Part 2: The Summit

Posted on Sunday, August 16, 2009 | 0 comments

Mt. Fuji Summit Sign

...Yuki and I reached the top of Mt. Fuji around 3 a.m. after stopping in line more than a few times (the snail's pace tour groups had passed us during the night, while we were resting at the lodge). We staked out a set of seats on some benches in order to have a good spot for watching the sunrise, and then....well, we basically just hung around and tried not to freeze. One big guy next to us was shivering like crazy and had his head down mumbling to himself. He seemed to have altitude sickness, but it was hard to tell. At any rate, after about an hour he got up, swayed back and forth, almost falling onto Yuki, then suddenly stumbled away. We never did see what happened to him, since he got lost in the crowd pretty quickly.

Trying to stay warm

Ah, the crowd. The atmosphere up there was like a block party. There was an extraordinary amount of people just milling around, looking at souvenirs, taking pictures, and generally making it impossible to move anywhere very quickly. Some where even wearing costumes--I chased down a Rilakkuma* and begged him for a picture. He was only too happy to oblige, since he got the return pleasure of having his picture taken with a foreigner wearing a Japanese flag bandana. Symbiosis at its best!

Rilakkuma and Me

Besides all the people standing and tromping around, there were quite a few resting on the ground under blankets, most of them looking like they were in need of an IV full of warm saline. In order not to meet the same fate ourselves, we forked over an outrageous amount of yen for a couple of hot drinks and ramen (a bowl of noodles in broth). Prices on the mountain raise in accordance with the altitude, so our drinks and noodles cost us about 2000 yen, or maybe 22 USD. To put this in perspective, they'd usually cost 900 yen, about 10 USD. I probably wouldn't have paid for them if given a choice, but I'll readily admit that I was really glad when Yuki brought them back after taking a walk to warm up.


After huddling together and shivering for an eternity, Tsuyoshi and Akane finally joined us at 4:30. Yuki and I left them to hold our seats and made a break for the toilets before sunrise began. We ended up accidentally cutting in line since the path to the toilets also happened to be the one leading around the crater, and we simply followed the flow of the crowd. By the time we realized that 1. there was a huge line for the restrooms and 2. we'd completely cut to the front of it, I was not about to turn back. Yuki started to mention the obvious and head to the end of the line, but I threw all morals off the mountain at that point and pulled him up next to me. I know, I will probably spend an eternity in hell for this, waiting in line outside a demonic smelly restroom and never actually getting to use the toilet. But with no sleep, it being 20 minutes to sunrise, the urge to pee my pants becoming stronger by the second, and the group of guys behind us somehow not noticing or caring about our sudden apperance, I seized the moment. I should probably feel some shame about this, but anyone who knows me knows that I discard fluid much faster than your average bear, and when I have to pee, I. h.a.v.e. t.o. p.e.e. Enough said.
Mission accomplished, we somehow managed to make our way back to our seats (the crowd was in an all-time frenzy by this point, shoving and eagerly awaiting the first rays of light through the fog). Did I mention that it was foggy? Extremely foggy. As in, I don't know why anyone expected to be able to see a hint of the sun, let alone the sunrise itself, but it seemed like we all did. So, the fog grew lighter and lighter...and....that was it. The fog got lighter. No sunrise to be seen. Disappointing, but we were all so tired that we just wanted to leave Dark City and head back down to civilization.

The Crowd

We did take some time to get our hiking sticks stamped at the shrine, and of course we took quite a few more pictures before starting down the return path. I even thought to take a pic with the Fannie May candy bar that my mom stole from her fundraiser box at work and then passed on to me. (Just joking Mom! But it is the actual candy bar that was in question).
Fannie May
And, luckily for us, the sun popped out about a minute before we headed back, so Yuki got a couple of beautiful shots in before we started down around 6 a.m. A good start to the morning, overall.


*Rilakkuma's name is a combination of the Japanese pronunciation of 'relax' and the Japanese word for bear (kuma). Rilakkuma is a character produced by the San-X company.