by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Journeys : Dec Jan 2010
from Tokyo's Shinjuku bus terminal. It's a two-and-a-half-hour coach trip to the 5th Station of the Lake Kawaguchi trail, on the norther n flank of the mountain, just above the treeline. I'm on the track by 7.30 pm that evening, so the first hour of the walk is in fading daylight. The sky is full of stars by the time I reach the 6th Station and take a break at the lowest of the r ustic mountain hostels that are dotted up the route. There are a couple of dozen of them altogether -- from below, their lights promise war mth and welcome. At each station, a few of the other climbers on the track with me shr ug off their packs and settle in for the night, happy to pay ¥6000 (about $A70) for two meals, a futon and a 3am wake-up call. But I prefer the solitude of a summit bivouac to a sardine space on the floor, so my backpack carries a sleeping bag, spirit stove, food, water and an extra fleece jacket. Before long I'm climbing alone. I pause every hour or so to boil a brew and catch my breath -- the air is thin at 3000 metres and altitude sickness is not uncommon on Fuji ascents. It's a six-hour slog in the dark, hauling up on chains, stumbling across the rocky sections, crunching over steep volcanic ash and slipping on the gravelly surface. Finally, the angle lessens and a blast of cold wind in my face tells me I've made it. There's no sign of life in the little village on top -- Fuji-san is asleep. I find my sheltered spot in the lee of the bulldozer, wriggle into my sleeping bag, light the stove for another brew and settle back to wait. Chilled to the bone by 3.45 am, I'm relieved to see the palest smudge of light in the east. I stand, stretch and look dow n to see a long, bobbing thread of flashlights, lamps and head torches zig- zagging up the ascending trail. There are dozens -- no, hundreds and hundreds of them -- and they keep coming! The sound of excited voices drifts up and the first climbers arrive. As the daw n light broadens, I realise that my yellow bulldozer would be kept busy grading gravel and snow to prepare the place for the climbing season. Job done until the next snow comes, it's been parked at a prime eastward-looking spot and soon I'm just one member of a big crowd. Everyone is here to watch the classic Fuji sunrise, hoping to see the sun's perfect glowing disk squeeze out above the horizon. As the magic moment of 4.38am approaches, sunrise colours bleed into the sky in bands of crimson, violet and gold. But just as it seems that the star attraction is ready to pop up like a shiny 500-yen coin to rousing applause, a cloud-bank gets in the way and the new day's sun slips behind it. There's a collective sigh, but the disappointment doesn't last -- Japanese people are endearingly cheerful and good-natured, especially when they're out enjoying themselves in large groups. There are bursts of laughter and singing -- it's a fine morning and no-one's catching a crowded train to work today! Down there, beneath clouds blanketing the Kanto Plain, 25 million people are waking. Up here, the business day begin s. Pilgrims have their wooden climbing staves stamped with the kanji equivalent of 'I did it!' Kitchen staff ladle out steaming bowls of rice, ramen noodles and miso soup. Souvenir backpack bells are purchased by the hundred. Digital cameras whir r and click. Greeting cards are written, stamped and posted. There are queues at the loos. I walk up to a wind-weathered and coin- studded torii gate near the lip of the cavernous crater, swap cameras with the companion of another red-clad climber and look across to the giant weather obser vatory that sits on top of the tr ue summit, a few metres higher. Then it's time to face the tr udging descent. After a couple of hours I reach the 5th Station at the road terminus to discover that there's a long wait for the next bus. I've always enjoyed hitch-hiking in Japan so I decide to keep walking dow n the road towards the railway station at Lake Kawaguchi, 25 kilometres away. By evening, with a lucky lift on the mountain road and a couple of changes of trains, I'll be back in Shinjuku, dazzled by the multi-coloured neon crags of Yasukuni-dori, dodging crowds and thinking of home. I turn my back on Fuji-san and it's dow nhill all the way to Tokyo. Chris Viney travelled in Japan with assistance from the Japan National Tourist Organisation. For news and information, check their website at www.jnto.go.jp RACT Travelworld can assist with your plans and bookings for a holiday in Japan. Call 1300 368 111 or visit your local branch. Summit torii gate, studded with coins for luck Journey's end -- Shinjuku, Tokyo Destinations 17 December 09 / January 10
October November 2009
Feb March 2010