Yesterday I got a special evening glimpse of Mt. Fuji during my onsen bath. Motivated by the incredible sight, I decided to try my luck at a sunrise viewing. I woke up at 4 am, packed my camera and sleepily left my room. I made my way back down to the lake area where I was the day before- half sleeping, half walking. The sky was still dark and it was full of clouds. I was hopeful that it would clear up though as the sun approached, so I settled down across the lake, munched on a salmon onigiri, and waited. At around 5:00 am the sky grew lighter and illuminated the land around me. Unfortunately the clouds never cleared so Fuji remained hidden. 😦 Since I was planning on climbing Mt. Mitsutoge (a nearby mountain) later in the morning, I headed back home, picked up a bento lunch for later, and went back to sleep.
Part of me is still incredibly surprised that I woke up as early as I did to try to see the sunrise view. A couple of years ago, I would have never done such a thing, but I think all of my recent travels have gotten me excited to see and photograph incredible views.
Weather 2: Marisa: 1
Three hours of sleep later, it was time to wake, pack up, and head to Kawaguchiko Station. I rode a few stops to Mitsutoge Station, and began the walk to the base of Mt. Mitsutoge. I chose this hike because I read that it can provide incredible panoramic views of Fuii throughout the climb…. in good weather of course. Being thwarted by the clouds and fog several times already, I wasn’t too optimistic about getting the panoramic views; but with no other plans for the day, a mountain hike sounded exciting and challenging.
The first part of the hike was cloudy everywhere and I walked along a paved path. I barely met any other hikers and enjoyed the calm tranquility of me + nature. After an hour of constant uphill, I came to a nice waterfall. My legs were somewhat surprised by the sudden exercise and I was already sweating profusely. I had bought a large bottle of Pocari Sweat (an electrolyte drink similar to Gatorade), but I realized right away that I would need to carefully ration it for the duration of the journey.
The hike continued, transitioning from the paved road to a more forested path. I took frequent breaks to stay hydrated, wipe away the constantly dripping sweat from my face, and to give my legs a rest. As I got higher and higher up the mountain, the already poor visibility became increasingly worse. I was glad that the trees provided a cool temperature, but the thick hanging mist made it impossible to see Mt. Fuji the entire climb up. The view in front of me looked like a scene straight out of a horror movie, endless trees and rocks shrouded in a thick fog. At rest points where I assume other hikers gazed at breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji, I stared out into an empty space of bright whiteness.
Weather: 3 Marisa :1
Three hours in, I started to question if I had taken a wrong turn because I was expecting to run into a Buddha landmark, but hadn’t. At this point my drink ration was almost gone, my legs were almost dead, and I had to put on music to liven my step. Just when I was starting to really worry, I rounded the next corner and saw a small army of tiny sitting stone Buddhas wearing knitted red scarves. It was a little eerie seeing all of the statues, but knowing that I only had about an hour left of climbing, I was reenergized to push on.
After the Buddhas, I continued upwards, the view still gray and ominous. I crossed tiny streams of water, shimmied past narrow drop offs, trudged through thick grasses, and passed a famous rock climbing place where I could hear climbers in the sky above me. I reached the top of Mt. Mitsutoge in just under 4 hours, surprisingly quicker than others who had done the hike given all the stops I took. My legs were about to quit on me so I found a bench and sat down for lunch.
I scarfed down my chicken katsu and rice bento as well as a bag of chips. It all tasted so great since my body was eager for the nutrients.
At the very top of the mountain it was a little sad not to be able to see anything substantial in the distance. I had a panoramic view of whiteness, whiteness, and more whiteness. Once I was done with lunch, I took a much needed nap before starting my way down the mountain.
On the way down, I was almost running- energized and eager to get home. The journey was supposed to take 2 hours, but after an hour I reached an unexpected fork in the road. At that point I pulled out my map and realized that I was nowhere where I aimed to be. Somehow I had taken the wrong path down and now I was over 3.5 hours away from the lake. I would have be able to make the bus back to Tokyo if I walked quickly, however, I had just run past a group of older Japanese people so I decided to ask them for directions and confirm my situation.
None of them spoke English and my Japanese wasn’t very good, but it was confirmed that I was in the wrong place, and hours of walking were needed to get to where I needed to go. When I mentioned that I was going to walk, they protested and stopped a car that happened to be driving down the mountain. The two men inside graciously agreed drive me to where I needed to go so I climbed in. During the whole ride down, I could only think about how grateful I was for those who helped me get down the mountain. When the lake came into view my nerves finally eased. I got off and thanked the men for saving me from hours of lost roaming. The driver asked to take a photo together so now I’ll will always be able to remember my savior.
Back in familiar territory, I picked up some lavender ice cream (supposedly famous in this area) and relaxed by the side of the lake.
With a couple hours left before my bus back to Tokyo, I decided to treat myself to one more onsen bath. It had taken a while to get used to them, but with only a week left in Japan, I was excited for one last soak. This time I walked the opposite direction along the lakeside to reach a new hotel onsen. It didn’t take long, and soon I was sitting in a pool of steaming hot water.
I wrapped up my weekend with a meal of Chinese ramen at a nearby restaurant, then finally arrived at Kawaguchiko Station. There was a bit of a wait before my bus came, but once boarded, I was thankful for a ride where I could sleep and relax from the weekend’s adventures.