Oh how I wish this was an exaggeration, I really do but it wasn't. On the 8th July 2014, I embarked on a journey to the land of the rising sun, Japan. One of my main goals was to summit Mt Fuji and experience the best sunrise in all the lands. What I got was no sunrise, a super typhoon (Neoguri), hail with the speed of a bullet, almost got blown off a cliff, numbed face, and fingers, and when I arrived at the summit I didn't even get a chance to see the crater because the wind was too strong to stand up straight and walk.
Nevertheless, I am glad I went for the summit even when I knew that there were a super typhoon and a good chance that I might die. It was a memorable experience and a great reminder of how weak and defenseless we all are among the mountains.
Today, I will relive my experience climbing Mt Fuji in Japan with a photo essay. Enjoy..
Day 1: Good day to climb Fuji
As I arrived at the Haneda international airport at 11 PM on the 8th, July 2014, I quickly grabbed a bus and headed to Shinjuku bus station, where the capsule hotel I booked was located.
For the first time in my travel, I had never felt this safe before. I was walking at 1 AM asking strangers for directions with ease. In no time, I was able to find the hotel, checked in and went straight to bed.
Since the hotel is right by the Shinjuku bus station (exact location), I was able to catch an early bus at 8:45 AM to the Subaru 5th Station. About an hour and a half in, I was greeted with the first sight of Mt Fuji from afar.
I left everything except the essentials at a locker in the 5th station before I headed out at 11:30 AM. Such a nice day to climb isn't it? In my defense for climbing Mt Fuji during a typhoon, it doesn't look like the typhoon will hit My Fuji at all.
The walk started out simple with a beautiful landscape and vegetation.
After an easy walk, the trail became steeper and steeper and in no time, it was like this. I had to climb this with the support of my 2 hands.
As I approached the 7th station, I was met with a few supply stops. They do have a lot stocked up there but the price is almost twice the price at the fifth station. A small bottle of water cost around 250 Y (2.5 USD).
Arrived at the 7th station, but unfortunately, the mountain hut I booked was at the 8th station which is still 2 more hours away.
There were shrines scattered along the trail to add a little spice to the barren-like landscape that is the Mt Fuji.
I was finally at the same level as the snowcap (what was left of it anyway) on Mt Fuji,
I could feel the summit calling me!
By 4:30 PM, I arrived at the Fujisan mountain hut near the 8th station. Since I had to wake up at 2:00 AM for the sunrise, I ate dinner and went straight to bed. I was unable to sleep until almost 8 PM because of people walking in and out and probably because of the altitude. I was breathing heavily all night. It was part of the experience though, and I was expecting it to be more crowded than what I experienced.
And as I was lying there with hundreds of people, the super typhoon crept on us at night and went full speed at around 11 PM. I knew in my mind that tomorrow will be a big problem for us, but I was hoping that it would just be a evening weather in the mountains.
Day: 2 Life-Threatening Decision
As the staff woke me up at 2 AM, I, a British couple and a Swedish pals (Johan and Johan) I met at dinner were the only ones that haven't given up our plan to the summit. Several hundreds of people have already given up and went back to bed. The staff was trying their best to convince us not to go because they feared we might die up there. It was understandable as the wind raged on trembling the windows and doors of the mountain hut. We weren't going to see the sunrise anyway with the massive fog out there. We were faced with a life-threatening decision whether to risk death and go to the summit or accept defeat and head down.
After talking with each other, I, the British couple and the two Johans decided that we were too close to give up. We might as well try it and if we couldn't go any longer, we can always turn back. And so we went!
The wind was raging like crazy as we went higher and higher. Instead of rain, hail started to hit our faces like a bullet. There were little to no shelters along the way, so we literally had to crawl up because the wind would just knock us off our feet if we stood straight.
From the map there were supposed to be 2 stops that we can find shelters (The 9th station and the summit) but it was all a lie. The 9th station was simply an abandoned lodge submerged under a landslide while, as we reached the summit, the mountain hut was completely closed.
Many people we saw along the way abandoned at the 9th station. To tell you the truth, I was also going to accept defeat when I saw the 9th station but as I looked up, I saw the sign saying that I was only 800m away from the summit. 800! So yes, we went on and on.
Our dreams of grabbing a hot coffee at the summit shattered as we saw no sign of living things. As we reached the top, we also ran out of shelters from the wind as there were no side mountains blocking it from hitting us full force. At that point, I was unable to blink because everything on my face was numbed so the water from melted hail kept getting into my eyes.
We attempted to find the crater but we literally were knocked back by the wind and were unable to walk any further. We decided that we had already accomplished what we could, and so we got the hell out of there and went down as fast as we could.
"I was one step away from dying a tragic death!"/
Since my goal was to NOT get a hyperthermia, I was literally running and sliding down. This turned out to be a bad idea, especially with the volcanic ashes and the wind blowing at least 50 mph. There were 5 times, I almost fall off a cliff because I was running down and the wind hit directly behind my back with an unstoppable force. The weight of me running down, my backpack and the force of the typhoon pushed me, and It took me at least 5 unintended steps to buried my feet in the ground and prevent me from being pushed down the cliff. I was one step away from dying a tragic death!
As I was going down as fast as I could, the hail turned into raindrops and the wind was more bearable. It only took me 3 hours to get down from the summit to the Subaru 5th station. I grabbed all my things from the locker and got the hell out of Mt Fuji as the wind raged on.
I took a bus from the 5th Station to the Kawaguchiko town at the foothills of Mount Fuji, surrounding the Lake Kawaguchi, one of the Fuji Five Lakes, got to my hostel (DENN's Inn, highly recommended) and cleaned my self up.
Yay! I survived! And this was how I celebrated. Dancing in the rain. :)
I walked around this quiet town for a bit in the rain, and notice this well designed sewer cover. As it turned out, every town in Japan has its own design for the sewer cover that shows what the town is known fall. It's these little details that made me fall in love with Japan so much!
Day 3: Kawaguchiko Town and Mt Fuji from Afar
As mentioned early, I highly recommend staying at the DENN's Inn. The room was clean, and you have access to the cafe on the first floor. The owner was also very friendly. He sat with us (me, Katrin, a German traveler I met, 1 dutch couple and a guy from England), offered us the traditional Shochu (a distilled spirit made from rice) and watched the World Cup rerun match with us. It was a welcome change from the horrid capsule hotel in Shinjuku and the cramped beds of the Fuji mountain hut.
Denn's inn also allows you to rent a bike to cycle around the lake, but since I was heading to Tokyo at the end of the day, I decided to walk around instead.
The day after the storm. I can't imagine what it would look like from here with the typhoon raging at the summit.
I was still stunned by the fact that I climbed Mt Fuji during a super typhoon and was able to walk away with no harm. It was purely because of my luck.
Me and Katrin decided to walk along the lake together and counted how many photos we could take of the Mt Fuji. As it turned out, a lot.
We split here as Katrin went for a bike ride around the lake and I was following the footsteps of a photographer I admired (Trey Ratcliff) to Saiko Iyashino-Sato Nenba, an ancient village located near the Lake Saiko.
The village was surrounded my mountains and lakes. Very isolated.
One thing I learned was that in Japan, when the temperature is at 30+ degree Celsius, resisting an ice cream cone is futile.
The Japanese people really do know how to decorate their gardens
A beautiful shrine among the forest
Being goofy in front of a camera is my thing, man. :)
This village gives a great view point of Mt Fuji but without the tourists.
This was the exact same spot Trey took when he was here. It took me a while to find where this was but it was all worth it. The place got a great composition of the village and the bell that puts Mt Fuji into perspective.
I highly recommend you to visit this village. There are several traditional activities you can participate, such as taking a photo of yourself in a Kimono with Mt Fuji as a scenery or try traditional food. Since I had limited time, I was not able to participate in any of that so I took the retro bus back to the bus station and headed back to Tokyo.
And that is the end of the first part of the Solo Traveler's Journal #10 about Japan. Next up we will explore the quirky culture of Japan in the vibrant capital city of Tokyo where we will go to places where the cool kid's hangout. Stay tuned.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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