Wha…10:30 already….man, did I even sleep? Look outside…wow…full moon with cloud cover underneath us. City lights poke through…anotha wow. Yokohama is pointed out.
And a constant stream of lights coming up the side of the mountain. We are definitely not alone. I follow the lights up past our Stn all the way up the side of the mountain. Amazingly crowded. Take-san states we may take an alternate route if too many people slow our group down.
I trust him – he’s already done this climb earlier in the week and he’ll do it two more times the following week, totalling seven times this season…including the time he and his mother went up.
Ok – I get the message. I have to do this.
We only have 3km left…doesn’t sound too bad…if it was flat. We are doing some hardcore trudging up the hill. At least we take frequent breaks so our tour leader can join his friends for a smoke break…seriously.
As we stop, I look up to see another group leapfrog us. Heads down, moving two-by in a long line, something hits me – our minds are not even in gear at this point. No one is thinking – we are just moving, one step at a time. A long line of headlight-wearing, backpack-donning, gravel-stomping zombies.
…ok, the thin air is affecting me…
Reaching the top is almost anti-climatic. There are people, but it’s fairly quiet. It’s still way too early to think, but the sunrise is coming. I need to setup. Quick scoping out of the area, I find a spot for the tripod. Frigidness is felt within my resting body, but I’m too busy shooting. I hear the din of the increasing number of people starting to chat it up. Occasional clap and woot as the sky brightens, and then a stillness comes over all of us.
It is amazing to see the sunrise emerging.
Traditional shouts of banzai echo through the air. The rising sun reanimates everyone from the stillness.
We now have free time….to hike back down the mountain….which is….painful. Less said, happier I’ll be. Sunny morning , no shade, little water, constant switchbacks on the steep grade…it is painful. Blackened toenails emphasize the discomfort.
At the bottom, back at 5th Stn, I check in my arrival time – 9:30A – and pig out on…katsu kare. Hey – it’s filling. As I eat, I’m still in a daze. The whole experience is surreal. Waking up so early/late has thrown off my internal clock. I’m not tired, but the whole event is dreamlike. I recall the details of reality:
– the hike
– the long lines of people
– the stop at the Stns, under evening light.
– the disbelief of reaching the top
– the cold, penetrating air while setting up the camera
The evening hike has a monochrome memory to it, mimicking the moonlight under which we walked.
I finish up and board the bus to find out another joy – we’re going to an onsen. Who doesn’t mind getting nekkid with people you’ve known for about 30 hrs, especially the nameless Russian fellow I just call Oskar? I guess we suffer together on Mt. Fuji – now we suffer together in a hot bath.
I figure out what to do with the various tools, cloths and seats and settle into a hot and cold indoor bath. However, I fall asleep in the warm outdoor bath, luxuriating in it. Awake and dressed, I enjoy a ramen late lunch, and after a traffic-filled drive back, we all say our goodbyes. Before we part, Take-san is kind enough to recommend a ramen restaurant – Taishoken, in Ikebukuro, his neck-of-the-woods. I thank him profusely, eager to try it out.
Not tonight, though. I crash in bed at 7:30PM…