Monday, July 27, 2015

富士山 Fujisan!!

Oh, Fuji-san.  
This past weekend we hiked Mt, Fuji!  the active volcano!!
I've got quite the Japan bucket list and Fuji was definitely at the top!
the entire experience was quite the adventure!  I'd heard reviews about fuji ranging from the best Japanese experience to the very worst.  I LOVED it.  It was amazing.  and definitely one of the highlights of Japan thus far.  Kent may not agree.  He developed pretty rotten altitude sickness and was miserable most of the hike up!

Here is where we started the ascent.  It makes fuji look like a dwarf mountain.  It is HUGE. more than 1/3 the height of Everest.  Luckily you take a bus up part of the way and don't start from the very bottom.
the beginning of the trail is green and gorgeous.
and not very steep at all.  this is about an hour into the hike where things were still good  and those are real smiles:)  we bought that giant staff at the bottom and you get it 'stamped' with hot iron stamps along the stations on the mountain.  It's the most expensive part of fuji :) But- we HAD to buy one.  The staff itself is only about 10.00 dollars- but EACH stamp costs 300-400 yen (3-4 dollars) and there are 20+ stamps!!

japan is far more beautiful than I ever imagined.  I love the mountains here!!

This picture is right about where the altitude started to get to kent.  The picture shows several of the 'stations'on Fuji.  They are spaced throughout the the mountain so that hikers can take breaks and try to acclimatize to the air.  They look ridiculously close together in this picture- but they are much further apart than they appear. it takes HOURS to get through them all!  even with only a couple minute stops!

 Once you pass 6000 or 7000 feet- all vegetation is gone.  I guess volcanoes aren't prime places for survival. It felt like we were walking on the moon! only the moon was very very steep.  Luckily the weather was AMAZING.  The heat index was over 100 down at sea level- but up here - it was cool and refreshing.  Perfect for hiking. We'd started the day at sea level- and ended it at 12,389 feet.  That's a big change in altitude.  and apparently why Kent was nauseous, pale as a ghost, and miserable. 
apparently most people feeling as crappy as he was feeling- turn around and descend.  But kent wasn't about to give up.  and I certainly wasn't going to let him.  I think at one point we saw a sign telling us we had 82 minutes left and I reminded him that's how long I spent hunched over in sitting fetal position getting poked with a giant needle trying to get an epidural while dilating from a 5 to a 10.  and THEN I still had to have a baby withOUT drugs,  He just had to get to the top and he could lie down. I was trying to motivate him :) I really did feel so bad for him.  I could tell he was miserable.  Altitude sickness is the real deal.
The views were spectacular.  The hardest part of the day for me was trying to convince myself that not having my nice camera wasn't the end of the world ;)  these pics are all taken on my cell phone and point and shoot.

parts of the climb were over jagged pieces of old lava rocks.  It was so much fun.  and broke up the monotony quite a bit.  It usually takes climbers 6-8 hours to reach the summit.  We made it in 5.5. I think that's one of the reasons Kent didn't feel great.  He's prone to car/motion sickness (remember when he threw up on a  roller coaster at Cedar Point in Ohio?!) and we should have known to follow the advice to take longer breaks at stations to acclimatize.  The problem was the altitude affect me at all and I have a hard time with going slowly and taking breaks :)

Here's a picture that better shows the distance between stations.  Lots of very steep switch backs. they really were exhausting.

here's a view from the top of some of the switch backs.  seeing just how teeny the people are makes me realize how long and steep the hike was.

and one more pic from one of the stations looking down to the one far below.

I think this was the 8th station.  the top is the'10th station'.

I have no idea how this snow was still there.  we were in t-shirts and not cold at all!  I'm sure this stuff will be melted in the next couple of weeks.
the two Japanese people on the ground were out COLD.  all along the trail there are people sleeping because of the thin air and exhaustion!  
 i think this is station 7.
I think these two people are japanese monks or priests!  I don't know how they looked so clean still!
I really do enjoy doing hard things.  Getting closer and closer to the top was pretty exciting!  
I'm pretty proud of myself and Kent :)  I love that we could do it together and I love that he loves adventure as much as I do!!  I love living in Japan.  The excitement is endless :)

to top of fuji was a little chilly because of the wind and our sweaty bodies!!  we hunkered down in a hut and drank canned hot chocolate and shrimp and seafood cup noodles!  I didn't touch the noodles.  
we shopped around at the little booths up top= checked out the giant crater- and rested a bit!
this guy had the best priced water on the summit!  only 4 dollars for a bottle. his coke zero was 5 dollars, though :)
I actually am coming to really enjoy the fact that everywhere we go in Japan is busy!  there are always so many great people to meet and have fun with!!
and I still love feeling like a celebrity a little bit.  Several hikers asked to take pictures with our group :)

the hike down was a BEAST. oh my goodness.  It's a different trail than the way up.  there are no stations and it's just straight down the volcano. 
see the hikers walking straight- and then suddenly taking a left STRAIGHT DOWN?!

 Here I am at the same junction.  That spot to my left is the trail down!!!  we seriously moguled down with our poles.  Just jumped and slid side to side.
about 1/3 the way down- the terrain turned to mars instead of the moon! can you imagine tripping and going down the side of this volcano?! It has to have happened at some point.  you wouldn't stop until the bottom. Guaranteed death! I'd rather fall out of an airplane and enjoy the fall before I died!

and we got to hike through some clouds!
Here's the one station on the descent just in case you need to use the bathroom! and thanks to the crazy downward jumping- our bladders were ready to be emptied!!  bathrooms cost 200 yen. and you have to pack out your garbage!  Doesn't it look like you will just fall off the earth here?!

we were well prepared for the hike thanks to friends and the base outdoor rec department.  I have a friend who worked on fuji for years and let me borrow her rain jacket and pants (never needed the pants!) and her fabulous backpack- and then we rented boots, gaitors, and poles from outdoor rec.  The poles and gaitors (covers the tops of your boots) SAVED us on the way down.  People without them took a lot longer than us and ended up with rocks in their shoes and burnt out knees!
I did roll my ankle pretty bad on one of my mogul runs!  it hurt pretty bad so  I sat and rested for a minute and took this great picture! the rocks beneath my feet make up the trail down.  have I mentioned how steep it was??

Our trip down took us about 3.5-4 hours!  it was not my favorite part of the hike!!  so monotous and exhausting.  By the time we reached the bottom I just wanted to rip off my boots, change my clothes, and lie down!!
It was the best day. and I'll take you to the top if you want to come and visit!!  I survived Mt. Fuji and loved it!!
These aren't my pictures (one is free from a fan page- the other is a stock photo) but they do some justice to the magnitude of this mountain!  Unless you see fujisan up close and personal- you just can't understand her magnitude!!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

forever tourists.

Nannie Annie, Gramps, and my sister Daysa came for Zeb's baptism and we spent several days exploring more of our little corner of Japan!

First stop: Mt.Takao.  up in the mountains a few miles away from base.
This picture is SO JAPAN. stone statue and an ice cream statue.  I think you could find both of these items a stone's throw from any one spot in japan.
we rode the ski lift UP, UP, and UP!  it went forever. and there were no bars in front of us! luckily- our kids are fabulous- and nobody died.  the views were stunning and the weather was perfect.  we thought we might get rained out- but it was misty and cool with no rain.
and there were monkeys on top of the mountain!  we only saw them in the monkey park- no wild ones.
these rice paste balls drenched in thick sweet soy sauce are pretty good.  Metta tried to lick them clean!  they are pretty chewy and I can only take small bites or I get a little gaggy.  Otherwise they are tasty.
we had to hike the two nonwalking kiddos way up to the top of Takao! luckily we had five adults between whom we could swap fatty mack and cripple metta.  It was exhausting.
Zeb and Ike are so self sufficient!  Being in Japan is spoiling us all. I'm going to have to remember to watch my children more closely in America.  Here kids their ages normally run to the market by themselves and take the train home from school.  Zeb and Ike can even order food at places like mcdonalds without our help- despite the language barrier.
when we finally made it to the top- nobody wanted to hold metta anymore!  is six weeks up yet?! did
I mention she had to be recasted? I'll post about that on it's own. ugh.

the temple at the top of Takao was awesome. One of my favorites in Japan so far. there were two giant masks represented throughout the temple grounds on statues and on the buildings.  We called them birdbeak-

and longnose.

we made it to the temple just in time to see the monks do a set of prayers and chants! afterwards the they marched past- but this one stopped for metta and asked about her broken leg and blew his shell for her!  he wished her good luck and speedy healing from here on out :) we'll take it!!
we rode the cable car back down the mountain and got lunch and some of the most delicious kakigori you've ever tasted.  ichigo and meron. Strawberry and melon.
after takao- we visited the trick art museum!
The kids LOVED it.  and we all had a lot of fun, too.
It really was a fun couple of hours.  they had some of the craziest tricks.  things your eyes could not understand. It was whacky.   there were also a lot of cool giant floor/wall paintings that looked 3-d. 

these are two separate rooms- NOT a mirror.  we lucked out that zeb and ike were wearing the same shirt!
zeb in a giant kaleidoscope!
and attack of the ginormous baby!!!
While family was here- we also spent a couple of days in tokyo. and we ate a lot of AMAZINGLY delicious food.  my dad was wonderful enough to stay at the hotel a couple of nights so that we could visit some restaurants without the kidlets. We've compiled a list of places to go without kids- we just rarely get the chance!
#1 Max Brenner's chocolate cafe.
s'mores pizza, mexican hot chocolate, white chocolate strawberry shake, and a chocolate cake with a mini chocolate shake.  Don't worry.  this was for 4 of us. And it was scrumptious. albeit pricey.
 another night we hit 'burgermania'.  Being in Japan surrounded by noodles, and sushi, and octopus balls- sometimes I desperately crave American food.  My cream cheese cherry blossom burger was honestly to die for.  they had peach and mango burgers, too.  and gorgonzola and balsamic french fries. I'm going to have to return several times to try everything that looked good.
this food is from The Great Taj Mahal. There are a lot of Indian places in Japan and Kent and I have taken it upon ourselves to find the best.  I still love this place.  It's right out the base gate and the butter chicken and cheese naan is divine.
 I also found quite possibly the most delicious gyoza in ALL of Japan.  Tiger Gyoza right near the Mormon temple in Tokyo!  They were so delicious I went TWICE! once with my sister, Daysa while the boys and metta went to McDonalds-

and another time with my college friend, Kalli.  She's been traveling the world over the past 6 months and we happened to be in downtown Tokyo the same day!  It was fabulous to sit and eat and laugh! we had gyoza and 'meron' bread!
We took my family to Harajuku and Takeshita street to see the craziness that is Japan! and we ate lunch at Wolfgang Puck's express restaurant. It's super delicious and very well priced!  Metta and Ike had to squeeze into the bathroom with Kent and this was his solution :) do you see all of the buttons on ike's toilet?  toilets here really truly are like robots.  The orange haired guy on the right is harajuku at its finest.
One rainy morning while Kent took metta to her ortho appointment and my dad hung with Mack at the hotel - the rest of us checked out the Tokyo Fire Museum. I have become so accustomed to everything being in Japanese- that I don't even notice anymore that I can't understand half the things we see and do :)   and the kids don't care at all.  we sat and watched a fire safety video entirely in japanese and I don't think Zeb and Ike even noticed.
daysa and metta flying the rescue helicopter. this museum is pretty nice! especially on a rainy day.  And it was even free :)
my favorite part of the museum was the house full of dangerous situations for children. even their dummies and mannequins all do the peace sign!!!  One of my english students, Sachiko, even named her dog peace!  it's a big deal over here :)

we also checked out Yoyogi Park and Meiji shrine. these are giant decorated sake barrels.
thanks to the looong 4th of July weekend (they made it a 4.5 day weekend here!)- and his vacation days- we got to have Kent with us for a lot of fabulous days.  Zeb and Ike love him.  I do, too.
we also took a picture with Hachi at Shibuya.   Hachi is the dog who waited ten years every day for his owner at the train station.  It's an American movie now if anybody wants to watch it :)
Metta and Ike have been dying to see pandas- so we went to the Ueno Zoo!
the zoo is pretty ginormous.  and is a nice green oasis in the middle of urban tokyo!  I didn't get any hippo pictures- but he was definitely our favorite.  He pooed while we were there and metta laughed so hard.  She kept asking him to poo again!!
japanese kids are so cute.
and lastly- we checked out Ameyoko street for some shopping.  The best purchase of the day was melon on a stick.  So delicious.
shopping here isn't quite as exciting or cheap as shopping in china!  bargaining for items is highly discouraged in japan.  Luckily- that usually means the price they are asking is a fair one. and all of the products are the real deal. no knock offs.
I am exhausted from being a tourist!  that's the one downside to living in a foreign country.  I always feel pressure to do or see something exciting!!

My dad and sister went back to the States on Friday- but my mom stayed a couple of more days and then continued on to Beijing for work!  we've got a few more adventures with her that I'll post soon.