Mount Fuji: “Something like a reed that arose from the soil”

Mount Fuji is known world over for its near perfect cone shape that stands towering over the Kanto region. At 3776 meter volcano, it is the tallest mountain in Japan though I must admit it feels like it is taller due perhaps to much of Japan being relatively close to sea-level as opposed to  higher peaks. Its looming presence over Tokyo and  snow-capped beauty have inspired countless poems, drawings and paintings throughout the country’s history which in turn has warranted its UNESCO status. While studying abroad my friends and I took a trip to Saiko Lake and Mount Fuji  along with some students from Meiji Gakuin University. The trip was courtesy of MGU’s international center and we were lucky enough to be some of the students who won the raffle to go on the trip. So let’s begin.

After a long 2 1/2 ride on bus from Tokyo, Saiko Iyashi no Sato Nemba was the first stop on our journey. Prior to being destroyed in a typhoon in 1966, this quaint little village used to be a farming area. However, presently it serves as a museum after houses were reconstructed to emulate the thatched roof-style of Japan’s yesteryear. Most of the villages’ buildings now cater to tourists with hand-crafts, food and clothing being the main items for sale. For visitors the option to have a hands on experience to learn how to make items such as soba noodles, calligraphy and art is available. Trying on some clothes or even samurai armor is also a worthwhile experience and makes for good photo ops, for a fee of course. In the background was a towering Mt. Fuji which was semi-covered in snow, making the scenery that much more picturesque and breathtakingly beautiful.

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Saikyo Iyashi with Mt. Fuji in the background

Following the village, we visited a lake town to eat lunch. We ate at a very traditional restaurant with zabuton (pillow seats)  and received a massive cast-iron pot filled with udon noodles. While the noodles and the assortment of mushrooms, pumpkin and many other types of vegetables was indeed delicious, it was also very heavy and there was a lot of it; somehow I managed to finish everything but I had no desire to eat anything for the rest of the day.

Some of the  Japanese students that also went on the trip  took a liking to me due primarily to my friends Inna and Becky’s over exaggeration of my intellectual abilities and alleging I had magic powers. In any event, we became good friends with some of these students and stuck with them for much of the trip. After lunch we had a workshop on how to make candles and tried our hand at it, with some varying results (mine was bad). Afterwards our new friends accompanied us on a walk around the lake and we all enjoyed the setting autumn sun by taking pictures together before taking the bus back to Tokyo.

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Fancy traditional restaurant
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Making friends and weird faces

Mount Fuji is the type of place that captivates with its beauty and it is said that those who do not see this illustrious mountain are destined to return. With Professor Hasegawa, the person in charge of us UCEAP folks, we ended up returning to Mount Fuji though I’d still like to try to climb up if I ever return. Fuji’s 5th station (2305 meters) is the starting point for most climbers that hike the rest of the steep slope up to the summit, a trajectory taking anywhere from 8-14 hours round trip. Due to heavy snow and the dangers that it brings, only the summer is open for climbing.

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Still at the 5th station we had some impressive views of the mountain ranges that cut through the middle of Japan and are often referred to as the Japanese Alps. It was here that I had a life-changing experience of eating apple kit-kats which are better than regular kit-kats in every way, if you disagree then you’re wrong. My two experiences with Mount Fuji left me feeling awe-struck and I intend to do the hike during summer once I return to Japan.

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