain footing. But we were anxious to be done.
At the end, we jumped for joy. Okay, I jumped for joy. Everyone else had ice cream.
I don't think that I would have ever considered hiking Mt. Fuji until Michelle suggested it, but I'm so glad that I did and that I was able to share it with such great friends. It was just an incredible experience, and one I won't forget.