Day 9: Travel to and up Mount Fuji
We got up at around 4am in order to shower and travel to Shinjuku busway station where we collected our tickets and then awaited the bus. During that time, I lost my sunglasses - very sad, as I'd bought them IN Japan and quite liked them. I feel as though I threw some money away - not a lot, but I'm stingy about some things.
The coach was SO comfy! Lots of leg room, reclinable chairs, a not-smelly toilet... Curtains for sleeping... really nice!
It took about 2 hours on the coach to get to the Fifth Station, which is at the base of the "easy" route up the mountain, the Yoshida trail. It was busy and commercialised - there were some overnight beds for those who travelled that far by foot in the first place, there were day lockers, boardering on slightly more expensively priced goods - both souvenire and practical for hikers. We bought some snacks, since we already had water and other stuff, and some basic walking sticks carved from bamboo and with the Fifth Station stamp pre-burned into it. They all came with bells. We took the bells off, to rescue our sanity.
So. The "easy" trail. Well, I guess it's known that because it has several stops along the way - the 6th station had toilets, there were first aid stops at each one... there were technically four 7th station stops.
Some of it was just very steep and slippy, the ground covered in loads of volcanic gravel and clumps of rock. Some of it was cracky and had to be clambered up (by people my height and smaller) and others had "steps" to them, which were pretty much just layers of loose rock held up by wooden ridges.
It was exhausting and one of the hardest things I've done physically - I don't particularly enjoy mountaineering as a thing and the closest I get to hiking is walking around the Lake District. I love doing things like swimming or zumba and could probably do a zumba marathon if it came to it, but with a backback on and carrying stuff and the heat... it's tough. Especially at that angle.
The colours of the mountain were really cool though and it was the perfect weather. We started at around 12 and we made it up to dinner at 18:00, so we did quite well to climb about 3.5km. It's just a shame that I know I can jog/run (hard to do a proper run with so many slow people in front) 5k in under 40 minutes! Made the feat seem weird in my head.
The further up the mountain you go, the more expensive it gets - with 100 - 200yen being added to prices. By the time we reached the 8th station, the 200yen "tip" towards maintenance was no longer voluntary. You want to use the toilet? You pay the turnstile!
The food wasn't awful though - it was like posher aeroplane food - and the calorie mate we'd bought to help us up wasn't too bad either, though by the time we got to 3400m above sea level, we weren't particularly keen on the maple or cheese flavours... Nope.
We were in our bunk by 7pm, all set to be awoken at 2am. At around 10pm, we were rudely awoken by loud gossip and chatter of some Japanese women - after all those posters telling people to be quiet and stuff! With pictures for those of us who don't read Japanese script! God. They woke the whole dorm. Him Indoors was up with a headache and I wasn't feeling massively chipper though my headache was a lot less pronounced than his. I went to have a hot chocolate, which was when I started to feel a bit queasy and he went to see if there were any painkillers for sale. Now, we know that the Japanese are strict about painkillers, but it is common practise, when climbing mountains, for people to take aspirin, particularly as it helps to combat altitude sickness. He was told he probably had altitude sickness and should go no further, but not allowed to have any painkillers. We discussed things - he was a bit in denial about having any kind of altitude sickness - and decided to just watch the sunrise from the 8th station, cause it was pretty darn high anyway. So we changed our wake up time for 4.30 instead.
Eventually we went back to bed and I worked out why my feet were cold earlier - my duvet was lying horizontally, not vertically, so I wasn't fully covered up. Duh.
Pictures of journey on the coach to Fuji and a few as we went up Fuji:
* Not sure why, but this flickr album is show casing itself in a random order! If you want to look at the photos in order, click through to the album itself.
Day 10: Travel down Mt. Fuji and to stay at Onsenji Yumedono and Day 11: Travelling back to Fujimi
We were awoken by the people getting up at 2 anyway... then we snoozed, I guess, and got reawoken, sort of,at 4.30. We whipped back on appropriate day clothing and went outside. It was very windy and cloudy - at least for those from station 7.3 and below. - but we stayed and watched the entire thing. It took a bit longer than expected, considering we were above the horizon, but I guess that is the reason, now that my brain is not addled by f***ing altitude sickness? I dunno.
When He thought it had finished, and I was popping away the camera so my hands could regain some feeling, he said, "So now the sun is up, I have something I want to ask you." I turned to him, what with my hood obscuring my peripheral vision and met thin air. I looked down and there he was on one knee with a box. He opened the box, which had a ring in and pulled his cutesy "please?" face and said, "Marry me?" I was a bit surprised, despite having kinda guessed what he was gonna pull, because I didn't envision it properly in my head, we weren't at the top and he didn't abort the idea, he had a ring, he was on his knee... so whilst I knew, I didn't fully believe it I guess. So I said, "yeah, alright then" and we hugged and had a bit of a kiss. Then we watched the rest of the sunrise.
The ring is really sweet - its kind of infinity ring shaped, with the overlapping strip imbedded with diddy diamonds and it is white gold. He was super organised and stole one of my rings, for a size reference. Only issue was that it was a ring for the middle finger, so when my fingers aren't swollen by heat or altitude, in order to not loose it, I wear it on that one. Still very cute. Hard to get used to wearing something that does not require removal before washing my hands or showering, to stop it turning green...
Then we had a rubbish cold breakfast and began our descent, which in some ways was harder than going up, because the risk of falling over was intensified by gravity. However, the route was easier than going up, and the only "challenge" was finding a way to walk without slipping, hurting or pulling muscles. Of which we did all three. It took us nearly 3.5 hours to go down, which wasn't as long as it felt for me, because I kept misreading some of the signs near the bottom and kept getting "retold" that we were an hour away... for about 2 hours. Yeah. We also ran out of water about one hour in. So the last hour or so was pure agony... no water, felt ill, sore as hell. So thirsty.
And the dust! So much dust being blown on us by the wind. It was kicked up by people in front or passing us and it went in our eyes, behind our ears for some reason, up our noses (which for me was made worse by the fact I'd had a mini internalised nosebleed, just I didn't know it at the time), in His mouth because he walks with it open, apparently... I had a dustache at one point... it was pretty rubbish.... and yet now we look back on it fairly fondly. Like childbirth, I guess, one kinda blocks out the agonising parts and just looks at the fuzzy outline.
When we got down, we bought a fizzy drink each and ion-balancing water and we collapsed on the ground somewhere and felt much better for it. Then we got a bus to Kawaguchiko station, where we had lunch and then caught a bus towards our fancypants hotel, which we had booked because at the time there was half price deal on the Executive suiteand we thought "it's His birthday, has a prive onsen and we'll deserve it after climbing a mountain". Worth every darn penny!
Photos coming down from Fuji - took most of them coming down as we had a deadline to get up!
Our stay at the Onsenji
We were early for check-in, so we left our bags and went in search of painkillers, water and air conditioning. All of which we found. We chilled out with a coke ice cream float and enjoyed the scenery of the lake in front of the mountains. Very picturesque - the houses and hotels, although clearly Japanese, also had an Alpine feel to them. The one time I didn't have my camera, and some sort of huge buzzard or fishing eagle landed on a roof nearby! Typical.
We went and checked in. Once shown to our rooms and left alone a little bit, He immediately stripped off and slid into the onsen, because he can't wait for that sort of thing. I settled in and was photographing the joint when a cute jingle played. I wasn't sure whether it was a clock... then a minute later, it happened again. I investigated the door and when it opened, our attendant was there bringing us tea. She laid it out on the table and then we sat to sort out a few formalities - times for dinner and breakfast and scanning passports. I explained that Him Indoors was in the bath and would just tell him that she was here, so he didn't walk around naked and make a fool of himself. He was happy to stay in the bath! Just as well I hadn't done as he had, though. How embarassing... not even there 2 minutes and already underdressed!
When she had gone, I joined him in the onsen which was bloomin' blissful! It was about 40 degrees and the air was nice outside and just what we needed after that long climb with little sleep. Then we had showers and I have never enjoyed washing my hair so much! Also the shampoo and soaps provided looked and smelled expensive and felt great! And we got matching moisturising lotion, milk and cleanser.
We found our Yukatas and after looking online found it was apparently encouraged for guests to wear them... so we put them on. I've found out later that I should have had a bow when tying but that would have stressed me out I think, rather than doing it the way I did. Oh well... So we wore those (light and comfy) to dinner and fortunately did not bump into other guests. (Still am not sure whether it was encouraged for westerners to wear them but the staff were too kind to say anything).
Here are photos of/from the hotel:
We were served by the attendant who brought us our tea and had a full set meal written out for us on fancy paper.
So for starters, on beautiful crockery with gold and silver leaf, we were served:
Hamoryoufuyose - pike conger - a fishy jelly with some eel in the centre and pike roe
Yukinasu - eggplant - cold, though stewed in preparation and with a light sauce on
Okura Tororo - okra tororo - a delicious cream/mousse made out of okra. It was white for some reason.
Mibuna Usuageohitashi - mibu greens, thin fried and boiled
Yuzenyose - yuzen yose is how they translated it but we still have no sodding clue. It was about the way it was cut, I think? I can't remember now and unfortunately did not take a camera with me into the dining room! :(
Gyutanhakata - Beef tongue - which I only read after I ate, but the way it was done was nice. It was only about 1.5cm square and it was sandwiched between thick white pieces, probably lard or something. Not like the tongue we sell on deli counters at home, so that was ok.
Next we had corn soup which was thick, yellow and creamy and had chunks of starch jelly at the bottom. It was really nice, but also kind of wierd to be eating sweetcorn in a pureed form. It was so fresh that it tasted as it would on the cob with butter!
Next she came with a platter of seasonal fish; syunsakanayonsyumori. There was salmon, tuna, chopped squid (only time I haven't minded squid, because it was diced into very small, chewable pieces) and a pretty-scaled one I didn't know but LOVED.
Then came the grilled dish: Osazaetizufuumiyaki - turban shell with cheese. We are still unsure whether what was grilled inside was what used to live in the shell (a mollusk) or mushroom or something that technically didn't live in that shell but was still a mollusk... anyway, it was grilled to the point where it was like eating grilled mushroom and I tried not to think about it. The flavour was just of grilled food, so it probably was a meat... Not unpleasant. Much nicer than escargot, Je suis désolé, Valerie!
By this point, were were commenting on how each dish was light enough that actually, we could probably eat the whole menu. Then our attendant brought in the very very rich, uni-purin - sea urchin pudding.
I am not a fan of oyster sauce or any shell fish-based food. I just don't like the flavour. This wasn't horrible but the flavour was strong and it was definitely shell fish rich and creamy and while with the other dishes you could easily just put the lid back on and quietly have her take it away if you couldn't finish it, this time she remained in the room to prepare the next dish on a Japanese stone rechaud, so I ate at least half while appearing too interested in what she was doing to continue. I then placed the lid on the rest when the next dish was finished. Smooth, Mauskateer, smooth.
It was Koushugyu Sukiuaki - thinly (we're talking serrano ham thin) sliced locally sourced beef and tofu stewed in a sweetened soy and then eaten in raw egg, which we had had to crack and whisk in our own bowls. Then she added local speciality starch noodles to the pan, with the vegetables she had not served yet, and poured over a pumpkin soup, which mixed with the soy nicely,
After we had eaten that, we were served our pudding which was made up of three things: coffee jelly, seasonal fruit (cantaloupe melon, grapes and a wedge of kiwi) and a green tea mochi.
I genuinely regret not bringing my camera with me, or smuggling my phone under my sash. The dishes were beautifully presented and the crockery was gorgeous. The turban shell, for example, was served on a porcelain bowl-plate-thing that was reminiscent of a clam shell, decorated sparingly with a sort of gold leaf swirl. The bowl with the corn soup was black with gold swirl and tree on it. Just gorgeous.
After all that wonderful food, we went back to our room and slid back into the bath. It was just too nice! Then by 9.30 we were asleep (in our beds, of course) and we slept solidly until 8.10 the next morning!
We quickly washed and went for breakfast. We dressed again in the Yakutas, as we were in a hurry and apparently one does at breakfast, too, but apart from the Japanese guests (who apparently gave us the side eye - I didn't see) we were the only ones to do so...midly embarassing, but we were there to enjoy ourselves? I dunno. Too tired and hungry to care by that point.
We were served plain rice, some of the best miso soup I've ever had (in an adorable curved bowl with lid that made it look like a little cartoon toadstool, but with class decoration), another meat broth similar to the Sukiyaki, which I couldn't eat in the end, a delicious piece of baked fish each, some carrot and cucumber sticks to dip in an interesting hoi-sin-meets-bbq sauce, clear jelly noodles (cold) in seasoning and finally two cubes of watermelon served on a leave shaped platter sitting on a round dish, around the base of the leaf dish was a silver circle brushed around - kinda like a ripple on water! So simple. The stem of the leave had a bit of gold leaf on. Beautiful.
We were also served green tea, which was the most welcome thing that that morning - so refreshing and the first in two weeks that wasn't over stewed, because it was freshly made.
Then we had another bath and shower, packed and checked out. They kindly gave us a free ride to the station in their car and that was that!
Our train from Kawaguchiko was a Thomas the Tank Engine-themed one, advertising Thomas Land. SO COOL. I got pictures, because my brother, as most boys of an age, was a huge fan back when he was little. There was a very cute 3-4 year old in our carriage who did the cute pose outside as his mum photographed him on the platform when they got off and then he waved the train goodbye. SO CUTE.
Here are the few photos of the journey back to Shinjuku on the Thomas Train:
And as I edit the photos, I realise I forgot to buy the bag of volcanic rock that I was going to use for my Mountains and Volcanoes unit... damn.