Saturday, January 8, 2011

Friday Field Notes--The Mountain

Thanks to all who have been so kind as to tell me they like the header photo, which I took first thing New Year's Day hanging out the second floor bathroom window at my in-laws.  They have a spectacular view from the WC--makes me so jealous:-)).

It so happens that I took quite a few pictures of Fuji on the way down to Kawana (near Ito city, on the Izu Peninsula).

You're probably familiar with the Izu Peninsula--that's where Shimoda is, the port that was opened to trade under the Convention of Kanagawa, negotiated by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854.  That harbor tour boat is a replica of the Susquehanna, Perry's flagship (the "Black Ships" that symbolized Western technology to the Japanese).  Shimoda is also where the first American consulate was opened.

But that's on down a ways from Kawana, which is more in the middle of the peninsula.  Earthquakes, hot springs, and fantastic views of Mt. Fuji--the Izu Peninsula is a popular tourist destination (Japanese tourists, anyway).  Actually, Fuji can be seen (on a clear day) as far away as Chiba (the prefecture east of Tokyo, where Narita airport is, which is to say...BFE).

We can't see it from our apartment, but if  we walk up the old highway, the "Tokaido"

(the East Sea Road, that's what those three Kanji mean on the road sign, the old road traveled by the Daimyo back and forth from old Edo to Kyoto to pay fealty to the emporer), goes uphill a bit....

...turn at the kaiten sushi place and wind around the road...

The Mountain.

...with the shadow of a cloud, a periwinkle stain on the snow.

Those photos were taken on January 2, since we were up the road watching the Hakone Ekiden--a two day collegiate relay marathon where the runners run in five stages  on the second from Tokyo down to Hakone, and back on the third in five stages from Hakone to Tokyo (20-23km per stage).  They come running right by us--very exciting with everyone shouting "Gambare!" to each runner as they pass by.

Here comes the front runner (Waseda University, the eventual winner--this marathon is 20 university teams of 10 runners each competing):

Fuji is so huge, it's visible from very far away--as far away as Chiba, as I mentioned above.  It's also such an iconic image, that sometimes when I look at it, I can hardly believe I'm actually looking at the real mountain.

...especially when I'm on the train, and I look up--oooh!  There it is!  It always makes me catch my breath to look up and see Fuji looming behind the lesser mountains.

 ...except I'm the only one looking.
I don't usually take pictures; I just look surreptitiously, wondering why nobody else ever looks at it (train manners, I suspect).

But on the way down to Kawana, it was such a beautiful, clear day, I took pictures anyway.

 What a tourist :-))

Look closely at this photo and the header--you can tell how much the train curves around south and west from the Shonan area (between Yokohama and Odawara) going down to Ito by the crater on the side.  See it?

The train stopped, and I got a nice clear shot of the summit while the doors were open.

When we got to O-Baasan's house, I ran right upstairs to look out the bathroom window.

 The summit was slightly obscured by clouds...

...the Weather forms over Fuji, and spreads out over the surrounding plain...

At dusk I took a couple of last shots for 2010--Evening Fuji.  You can see snow blowing off the side of the mountain--nobody climbs for fun this time of year...

I've been up there--see that bump on the summit?  I climbed up there overnight, in the dark and damp cold for my thirtieth birthday.  I reached the top on August 2 at 7am.  It was 4 degrees Celsius on top of the mountain, and so windy people had to stop and hunker down to keep from being blown off the mountain by the wind.  It was drizzling cold rain--no sunrise, what I had hoped to see for my first major zero birthday.

It was so cold that I went into the tiny hut where you could get udon to eat, just to warm up a little.  Everyone else had the same idea.  There was only one seat available, and I sat down next to a quiet-looking Japanese man.  He noticed my noodles had come, and called the girl over.  I thanked him, and he waved my thanks aside and asked in schoolboy English where I was from.  I told him America; he mentioned his friend he'd climbed with had lived in Australia for many years.  He asked me who I'd climbed with and was shocked, shocked, to find out I'd climbed alone.  Then he smiled and asked if I wanted to climb down with him and his friend.

I did.

"Fuji San Cho Jou" (Mt Fuji Summit, on the marker behind us)
It was the smile.  That's me in the middle, my husband is on the left.  We met that day, on top of the Mountain.  By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain, I was a goner.  Especially when, sitting next to me on the fence, he took off his sweaty shirt.

What *do* you take me for?   Of course I looked.  He was in training at the time to take the boxing professional test.  Oh. My. Goodness. 

December 26th, 2010, was our eleventh anniversary.  Now you know why I can't help but look when I see the Mountain.

Happy Anniversary, sweetie. Best birthday ever. :-))


  1. Such an incredible story, Amy!

    I'm suffering from a lack of words to describe how amazing I think you are.

    And that's from just the small pieces of your life that I know about!

  2. Awww--most of the rest of it is boring ;-)) It wasn't all red wine and roses, though--go check Daz' forum for the beginning part. :-s

  3. That is so awesome. I can count on 2 fingers the number of times i've seen real mountains and only once we're they cool ones (like the alps)
    also, that story is AWESOME! i LOLd at the end. What a great way to meet!

  4. That's probably the other reason I stare at the mountain--I'm an Indiana girl, born and bred. Nary a mountain nor ocean in sight, so having both of those around all the time is like daily excitement:-))

    Thanks--honest and for true, that's where I met him:-))