The Traveler's Journal

Adventures, tales, stories and vignettes by travel writer James Patton Jones

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Saturday the 21st of April 2018 | PM Edition Published by JRAC, Inc.
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Previous Articles:

Columbia
Architecture in Columbia

England
To London via Train
A Bus to Stonehenge

France
A Flight to France
Normandy, Brittney and the Loire Valley
First Day in Paris
Walking Tours of Paris
Memories of Paris

Japan
Arrival in Tokyo
Subway Survival, Swords, Site-Seeing, and Sushi
A Week of Business Meetings, and Wonderful Food
Asakusa and Tokyo Tower
Mt. Fuji and Hakkone
Sony Building, Hibiya Park, Shopping

Mexico
Memories of Mexico

Switzerland
Swiss Excursion, Part I
Swiss Excursion, Part II

USA
Snow Camping in Yosemite

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Mt. Fuji and Hakkone

I awoke early, checked my email, dressed in blue jeans for the first time on this trip (aahhh) and arranged my backpack with a few items. I then headed down for breakfast, then to the lobby to await the tour bus I had a reservation on. I was picked up on time, and soon on my way to Mt. Fuji and the village of Hakkone.

Unfortunatly the weather was not cooperative on this day: when we first saw Mt. Fuji, it was partially obscured by clouds. Little did I know that this was going to be the best view of the mountain today. I should have taken a photo of it. The bus continued on.

   
   
Unfortunatly the weather was not cooperative on this day: when we first saw Mt. Fuji, it was partially obscured by clouds. Little did I know that this was going to be the best view of the mountain today. I should have taken a photo of it. The bus continued on. Eventually it stopped at the Fifth Station: the hightest point on the mountain to which you can drive, it is also the departure point for all the folks who choose to hike to the top of the mountain. Only during the middle of the summer is it possible to hike to the summit, as the rest of the year the snow and ice are prohibitive. Had I more time, I would have planned to climb the mountain myself, but as its a two-day task, I was unable. Instead, I disembarked from the bus, and wandered around Fifth Station. I looked up at Mt. Fuji, only to see less of it than I had previously. (This was to become a trend.)


[Title: "Mt. Fuji, Shrouded in Fog"]

It was a hot day, so I bought an ice cream cone. After I consumed my quickly melting delicacy, I started hunting around for a trashcan. Turns out that though they sell stuff on the mountain, they adhere to a very strict "pack it in, pack it out" policy. Appeantly the shop owners can sell food, but once you buy it, you are responsible for carrying all the trash (wrappings, left overs, etc.) home with you (or at least to the next town that happens to have trash recepicles. So I folded my ice cream wrapper into a tight wad, and stuff it into a safe corner of my backpack.


[Title: "Activity at Fifth Station, Mt. Fuji"]

There were many hikers at Fifth Station, and many tourists, even a few Europeans, but very few English speakers. Next I headed over to the hiker's shrine, the place for prayers by those intending to hike the mountain, and to remember those that died trying.


[Title: "Shrine at Fifth Station, Mt. Fuji"]

As I was waiting to reboard the bus, I struck up a conversation with a cute gal also waiting for the same bus. Her name is Dennie, and she is from Indonesia. We sat together chatting until the next stop, where we rode a 'sky lift' part way up one side of Mt. Fuji, where we could see steam vents with vapors escaping from the sides of the occasionaly-active volcano.


[Title: "Mt. Fuji Steam Vents as Seen From Sky Lift"]

There were areas stained yellow with sulpher and we could smell the stench of it in the air. (Sulpher smells like rotten eggs. Well, actually, rotten eggs smell like sulpher, since its the sulpher that gives them their distinctive oder!) However, even from this vantage point on the side of Mt. Fuji, we still were not able to see any more of it. In fact, as the photos below illustrate, we could see even less of it!


[Title: "Dennie at Steam Vent Overlook, Mt. Fuji"]

At one point the fog rolled in so thick, that the sky lift developed the illusion of disappearing into thin air. With the fog came cooler temperatures, creating an almost eery scene as the fog mixed with the steam vapors. Then the entire mountain disapeared from view.


[Title: "Sky Lift Vanishing into Sulpher Vapors and Fog"]

Next, we got back aboard our bus (which had driven up to meet us), and we headed back down again, this time to the shores of Lake Hakkone. Here we saw two "pirate ships" docked at the pier.


[Title: "Pirate Ships Awaiting Tourists at Lake Hakkone"]


[Title: "The Traveler at Lake Hakkone Shore"]

Our tour guide lead us to the one on the left, which we boarded, and headed out sailing across the lake. We were supposed to be able to have an excellent view of Mt. Fuji from here, but, once again, the fog was too thick. It did, however, make for interesting scenes along the lake, as the smaller mountains faded away into the fog like the memories of dreams that fade with the dawn.


[Title: "Sailing Lake Hakkone"]

Our faithful bus driver met us at the opposite side of the lake, and took us into town, where we walked up to a Japanese castle, built by one of the Shugun of old.


[Title: "Shogun Castle in Hakkone Village"]

Next our bus delivered us to the train station where Dennie and I rode together back to Tokyo. Whereas the bus ride had been 2 hours long, the bullet train traversed the distance in just 40 minutes. Leaving the train station, Dennie and I began searching for a place where we might have dinner. We found a Chinese resturant, though their menus had no pictures, and the server spoke very little English. Somehow we managed to order, and I ate "pork dumpling soup". It was very much like pork dim-sum in a broth much like won-ton soup. We then caught the subway, which first delivered Dennie to her stop, then me to mine. Before we parted however, I asked her to have dinner with me tomorrow evening, and she agreed. What a wonderful day-- though fog kept me from seeing Mt. Fuji, I met a new friend.


More articles about Japan:
 Arrival in Tokyo
 Subway Survival, Swords, Site-Seeing, and Sushi
 A Week of Business Meetings, and Wonderful Food
 Asakusa and Tokyo Tower
 Sony Building, Hibiya Park, Shopping


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--The Traveler



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