Tokyo Journal 2003: Day 11, Part 1

April 28th, 2003

We had to get up early today, so of *course* I was sound asleep when the damn alarm rang!

The bus was the same company as the Tokyo Morning Tour – we were picked up, taken on the same route and eventually to the Hato terminal where we got on a different bus. It had a really disturbing decoration on the side, which made sense later. We set off for Fuji-san with about 20 people on the bus. After an hour we had a potty break, then the road started climbing. The scenery was lovely through Kanagawa into Yamanashi – all glacial mountains – alot like the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virgina, at this point along the route. From this point on, we were just riveted to the view of Fuji-san dominating the landscape. Pictures and words don’t do it justice, so I won’t bore you with the hour of awesome views. The day was crystal clear and you could see the whole mountain perfectly.

Because of the snow a few days earlier, we couldn’t go further up the mountain than 1000m, which was fine, because higher up you can’t see the summit. So the bus took us to the Visitor Center which was closed because it was Monday (which turned out to be a good thing, as you will see) for a photo op, then to the gate that leads to the road up Fuji-san. In the spring and summer, the buses let you off at Stage 5, about halfway up the mountain, and you can walk the rest of the way up. There’s a tradition of climbing Fuji-san to see the sunrise during July and August. But since we weren’t going up, we just touched his feet and left offerings. (We bring small semi-precious stone chips whenever we travel, so we have something to offer when we’re moved to do so.) Fuji-san is simply magnificent, we were just blown away. How can you *not* worship something that awesome?

We ate lunch at a hotel not too far from the mountain, next to a huge amusement park – it looked shiny and sparkly in the sun and it explained the bizarre design on the bus, too. There was a great view of the park from the bathroom of the hotel and we had all the women on the tour in the bathroom checking out the people on the roller coasters and ice skating. While we ate lunch, looking out at Fuji-san, the wind was howling like tortured souls in hell. It was *really* disturbing. Despite the fact that it was Western food, lunch didn’t suck (one of the problems of our Nile Cruise in Egypt was the insistance that we eat Western food, instead of Egyptian. We both *much* prefer local food wherever we are, for many reasons. When we finally got food from a street stand in Cairo, it was spectacular.)

The bus took us to the Pacific side of Fuji-san and (because it was Monday and the
Vistor’s Center had been closed) up to a temple in Gotemba.(It was right across from a Ferrari museum, which of course gave me an evil idea for a Sailor Moon Outer Senshi story.) Thank heavens it was Monday! The Temple, which is for a relatively new and evangelical form of Buddhism, was gorgeous and had the most awesome  view of Fuji-san. I was deeply moved by the beauty, as I apologized to Buddha for profaning his temple and using his view for picture-taking.

To get up to where Buddha sits, you pass through a path that had pairs of lions from each of the countries of Asia. Malaysia’s and Thailand’s were magnificent. You pass the big bell and the purification trough up past the lions and up to a traditional incense burner – I paid for some incense and lit that, then changed my shoes for slippers for the marble stairs. The older woman waiting behind me boggled a bit as I lit incense and prayed, but hey, one of the nice things about being henotheist is that I can take my deities as I find them. Today was a banner day for me. LOL

From Gotemba, we drove on to Hakone, one of the glacial/crater lakes at the base of Fuji-san’s feet. We took a ferry across the lake. One the way, we passed a ferry ship that looked like a Spanish galleon, and everyone on our tour wanted to be a pirate. Pattie and I launched into the theme from One Piece, of course and waxed poetic about pirates. We arrived at Komagatake (I think) where we got on a cable car up a very steep and very high mountain and my brain collapsed and died. Between the long day, the lack of oxygen and the cold, I just stopped. The day was getting old, the sky was getty misty and smoggy, but Fuji-san stood there, majestic and amazing and well worth the effort. From the top of the mountain, you could see it on one side, and the sun setting over the Pacific on the other. Eventually we took the cable car back down, had just enough time to be unimpressed by the gift shops, then got back on the bus. The ride to the train station was dull…but we were headed by to Tokyo by Shinkasen, the high-speed bullet train. We couldn’t wait!

When we got to the station, the five of us who were taking the Shinkansen and our tour guide stood there, waiting for the train when another Shinkansen shot through the station. And I mean *shot* through. That thing MOVED. Pattie started jumping up and down like a kid, shouting, “I wanna ride it! I wanna ride it!” and when I said, “You will, honey, in two minutes,” I noticed that everyone else, including the tour guide and myself had a big ass grin on their faces. It *was* pretty darn cool.

The bus ride back to Tokyo would have been 2 hours – the Shinkansen took 30 minutes.The train expanded audibly when we passed through a low-pressure area, and shrank with a “whoomf” when we left it. Things passed by like they were a time-lapse film, the thing was so fast – and we weren’t at top speed, because we were in populated areas. We got back to the room about 6:30 or so. We were trying to decide what to do about dinner,and we decided that it would be a lark to wander aimlessly through Tobu and Seibu, the two department stores that frame the train station. We decided to wander through their food sections and blow whatever yen we had left on whatever food might appeal…they have tons of fresh, high-end, ready-to-eat stuff, so we thought it would be a cool way to sample new things. But when we got to the room, we found that Emi had left us several messages, asking if we had plans. So, I called her and we decided to meet at Takadanobaba at 8, so Pattie would watch Detective Conan. I got us a light snack and some much-needed caffeine and we tossed those down and set out for our final adventure.

Next time: What a night!

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