Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fuji: Reflection on Living

I was about to name this post the "Fuji Fiasco," but I realize today more than ever, attitude MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE! shapes how people experience life. Let me explain...

A Japanese woman who lives in my dorm organized a Fuji hike with a tour group, so I automatically signed up (even though it was Monday-Tuesday, haha).

I went to ABC Mart in Shibuya, two days before the hike, to buy some shoes. I asked a sales person about hiking boot. It made me laugh because he automatically started giving me recommendations for Fuji. Haha, tourist alert. They didn't have my size in the cheap design...so I ended up getting a fairly expensive pair of ugly brown boots. I was speaking to him in Japanese and he said that there should be room for my toes to move. I couldn't figure out how to ask "how much room?", so I still don't know if they are the right size.

8 of us rode with a tour group on a chartered bus to the 5th base of Fuji. Monday afternoon we hiked up to the 8th station and slept a few hours in giant bunk beds. Woke up at 1 and hiked in the dark to the summit to watch the sunrise.

I was super impressed by the old Japanese people who were making the hike. I would say half of the people in our group were at least over 60. Fuji is made out to be a real easy tourist mountain from what I've read online, but I must admit it was not as easy as it is made out to be. It is not necessarily strenuous, but the terrain is rocky and it requires a lot of cardio endurance.

The view even from the 8th station is great at night. The lights from the cities below made us realize how high we already were. And looking up the mountain, all you could see was a path of people's headlights, the never-ending path up the mountain.

Along the hike, this was the first time I've ever heard Japanese people talking to total strangers. Where in the US, it is common to say hi to people you see on the street, it is not the case here. But Japanese strangers were greeting each other and saying "gambatte" (good luck/work hard). Almost all the hikers we saw were Japanese, which surprised me. However there were some foreigners, most who couldn't speak Japanese at all.

I think this would be a nice hike to take on your own, more so than in a group.

Surprisingly waiting for the sunrise was the hardest part of the whole hike. Walking up we weren't cold, because we were moving. But at the top the wind was blowing and the chill factor from the height was incredible. I had never been so cold in my life! At 4:20ish am(!) the sun lit up the valley. With the lakes, cities, and surrounding mountains, the view of the lush green was unbelievable. Lol, all I could think was that it reminded me of the "Land Before Time" movies :)

Hiking down the problems began. Taking pictures, fell behind a few people, but there were still four behind me. So I followed the crowd and apparently missed the fork in the road. It wasn't till I got down to the wrong 5th station that I realized what happened. Another girl from my down also was there. I wasn't too reassured though because the whole trip she was perpetually late and always complained. AND she couldn't speak any Japanese. So I ended up using a lot of Japanese today.

I asked around and apparently the two bases are really far (like around the mountain) from each other. It would cost about $100 to catch a cab there, but a souvenir shop owner suggested we catch a cab to the bus stop. So we caught a cab that was dropping off some ladies at the entry to the trail. We went to the bus stop the woman suggested and the cabbie got out to make sure we caught the right one. It was lucky he did because apparently the bus doesn't stop there during the week. He spoke to some construction workers nearby and they suggested another bus stop.

Not only was the girl I was with not paying attention (nor could she understand), but she bitched the whole time. When I told her we had to go to another bus stop all she said was something like, "Well why did we come to this one?!? And the taxi driver is just gonna charge us more to bring us to the other one!"

Not only was I paying for everything (because she only had $10!), but he didn't charge us for the extra drive! So $16 each for the taxi ride.

He confirmed with someone waiting at the bus stop that it was the right one. Then he looked up the time for the next bus and went on his way. At that point he said it was impossible to get to the base by the time our tour bus was going to leave. So I had no idea what we were going to do.

We caught the next bus, unsure if it was going the right way. I asked if it was going to the train station, but I forgot the name of the station that we had to transfer at...lucky we were saved again by a man and a younger guy who said that they went down the wrong way too. So we rode the bus together hoping to transfer to another one to take us to the place we needed to be.

The girl I was with was visibly pissed off. I honestly would rather have been lost by myself than with her. I had to translate everything for her and then she would just scoff at whatever was just said, it was terrible.

It was a nice bus ride, I must admit. We saw a lot of the area that I wouldn't have had to change to otherwise. The area around Fuji is gorgeous. Trees, lakes, rice paddies. Might as well enjoy it. Another $14.

When we got to the train station, I explained to the middle aged man who was helping us that we needed to get to the 5th station by 11. So he frantically started asking around for us. It was impossible. The earliest we could get there was 11:40 and there was no guarantee the bus would still be there.

I had the girl keep calling people in our group, but service is spotty at best up there. We didn't know the name of the tour group, nor did we have a contact number for them, since the woman in our dorm set everything up. So we couldn't reach anyone. It looked like we were going to have to find our own way home.

We figured we might as well wait, just in case anyone called us. So we waited.

The man who helped us out earlier had bought us water and wanted to make sure we were okay. He was really nice. The girl was in her pissy state, but I talked with the man for a bit and tried to get him to write down his name, etc. so I could send a thank you or something. He would only give me the name and number of his store. His friend picked him us and he wished us good luck.

Finally I bought tickets for the next available bus to Shinjuku. Only $17 each.

But while we were waiting for the bus, we got a call from someone in our group. They waited for 50 minutes for us, but were at an onsen in another town. The girl thought we should try to meet up with them, so I had to return the bus tickets. We bought train tickets and went off again. I really doubted we would be able to find them...

Got to the right city, didn't know the exact name of the onsen, but caught a taxi to one that we thought it was. Found out it was the wrong one. Walked to the hotel and got a lot of help from the people working there. I had to explain to the girl that it was the wrong location again. This time she let out a big sigh. Haha, I was fed up with it and finally told her to just be quiet. I was just like he's trying to HELP US! We got a name of a nearby onsen that it might be.

Walked to a nearby bus station and got directions to the place. They sold tickets to Shinjuku and at that point I was just ready to go home. I told her I was going to buy a ticket back to Tokyo. Had to loan her $30 more and finally I was alone! Today was the first time I had ever done anything with this girl, but I already know I would rather never see her again if that was at all possible!

I have always felt like life is what you make it. If you are pessimistic, no matter how good things are, they are never good enough. Whereas if make what you can out of every situation, it will never be as bad as it might be. Its the difference between appreciating what you have v. wanting what you can't/don't have.

The girl kept complaining on how much money we had to spend on transportation. But really did we have a choice? NO we didn't. If anything she should have been lucky there was anyone at all who could loan her money. There is no way she would have made it even to the train station with $10.

She would get angry when she found out we were at the wrong place for the umptenth time. If she was by herself, it was unlikely she would have been able to figure anything out. But at the same time she overlooked the help they were giving us. It was above and beyond what they were expected to do. It was time out of their busy days to help strangers. There is no point in directing your anger at them, of all people!

In no way am I trying to emphasize my role in this, but I feel like she doesn't even realize how much worse it could have been. I completely credit my return trip to the taxi driver and the man on the bus. I think it is soo important to demonstrate your appreciation, no matter how big or small. I hope the two men today realize how much their small acts of kindness meant to me.

Negativity breeds negativity and in the period from 9-2:30 I was fed up. Not with the situation, but how it was handled.

仕方がない (it can't be helped), so you just have to make the best of it. Today I practiced Japanese for most of the day, was understood, and was able to translate. Saw a lot of the city. Shared the experience with those who also went the wrong way (I was glad to know I wasn't the only one!) Realized the patience and kindness in people, even when faced with an angry foreigner and another who spoke broken Japanese :) And even at an extra $54 was the trip still worth it? Of course.

I learned more about myself and perhaps areas for my improvement too.

How do I want to live my life? I hope to always find the good in each day, no matter how bad it may seem. I want to be the person who can smile in the most dire of situations. I can only hope I am considered a grateful person. More than anything, I hope to keep my optimism and faith in others.

Today was a good day.


  1. i think you had the BEST experience of climbing mt. fujii than any I've ever heard before. It takes a lot of energy and optimism to make a slightly unfortunate experience into such a great one. I'm sure you'll never forget it.

    you made it home!! yay!!

  2. nice post laur!! and it sounds like you had a really great experience!

    i want to climb fuji!!

  3. This is definitely "When I was young..."-worthy material to tell your kids one day.

    This experience sounded absolutely incredible!!

    ...and stressful too.

    I mean, how often do people experience climactic and self defining moments like these? I couldn't help but to laugh at the thought that this story could have been pulled out of a Soup for the Soul book or a some self-help book titled "The Power of Positive Thinking." ~hahaha~

    I'm truly impressed by how you handled the situation!