Monday, August 16, 2004

"Fujisan? Who's Fujisan?"

Damn, this weekend's activites were a wake-up call for me to start working out.

The Kansai gang came up to Tokyo this weekend to visit Comike (the largest doujinshi convention in Japan) and climb 富士山 (Mt. Fuji). After dinner at Ueno on Friday night, Sam and Kalvin crashed at my apartment overnight in preparation for the long day ahead. I wasn't originally planning to climb Mt. Fuji at all, but being as how everybody else was going and sekkaku nihon ni iku kara...

Before I continue, let me give a quick description of Fujisan, taken from a FAQ that a MIT-Japan alum made:

    It is not a hike offering varied views, forest trails, peace and solitude or exceptional flora. It is a means to one end - to climb the highest mountain in Japan. That's all.

Out of a party of 7 (Lisa/Liang/Jelani/David/Melanie/Sam/Kalvin), only 2 made it to the top. Some people in our group are still mystified at exactly what happened, so I will outline the events that transpired:

-- Lisa dropped out the morning of the trip.

-- Liang got to Fujisan ahead of us, as planned, but we never met up with him and he was considered MIA for the rest of the night (cellphone reception is flaky on the mountain).

-- Sam, Melanie, and Kalvin went on a pre-reserved bus and arrived at 河口湖五合目 (Kawaguchiko go-goume), the 5th station of the Kawaguchi trail, at 7:15PM. Jelani and I arrived via train/bus combo and arrived at 8:35PM. Our party of 5 sets off.

-- At the start of the trail, we asked an old lady coming back along the path if we were going the right way. The lady starts freaking us out by saying things like "ima kara? heeeeh? muri! muri da yo! samu-sugiru! taihen-sugiru! zetai taihen!!"....basically, she was saying how we were crazy, that it was impossible, that it was catastrophically cold up there, and that if we went it would be overwhelmingly disastrous. What a way to start a trip!

-- Before we reached 6th station, Sam zooms off ahead of us and says he'll "wait for us ahead." We don't hear from him until 5PM the next day.

-- I call it quits on station 7.3. My thighs are burning, my head is spinning, and I feel just plain miserable. It's pitch black (there's nothing to see anyway), the mountain trail is ugly volcanic rock, some parts of the trail require everybody to climb up on all fours, my backpack is ridiculously heavy, and the motivation to get up (catching the 5AM sunrise) just wasn't good enough to keep my body going. I have to concentrate on each step to get myself up without slipping, and thinking about each step for an 8-hour climb is a big psychological no-no. Most of all, I feel like I am slowing down the group by taking so many mini-breaks and that at this rate we would never make it to the top by 5AM. Despite telling Jelani to go on with the group, he stays behind with me.

-- Jelani and I climb back down to station 7.2 and rest in a mini hotel-hut there for the next few hours. We wake up at 5AM but we're in the middle of a cloud and can't see sunrise. The descent back down to 5th station takes 1 hour, despite climbing down in the middle of rain and mist, and we manage to catch the 8:30AM bus.

-- Meanwhile, Melanie and Kalvin slowly ascend up to 8th station. Kalvin is miserable and decides to call it quits. The two of them nap and wait for sunrise, but they are also in the middle of clouds and can't see anything. They descend the mountain to 5th station. Everybody is worried because Sam is nowhere to be seen (or Liang for that matter), and we know that Sam has nearly no money on him. Melanie & Kalvin have no way to contact him since he has no cellphone, and they end up arriving back to my apartment at 2:30PM.

-- Melanie/Kalvin/I take showers, eat dinner, and wonder if Sam & Liang are still alive. We assume that Sam wasn't stupid enough to waste all his money on the souvenir seals you buy at each station to prove you were there, and that he saved enough money for the 3 hour ride back home.

-- We get a call from Sam at 5PM, and as I lead him back to my apartment he tells me his story: He made it to the top of the mountain without stopping (holy crap). From 8th station to 10th station (the top) it started raining really hard, and he had no hat/hood, so his head was completely drenched. Ironically, he got every seal except the one at the summit....because he ran out of money. =P He saw the sunrise and then waited several more hours because he thought we'd come up to meet him. He wasn't sure how to get down either, but luckily for him, a nice old lady who was on her 11th lifetime climb led him down to 5th station.

-- Just before 5th station, Sam sees a guy hobbling slowly in front of him. It's Liang! Apparently Liang soloed his way to the top. Sam lucks out and manages to borrow enough money for tickets back to my apartment.

-- Everybody is safe, sound, and accounted for! Sam/Kalvin/Melanie leave my apartment at night to meet up with Lisa, and they take the bus back to Kyoto.

It's ridiculous how our party of 7 splintered into 5 groups over the course of the day. As for me, this is definitely a wake up call for me to start working out and get into shape. I don't even need to do bodybuilding, I just need to do aerobics so I can increase my stamina for long trips (I always was a sprinter-type). Otherwise I'm gonna die young, like at 50 or something.

Nevertheless, it's ridiculous how heavy our backpacks were. 6 liters of gallons, 2 meals worth of food, and heavy winter clothing (the recommended gear to bring) is insanely heavy to carry up the tallest mountain in Japan. I'd be re-energized at every break, but everytime I put the backpack back on my shoulders,....oh man. We all thought that the weight would get lighter (and the trip would get easier) as we consumed the water/food, but it never really happened. Even Sam had 4 out of 6 liters left at the end. On the other hand, last year's interns became severely dehydrated because they didn't bring enough water. I wonder what the balance is.

Another lesson learned: Don't take a train from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko station, because that only takes you to the base of the mountain; you have to pay another 1000 yen to take a 1-hour bus ride to 5th station. Just reserve a bus from Shinjuku directly to 5th station and you will save both time and money.

Thanks again to Jelanie for being a pal and staying with me at 7th station over night. I'm sure he could have made it to the top without any problems.

Quote of the Weekend 1: "This just sucks soooooooooo much." --Kalvin Stewart MIT '05
Quote of the Weekend 2: "I'll meet you guys at the next turn." --Sam Kwei MIT '05
Quote of the Weekend 3: "A wise man climbs Fuji once . A fool climbs Fuji twice." --old proverb
Quote of the Weekend 4: "I'm going to climb it again next year to get the last seal." --Sam Kwei MIT '05
Quote of the Weekend 5: "Mewmew is hot." --Jelani Nelson MIT '05, after seeing a picture from the anime "Tokyo Mewmew"


At 11:35 AM, Blogger Oraxia said...

Heh heh, maybe we should both do some working out when we get back to Boston--I need it too ^^;; You know, DDR is an aerobic exercise, too :P

That's cool that you at least tried Mt. Fuji ^_^ Did you go to Comiket? Did you get doujinshi?

M...Mew Mew is hot? o_0 Which Mew Mew?

At 1:13 PM, Blogger David said...

The pink-haired mewmew. And no, I didn't go to comike 'cuz the group went on Friday and I was at work. No big loss though, I'm not a doujinshi fan, and most of it was smut anyway.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Oraxia said...

Mew Ichigo? o_0 Huh.

Comiket is all smut? ;_; I think that was the sound of another one of my dreams shattering completely to bits...

At 1:13 PM, Blogger teenah said...

ohmaga it sounds so taihen
i am glad sam made it alright. and ohmaga liang. oh dear sam.


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