Journal 20081013 Japan

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We both slept in, as desired, and had a relatively late breakfast at about 9.15am. Beforehand, I had a dip in our en suite hot tub, which I did enjoy. Madame Oui took a while to get herself ready, and we finally made our way to Mount Fuji at about 10am. The hotel advised us to take a local bus to Sengokuhara, then transfer to a Odakyu Highway Bus to Gotenba, where our plan was to take another bus directly to Subashiri 5th Station. We could not see how we could get directly from our ryokan to Gotemba via the Odakyu Highway Bus, as indicated in our Inside Japan Tours guide book.

The bus journey went as expected, until we got to Gotemba, where we learnt that the next bus to Subashiri 5th Station wouldn’t leave until 1.30pm, about a 90 minute wait (we were too late for the 10.00am service, which itself would have been quite an early start for us). We could have taken a taxi from Gotemba to Subashiri 5th Station, as suggested by Inside Japan Tours, at a cost of 6700 yen, but at the last minute I figured we could take a local bus from Gotemba to Subashiri town, and get the taxi from there to the 5th Station.

We boarded the bus, and I explained my request to the driver, who replied that it was possible. Additionally, he provided us an even more local map of Mount Fuji, which would prove useful later, as the Kangi version of Subashiri 5th Station was revealed. On one hand, we were glad we took this local bus, as it took about an hour to travel 10km. During this slow crawl, we realised it must have been a Japanese holiday: why so many on the road on a Monday? Because the second Monday in October is a national public holiday: Health-Sports Day (Taiiku-no-hi).

When we arrived at Subashiri, we went into the local convenience store, bought some rations for lunch, and asked where we could get a taxi. As ever in Japan, the clerk rang one up for us. When it arrived, I asked the driver, in decent Japanese I have to say, how much it would cost to go to Subashiri 5th Station. He wrote out 3750 yen. Fair enough, and off we went. I felt sorry for him and his car as I could hear the engine grown as we ascented to 2,000 metres. He also turned off his meter when it reached 3750, even though we had another mile to go. I gave him 4000 yen and indicated that he keep the change; not so much a tip as to keep him right.

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Although Mount Fuji was buried in heavy cloud, I was thrilled to have made it up here. We took some obligatory photos of us at the station, and observed the various activity taking place: mostly day trippers like us wandering about, but there were obviously those who were returning from the top. We noted the return bus service to Gotemba, and spent the near two hours wandering about and taking in a stroll through the forest to a shrine about one mile away. The walk itself felt magical, and Madame Oui noted that she could understand why the Japanese revere this particular mountain so much.

We boarded the return bus, when a Russian (we both thought he was German) made himself know to us and told us about his climb. He set out yesterday and spent the night at one of the huts higher up. I said, with surprise, that I thought these were all closed now, and he agreed, except for this particular one. He told of how beautiful it was at the summit, which was above the clouds and the sun shine through. He said that it would have been even more beautiful had there been snow on the top, but that it was too early for this yet.

The journey back to the ryokan took as long as before, namely because we were caught in the crush of everyone else returning to Tokyo on this public holiday. Back admiring once again our view from our room, we enjoyed some green tea before heading to dinner. Afterwards, I went to the communal bath, where there was a father with two boys and a little girl. I was surprised this family hadn’t hired a private bath that the ryokan offered, but in a minute I had the bath to myself. It was of good size and quality.

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