Journal - Napló

Days 404-410. Mount Fuji to Tokyo (Japan 2.)

Posted on January 11, 2011 at 5:35 AM

Day 404.


… hot and weary, sweating hard, I’m walking with my big backpack. A gentleman who presumably had taken notice of me from a distance approached. He hands me a bottle of icy water. We don’t even stop. A kind and supportive gesture, a thankful nodding, we’re smiling…


   Alex and I have kept in touch with each other since our separation in Beijing. The final destination of his one year’s journey was Japan. We agreed on climbing mount Fuji and then heading to Tokyo.

   That day I had to get to Numazu where the couchsurfer Toshimi was already waiting for us. Alex made it by the evening. Only at 2 am did I catch the glimpse of the bulidings of Numazu. I stayed at the top of a central stairway and met Toshimi and Alex the following day.


Days 405-406. Fuji


   Because of the heat we planned night mountaineering. In the afternoon we rested for a few hours, then Toshimi’s mother took us to the feet of the mountain by car. It turned out that the season had ended the day before. So waiting for the bus taking us up to the starting station (about 1500 metres far) would have been in vain. The tiny, urban car made it up on the mountainous path. There „volcanoclimbers” cars were parked along the road several kilomters down from starting point of the path. We thanked Toshimi’s mom for her generous help and with our headlamps the three of us got lost in the darkness.


   Climbing this famous volcano in Japan is facilitated by a rope barrier as far up as the crater. Every few hundreds meters there were small buildings that offered a resting place or accomodation for those who wish to conquer the mountain in two parts and make a reservation –by phone- in time. Until winter gets a grip on the mountain, hundreds of tourists (I even met a Hungarian) climb mount Fuji every day. The flicker of hundreds of headlamps gives life to the barren mountainside otherwise concealed in darkness.

   After 6-7 hours of climbing we arrived at the edge of the crater just in time. Fighting our way through the „mass” we climbed up to a steeper part, where, making us comfortable, we enjoyed the warm caressing of the rising Sun’s first rays. It’s useless to say anything about a sunrise but.. I haven’t seen such a splendid sight for a long time.

At the top of the volcano, the post office waiting for the tourists (they climb up, buy postcards, and send them so that the „mailman” could climb down the following day to deliver it…?), the restaurant and the buildings at the topstation is full of antenna dishes (serving meteorological functions) gives you a pretty depressing spectacle. Thus, after taking a few photos, now at sunlight, we started to descend. Getting stronger and stronger, the sun now slowly covered the mountainside in veiled light, giving colour to every little detail. We steadily got rid of the windproof, warm clothes and in 3-4 hours we reached our starting point.


   With two rides we got back to Numazu where for a couple of hours we got „switched off”.


   During my journey which has lasted more than a year by now, it is my camera that has become attached to me the most. There were hardly any situations when my camera wasn’t hanging on my neck (in case of going out in a town to have dinner, for instance). These times, I usually grab at the spot where my camera should be hitting my side. Most often I get heartattacks for a few secs until my brain understands that everything’s alright, I left the camera „at home” intentionally. Nevertheless, I succeeded in leaving it at one of the chocolate-eating spots in the dark, during our hike. This time, the heartattack came much later, and the relief did not come with it. Both Alex and Toshimi wrapped themselves in their sleeping bags to get a couple of hours’ sleep, whereas I climbed down a few hundred meters. I didn’t find the place where –according to my belief- the black case should have been lying.

   We were descending at daylight. Some metres far from the spot where I went back at night, I found the place I was looking for. The camera was lying peacefully on the rocks. What could I say…? This is Japan.

   We were really thankful for Toshimi’s and his mother’s bravery (i.e. letting two strangers in their home). When we were all together, like two girl friends they were laughing, chatting and treating their guests with kindess.



   The last evening we spent there we met Toshimi’s two girl friends, and, taking various kinds of sparklers with us we walked up to the shore of a nearby lake. With our bouncing stars we made a „writing sacrifice” for the country, then, lying down in the grass we engaged in conversation. This –as the girls told me- means a lot to them, because the Japanese don’t do stuff like that (lying in the grass), they just long for it when they see it in movies…


Day 407.


   Only in the afternoon did we start hitch-hiking on an access road of the main road running from Numazu towards the capital. The rain found us (I mean, did not find us) as passengers in a car. Once we were dropped off at a centre of a small town, the clouds were gone.

We were just eating at the side of a shop when a young gentleman stepped up to us and started to chat.


   Masa had lived 5 years in Hawaii and was not lacking backpacking experiences. He didn’t like Japan where he worked as a carpenter because –as he told us- here work is all what life is about. The relationship with his Philippine wife was not like it used to be. His girlfriend came to this small Japanese town from Ukraine.

We were drinking beer for a while, then we walked to the bank of the moat surrounding the town’s castle. Led by a spontaneous idea, Masa suddenly hopped on his motorcycle, went away, and in a couple of minutes returned by car. He took us to have dinner. Sushi, raw horse meat and fish, soybeans, wasabi, and a little bit of sake, of course. In the meantime, he told us about the Hawaian „Paradise”.


Around midnight he drove us to a netcafé where we could rent a –relatively- cheap cabin with Internet access and a couch functioning as a bed, too. We thanked him for the excellent evening, then he stormed away as the following day he’d have to go to work early.


Day 408.


   In spite of the comfortable couch, we didn’t get much sleep because of the Internet. Thus, in the morning we walked back to the castle’s park, found two benches promising shade and slept until early afternoon. That day we got closer to the capital only with one short ride.

   … I stepped out of a shop with hot soup in my hand when Alex introduced me to a guy and said we’re invited to a „shower”. Trying to balance the soup we went to a nearby block of flats. Entering the guy’s apartment it soon turnes out that the „guy” is the father of a family: he has two children. (Throughout my journey in Japan it happened many times that I misjudged the age of people.) We communicated with the help of an online dictionary.

The father works in a chocolate factory and in the evenings he mixes techno music as a DJ in the local places of entertainment. His wife paints and sells postcards and miniature paintings in the neighbour town. While the two kids were running all over the tiny apartment, Alex and the wife were playing the piano and the husband mixed techno. We had dinner, we showered and they bid farewell to us with „Japanese scones roasted in ash”. In the garden of a nearby residential park, we slept the whole night under shelter, on benches.


Days 409-410.


   We walked to the main road and, after a little bit of waiting a car stopped –the mother who we got to know the evening before was heading to work. We got closer to Tokyo by a small town. Another ride –hybrid car- and we were already in Yokohama.


   Back in China Alex got to know a girl from Yokohama but his efforts to call her that day were in vain. We explored the city. The business district, the Chinese quarter next to it, the parks lying on the oceanside. In the afternoon we set out towards the edge of the city so that our accomodation for the night could be close to a place suitable for hitch-hiking. We were marching deeper and deeper in the night but the populated areas didn’t seem to want to end. Apparently, every settlement close enough to the capital becomes attached to each other. Eventually, we gave up. Alex made his way to a netcafé to fulfil his blog writing „commitments”, and I started to look for a stairway.


   Next day we kept marching for a little while but then we threw our backpacks down and began waving –at not a favourable spot. After like an hour of waiting a guy stopped and took us as far as Tokyo’s centre.

translated by Ágoston Galambos




Categories: English, Japan, by Peter

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