Crawling To the Top Part 1: The Little Erica that Could

Sometimes not having any idea what you’re doing works in your favor.

This was the ultimate lesson I took away from climbing Mount Fuji last Monday.

I have never been on a hike in my life, but one of the objectives I have while living in Japan is to DO THINGS. So, when Jenny from Canada and her ridiculously awesome sister Emily, who was visiting this last month, asked if I wanted to climb Fuji-san with them, I agreed with barely a second thought. (That second thought was really only about money and not whether or not I could physically MAKE it up the mountain.)

Monday morning dawned really early: 4:15am.

We had an hour or so train ride to Shinjuki eki -station- and then a three hour bus ride to the fifth station of Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji is split up into eight stations which go up in numerical order as you close in upon the summit. At the very top is a shrine that was built around 806AD and houses a volcanic crater reaching down to the 8th station. I didn’t get to see the crater because it is a prohibited area within the shrine, but it was on my brochure! The shrine itself was built with the intent of appeasing the enraged god who caused the volcano to erupt and was first built at the bottom of the mountain in 27BC before it’s relocation.

Yoshida Trail Map

Yoshida Trail Map

We started our first hike around 1pm with about twenty-five people and a guide along the Yoshida Trail. There were three other foreigners in our group plus Maya and Nao both of which were born in Japan but spoke perfect English. David was from Puerto Rico (Yay, he said I was right!). Quentin was from France. They were both visiting Maya. Lastly, there was Eric Glen…RIGHT!!! I was a little stunned. He went by Glen but I told him flat out one ‘N’ was not nearly as cool as two. Glen was visiting his friend Nao, currently working in Japan for five years, but they were both from Detroit.

From left to right: Maya, Quentin, and David

From left to right: Maya, Quentin, and David

I was pretty cheerful for the first two or three hours but things were uphill from there. This first hike was suppose to go on for six hours. We started out so slow that I was sure I had this.

If I had known just how hard things would get for me, I would have never gone on this trip.

By the time we had reached the sixth station I decided I deserved to get a walking stick. I still was not struggling too much, but we had already begun climbing actual rocks which was like trying to walk up a well oiled wood floor wearing fuzzy socks. The ones you put on when you’re mom had just cleaned the floors so you could run and slide screaming into walls eventually landing on your rear end. (Not nearly as fun when you’re pretty sure you’d kill the twenty people behind you or merely yourself as you roll down the edge of the mountain no more than four or five feet beside you. No pressure.)

Now the walking sticks you can buy are pretty cool. Buy one. You can get them at the fifth station for about 1000 yen (rough $10). As you climb to different stations, you can have your walking stick stamped or really burned with a design specific to both the station and year in which you climbed the mountain. You pay 200-300 yen ($2-$3) per stamp.

Around $10

Around $10

If you purchased them at the fifth station you got bells attached with a ribbon. I'm glad mine didn't have them because I think I would have ripped my ears off after two days....

If you purchased them at the fifth station you got bells attached with a ribbon. I’m glad mine didn’t have them because I think I would have ripped my ears off after two days….

There were a few different sizes to choose from.

There were a few different sizes to choose from.

Is it obvious I stole this picture? Thanks Google.

Is it obvious I stole this picture? Thanks Google. A cool stamper dude.

I almost did not buy it because I feel like every time I buy or pick up something like that I NEVER use it. Not so. I literally used my walking stick more than my brain up there I think.

014

Stamp! This one has the elevation in Kanji.

013

The stamp above I got at 3,400 meters. The snake stamp is because it is now the year of the Snake. So cute!

012

I really wish I could read these. I think that is 2,013 meters.

009

The bottom stamp of the aggressive gentleman is the stamp for the station I bought my walking staff at. ^_^

008

Some stamps came in sets and therefore cost 300 yen instead of 200 yen. In it for a penny I suppose…

007

The bottom of the mother and two children is one of my favorite stamps. I like that it has the year as well.

006

The tori gate stamp is one of my favorites too. I like how dark it turned out. They really do have to burn them just right.

004

This was the stamp from the fifth station. I was happy that the staff I bought came with it even though I was at the next station.

005

3,100 meters!

  010

As I climbed higher and higher, I was worried about money more and more  because you had to pay 200 yen to use the restroom (I’m a nervous pee-er!! Once again, no pressure
) and a 500ml water bottle was 500 yen.

A little more than a $1

A little more than a $1

$500

$5

Even though I was tight on money than and even tighter now that I’m home, I will never regret my Fuji staff. In the end, my staff cost me around 4500 yen ($45). That is hands down the most expensive souvenir I have ever bought, but I will always hold that I earned every stamp on it. I don’t think I have ever worked as physically hard as I did those two days in order to reach every goal. When I walked up to each person who did the burning at each station and handed them my money, I felt such a tremendous sense of accomplishment that I am unsure if I can fully express it here. Every roll of my ankle, drop of sweat, guilt ridden swear word, sunburn, scratch, shuddering breath, and worry of falling seemed to be worth that journey because I had something to show for each obstacle, hurdle, back breaking step I managed to stumble over.

Finished...

Finished…

I feel so cool...Also, I'm running out of things to say but I like the borders..

I feel so cool…Also, I’m running out of things to say but I like the borders..

Even right now, writing this apologetically long blog post, I’m still not sure how I made it to the top. Emily and Jenny stayed with me even when I got so frustrated I cried at the end of the first six hours up and yelled at the last three hours down when I thought it would never end.

I kept having to whisper to myself I could do it. I was the proverbial Engine that Could. I became so physically exhausted that I had to count every step I took.

I was NOT this happy at this point. Hahahaha!

I was NOT this happy at this point. Hahahaha!

“At fifty you can take a second to breath and rest Erica. You can do this. You can do it. You can. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi.”

And that was just the first six hours.

2 thoughts on “Crawling To the Top Part 1: The Little Erica that Could

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